In 1949 the photographer Lucien Hervé took photographs of Unité d’Habitation, an innovative apartment building in Marseille. He sent them to the building’s architect, Le Corbusier, who immediately realised that after forty years of searching he had finally found a photographer with an ‘architect’s soul’, one who could capture both the form and the spirit of his work, and he asked Hervé to be his official photographer. This book tells the story of the creative collaboration between these two groundbreaking modernists, which ended only with the architect’s death in 1965.
Their seminal collaboration is extensively documented in this album of 1200 of Hervé’s carefully edited, sequenced and labelled contact prints, housed at the Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris. The database of architectural images became the source from which the two men selected appropriate photographs for Corbusier’s books, articles and lectures, as well as the numerous press requests he received. Originating as a vehicle for dissemination of the architect’s work and as a commercial venture for the photographer, these contact sheets now form an extraordinary archive of modernist architecture and photography in the mid-twentieth century. A selection of these remarkable prints is being published in this volume for the first time.
In their introductory essays, Quentin Bajac and Béatrice Andrieux describe the two men’s collaborative process and the productive – if occasionally stormy – dynamic of their relationship, which was grounded in a shared belief that the moral and aesthetic virtues of modern architecture are inseparable.
In the book’s main section, Jacques Sbriglio presents sixteen of Corbusier’s most iconic buildings, using Hervé’s contact sheets as visual references. The architect’s innovative structures and materials are highlighted by Hervé’s dynamic and expressive perspectives, sharp contrasts of black and white, and frequent close-ups of structural details and textures. The viewer’s eye, moving across the sheets, gradually discovers forms, defined spaces, and the play of light and shadow – the cinematic dimension inherent in Le Corbusier’s architecture.