Witness to a revolution: May 68

FRANCE, Paris. 11th arrondissement. Worker and student demonstration from Republique to Denfert-Rochereau. (about 1000000 demonstrators) May 13th, 1968.

To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability… All photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.

Susan Sontag, On Photography

For Bruno Barbey (1941-2020)

The illusion of photography lies in its apparent immediacy, in its capacity to interpellate by congealing the movement and the transience of events, thereby leaving space for our imaginary to appropriate the image to a degree of great intensity. Photography is thus an art with a universal language, in the words of Bruno Barbey; universal because the desire to “capture” time subjectively is shared by all.

The photographer Bruno Barbey, along with his extensive photographic work, would capture the events of May 68 in France as few others.

Barbey died this last November 9th. In memoriam, we share part of his work on May 68 below.

The most astonishing aspect of May ‘68 was to see all these open discussions among every social milieu and this need people had to speak up for everyone else. People came out on the streets – and they weren’t just students – and had the urge to discuss, to reform the world, to search for freedom. I wasn’t a militant but I sympathised with the demonstrators.

Bruno Barbey (Magnum Photos)

FRANCE. Boulevard Saint-Germain. Paris. May 1968.
FRANCE, Paris. Gay Lussac Street. May 10th 1968.
FRANCE. Paris. Night from 10 to 11 May, 1968. Demonstrators with molotov cocktail. Boulevard St. Michel.
France, Paris. Car on Rue Gay Lussac after night of riots. Paris, France. May 11, 1968.
Renault car factory, which is on strike. Female student talking to striking workers. Boulogne-Billancourt, France. May 17, 1968.
Strikers at the Renault factory listening to the report of the Grenelle Agreements (accords de Grenelle). Meeting of the CGT, (French trade union). Boulogne-Billancourt, Hauts-de-Seine department.
FRANCE, Paris. May 68. Students and trade union groups demonstrating.

The photographs above are all taken from the Magnum Photos website page Beyond the Myth: The Legacy of May ’68, dedicated to Bruno Barbey’s photographs of the events.

The extraordinary wealth of his work may be seen at his personal website, here.

And to close, we share two video interviews with Barbey …

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