jean-louis schoellkopf

Long-term loan of his negative and paper archive

For more than fifty years, Jean-Louis Schoellkopf (born 1946) has used photography as a tool for investigation and social criticism, to question contemporary urban developments. His documentary approach reveals the consequences of the end of the industrial era on these urban landscapes in France and abroad – Saint-Étienne, Genoa, the Alexanderpolder district of Rotterdam, Stuttgart, Barcelona, the XIIIth and XIXth arrondissements of Paris, the Lille- Roubaix-Tourcoing area – taking into account their history, their geography and their sociology. 

He began to take portraits of people in their working environment during his exile in Canada at the end of the 1960s. In 1974, on his return to France, he settled in Saint-Étienne, where there was still considerable industrial activity. After a few collaborations with the press, he gave up the idea of reporting in favour of the notion of portraiture, which he conceived as going beyond a psychological understanding of his subjects to take in the wider context of their city.. Using a typological method, he produced photographic sequences intended to show how human relationships, particularly family relationships, produce common and singular configurations, in other words, how social situations reflect or constitute lifestyles, or cultural and aesthetic models. 

Solo exhibitions of Schoellkopf’s work have been held at the Musée de Louviers, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Lorient, the Kubus in Hanover and the Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain in Saint- Étienne, which holds the largest collection of his work. He participated in the exhibition A dialogue between American and European photography at MOCA in Los Angeles in 1991, and in Universal Archive at the MACBA in Barcelona in 2008. In 1997, he was selected to participate in Documenta X. His work is represented in French public collections such as the CNAP, the FRAC Rhône- Alpes and Haute-Normandie, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Strasbourg and the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations. 

Jean-Louis Schoellkopf’s work is already well known in Hauts-de- France. Six prints from his series Liévin, les cimetières militaires made in the area are kept at the FRAC Grand Large. The CRP/ Centre régional de la photographie in Douchy-les-Mines dedicated an exhibition to his work in 2011. 

Jean-Louis Schoellkopf has shown great confidence in the Institut pour la photographie by entrusting to the Institut all of his negatives, ektachromes and contact sheets, constituting more than 11,000 phototypes (representing approximately 30,000 images) as well as his paper archives. The study of this work and the exchanges with the artist on his singular practice of photography represent a real asset for the Institut’s programme.