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Le commandant Charcot en 1908 © Maurice-Louis Branger - Roger-Viollet
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A seminar was held last week in France on the subject of patronage and photography: Mécène ou producteur? Accompagner la photographie (Patron or Producer? Supporting Photography). It was led by Daniel Barroy, who is the head of the photography section at the French Ministry of Culture and the Mission du Mécénat (Patronage Committee). Here are the most signifiant excerpts of the seminar.

On the one hand, patronage is defined as material support offered without the expectation of compensation from the beneficiary. On the other hand, the producer, in the movies and music, for example, is the person responsible—financially, artistically, technically—for the completion of the work.

The one is an act of philanthropy, while the other is a purely commercial and industrial, even if its objective is related to an artistic or cultural activity.

I will briefly touch on the problems of funding photography today: photography as a means of communication, as a tool for artistic creation, as a medium not only for information, but for our individual and collective memory.

Photography enjoys considerable popularity, as evidenced by the success of the many events and places devoted to it, as well as the prices fetched at public auctions, for example. And yet everywhere we hear about how photography is “in crisis.” When photography was turned upside down by digital technology, it raised two major issues: that of the multiplicity of approaches and uses that characterize digital photography; and how funding on the Internet caused a massive drop in value, to the detriment of artists.

The need for funding concerns several areas of photography. Here I will mention three:

1) News and documentary, where reporting is expensive, time-consuming, and risky, as recent event have sadly reminded us.

2) The Visual arts, where is it obvious that photography has found its place as a tool of expression and creation. Photographers have great difficulty in producing, despite a very favorable contemporary art market.

3) Archives, because, since the beginning of photography in the 19th century, million of images of all kinds have been produced: journalistic archives, artistic archives, documentary and personal archives, which serve as a record of our lives and the lives of our ancestors.

This show how much photography needs patrons, and I would like to salute everyone who, through the size and consistency of their commitment, has helped keep photography a lively and diverse means of expression.

With the emergence of digital technology and the Internet, a new world has opened up which will require more complex approaches. This is a new economy in which everyone is trying to learn the new rules.

Daniel Barroy