To See the World: Marc Riboud’s Eye of the Traveler

© Marc Riboud, courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
© Marc Riboud, courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery
Skating in front of the Forbidden City, China, 1957

In 1955, the photographer Marc Riboud set out in an old Jeep to see the world. His photographic exploration of Asia, undertaken at a time when the region was far more foreign to Western eyes than it is today, formed the basis of a long career. But, in the spring of 2012, when the gallerist Peter Fetterman visited Riboud in Paris, the photographer was no longer the young man who set off on that adventure. Riboud, who was born in 1923, is frail, Fetterman recalls. His archive, on the other hand, was just the opposite.

The work to which Fetterman was granted access is now the exhibition “The Eye of the Traveler,” on view at the Peter Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica, Calif., through March 16. (A photobook about Riboud’s travels in China, Japan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey, called Into the Orient (Vers L’Orient), was also published in October and was recently awarded the prestigious Prix Nadal.)

“Experience has taught me that many great photographers have incredible gems in their archive, which perhaps they’ve been too close to and can’t quite see the brilliance of,” says Fetterman. The process of applying an objective eye to the archive of a photographer is something Fetterman had done before, with artists like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Sebastião Salgado, but even though those men knew and worked with Riboud, Riboud and Fetterman had not met before last May.

Riboud, like the other French Humanist photographers in which Fetterman is particularly interested, is the product of a time when the art market for photography was brand new, before there was money in the work, so the travels on which he embarked were a personal one — and one that, Fetterman says, can serve as an inspiration to viewers. (Also inspirational, the gallerist notes, is the fact that great photographers tend to possess such great longevity. “Maybe it’s the chemicals,” he jokes.)

It was immediately clear that Riboud’s archive contained more than expected. Fetterman had gone looking for photographs of France and China, but he found works from India and elsewhere that he loved equally. He had gone looking for familiar, famous images, and he found pictures he had never before seen (like the picture of giraffes in the gallery above). And while Fetterman says that many photojournalists today travel in comfort, the photographs showed that Riboud was “a man of the earth.”

“He’s very curious about people and interested in people and insightful, and you can see a great intelligence and feel a great humanity and empathy,” says Fetterman. “You sense he’s a storyteller and you sense the lives these people are living; he tells us about them, not in a didactic way but in a basic, humanist way.” That emphathy is, Fetterman believes, why Riboud’s photographs are still revelatory a half-centry later: he finds a way to make what’s foreign, what’s seen through a traveler’s eye, seem familiar and intimate.

“You get a sense in way that, clichéd as it sounds, we’re all connected. I don’t want to sound like a ‘60s hippie but we’re all brothers and sisters,” Fetterman says, “and somebody like Marc Riboud, his work just sings that.”

Marc Riboud is a French photographer and the recipient of numerous awards, including the ICP Infinity Award and the Overseas Press Club award. The exhibition Marc Riboud – The Eye of the Traveler is on view at Peter Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica, Calif., through March 16, 2013.

Related Topics: , , , , , , , ,

Latest Posts

2014.  Gaza.  Palestine.  Schoolchildren head to class at the Sobhi Abu Karsh School in the Shujai'iya neighborhood. Operation Protective Edge lasted from 8 July 2014 – 26 August 2014, killing 2,189 Palestinians of which 1,486 are believed to be civilians. 66 Israeli soldiers and 6 civilians were killed.  It's estimated that 4,564 rockets were fired at Israel by Palestinian militants.

Inside Gaza with Photographer Peter van Agtmael

What photographer Peter van Agtmael encountered in Gaza changed the way he worked.

Read More
WASTELAND PERMITTED USE: This image may be downloaded or is otherwise provided at no charge for one-time use for coverage or promotion of National Geographic magazine dated December 2014 and exclusively in conjunction thereof.  No copying, distribution or archiving permitted.  Sublicensing, sale or resale is prohibited.     REQUIRED CREDIT AND CAPTION: All image uses must bear the copyright notice and be properly credited to the relevant photographer, as shown in this metadata, and must be accompanied by a caption, which makes reference to NGM.  Any uses in which the image appears without proper copyright notice, photographer credit and a caption referencing NGM are subject to paid licensing.        Mandatory usage requirements: (Please note: you may select 5 branded images for online use and 3 images for print/unbranded)1. Include mandatory photo credit with each image2. Show the December cover of National Geographic somewhere in the post (credit: National Geographic) unless using only one image3. Provide a prominent link to: the top of your piece, ahead of the photos 4. Mention that the images are from "the December issue of National Geographic magazine” GOWANUS CANALNew York, New YorkPollutants: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, lead, copperYear listed: 2010Carved from a tidal estuary 160 years ago, the Gowanus Canal is Brooklyn’s industrial artery—and a deeply polluted waterway. Even so, it’s frequented by herons, seagulls, crabs, and canoeists. Defying local fears of economic stigma, the EPA listed the canal as a Superfund site in 2010. It hopes to start dredging contaminated mud in 2016.

Photojournalism Daily: Nov. 24, 2014

Mideast Israel Palestinians

The Best Pictures of the Week: Nov. 14 – Nov. 21


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 19,276 other followers