Photo archive Jean-Louis Schoellkopf

The French photographer Jean-Louis Schoellkopf (born 1946) has placed his trust in the Institut pour la photographie with a donation of all his negatives, ektachromes and contact sheets, namely more than 11,000 phototypes, representing a total of about 30,000 images. The study of these works and discussions with the photographer about his approach to photography will constitute a new dialectical relationship, a method dear to his work.

Since the end of the 1960s, Jean-Louis Schoellkopf has considered photography as a tool for investigation and social criticism to challenge contemporary urban development. In particular, his documentary approach reveals the impacts of the end of the industrial era on urban landscapes in France and overseas – Saint-Etienne, Genoa, Rotterdam, Stuttgart, Barcelona, the 11th and 19th arrondissements of Paris, and the Lille-Roubaix-Tourcoing agglomeration – taking into account their history, geography and sociology. He paints a portrait of the residents of these places based on an established protocol, producing common and singular portrayals.

Several solo exhibitions have been devoted to him at various museums and institutions in France and overseas. His work is presented 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 Museum of modern and contemporary art in Strasbourg, and the Caisse des dépôts et consignations

Jean-Louis Schoellkopf’s work is already well-known in the Hauts-de-France region. Six prints from his series Liévin, les cimetières militaires (Liévin, the military cemeteries) shot in the region are conserved at the FRAC Grand Large in Dunkerque and the CRP/ Centre régional de la photographie in Douchy-les-Mines devoted an exhibition to him in 2011.


Born in Colmar in 1946, Jean-Louis Schoellkopf started taking photographs in the late 1960s in Canada. He produced his first images while working as a laboratory technician and embarked on his journey as a photographer: portraits of workers in factories, views of Montreal, portraits of musicians.

On his return to France in 1974, he settled in Saint-Etienne where there was still a significant amount of industrial activity. After a few projects with the press, he abandoned the idea of reporting and instead turned to portrait work, which he developed on the scale of the city.
Jean-Louis Schoellkopf was interested in changes in cities, working-class culture and work in the mines. He infiltrated factories to photograph workers. The image provided a topic for discussion encouraging dialogue with workers and helping to make them aware of their working conditions. Most of the time he broke the rules, not wanting to be associated with any specific group, whether political or photographic.

At the end of the 1970s, his work as an instructor at an institution for the integration of the disabled paved the way for his portrait work within various institutions. This resulted in a number of series, including Joubert (1986).

In 1986, FRAC Rhône-Alpes bought a collection of photographs from this series and from the Mineurs series. \\ He obtained a grant from this same organisation to continue his work in Saint-Etienne.

In 1987-1988, the School of Architecture in Saint-Etienne asked him to take views of building facades. He used the opportunity to play on the balance between how housing is represented and its occupants. In his work, portraits of interiors form a common thread that maps how people live in France and overseas.
Following an exhibition of his photographs at the Maison de la Culture in Saint-Etienne in 1991, he spent several years working with the newspaper Libération.

In the 1990s, he hosted a series of exhibitions. In 1997, he participated in Documenta, a five-yearly exhibition of contemporary art in Kassel. He continued to work on his series of portraits of the working- class throughout the 2000s.

Jean-Louis Schoellkopf has contributed to “documenting” regions. Industrial regions experiencing deindustrialisation or, on the contrary, rehabilitation. He is interested in people, their activities, and their stories, and seeks to spend time with them to establish a relationship of trust with those he is photographing