Annual Lecture: Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Grant for Photography 2020

Near Documentary: Photography Between Taking and Making | Lecture by Quentin Bajac

7 March 2020 | New Delhi


Taking as a starting point the notion of ‘near documentary’ used by Jeff Wall to describe some of his images, the lecture explores the ‘prepared’ or ‘constructed’ nature of documentary photographs in the twentieth century. Through the portrait works of August Sander, Brassaï and Robert Doisneau, Bajac addresses issues of staging, and investigates the often complex relationship between the operator and the model.


Born in 1965, a graduate of the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris and the Institut National du Patrimoine, Quentin Bajac became curator of photography at the Musée d’Orsay in 1995, before moving to the Pompidou Centre in 2003. He held the chair in the History of Photography at École du Louvre and in 2010 he was appointed Chief Curator of Photography at the Pompidou Centre. From 2013 to 2018, Quentin Bajac was Chief Curator of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. In March 2019 Bajac was appointed the Director of the Jeu De Paume in Paris.


He has curated numerous exhibitions on 19th century and contemporary photography, including A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio (2014), Scenes for a New Heritage: Contemporary Art from the Collection (2015) and most recently, Stephen Shore (2018). He was co-curator of the exhibition Being Modern: MoMA in Paris, at Fondation Louis Vuitton (2017).


Quentin Bajac has authored many books including Parr by Parr: Quentin Bajac meets Martin Parr (2010), Brassaï, Paris Nocturne with Sylvie Aubenas (2013) and Robert Doisneau: Pêcheur d’images (2012). He is also the author of a three-volume history of photography (Découvertes Gallimard, 2000-2010). He has written articles on photographers and artists who used photography such as Alexander Calder, Man Ray, Lucien Hervé, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Luigi Ghirri, Karen Knorr, Mimmo Jodice, Lise Sarfati, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Luc Delahaye.