The iconic photo of Daniel Cohn-Bendit with a mocking smile facing a policeman taken by the French photographer Gilles Caron (1939-1970) is one of the most famous images of Paris 68. For the 50th anniversary of those events, Paris’ City Hall and the Gilles Caron Foundation present the first major exhibition in Paris dedicated to this remarkable photographer.
Caron was only 28 at the time, not much older than the students he was photographing. He photographed not only the street fighting but he documented students, workers and regular Parisians going about their daily life during those tumultuous days. The exhibition includes an excellent video with photos from two rolls of film Caron shot to get his Cohn-Bendit picture.
Michel Poivert, a professor of history of contemporary art and photography at the Sorbonne, has done a great job curating the Hotel de Ville exhibition by including other photo reportages Caron made during the year 1968. The exhibition opens with some intimate portraits taken by Caron of such sixties French stars as Jean-Louis Trintignant, Brigitte Bardot, Jacques Brel and François Truffaut. It also includes several remarkable up-close portraits depicting a troubled General de Gaulle taken during a trip to Bucharest while protests churned back in Paris. The exhibition ends with photos Caron took documenting the humanitarian crisis in Biafra and a bloody suppression of protesting students in Mexico City. All taken in 1968.
Caron, although young, was already an experienced photojournalist when he photographed May 68. He worked with the Gamma Photo Agency and in 1967 he covered the Six Day War in the Mideast and the Vietnam War. Caron traveled to Cambodia in 1970 to report on the Cambodian Civil War where he disappeared at the age of 30 in Khmer Rouge-controlled territory, never to be seen again.
“Gilles Caron 1968: the symbolic revolution,” to July 28, 2018, Paris City Hall, Place de l’Hotel de Ville 75004 Paris. Free admission.