One of the reasons I enjoy film so much is because IT LASTS. Look back a hundred years and there are photographs that are still intact. Something about being about to print from negatives (if kept relatively protected) so long after they are processed is pretty cool. I have been sailing around the internet and looking up older photo sets, ones taken long before my time.
This one set by photojournalist Andre Zucca really sparked my interest for a number of reasons. One because it was the earliest full color photo set (and one of very few sets depicting Paris in the 1940’s) and two…he was a photojournalist hired to create propaganda photos for the Nazis in the suggestion that France was thriving in its occupation. If you know about history you’ll know that that obviously wasn’t the case.
BOOM! To get the full impact, here’s a short history lesson to help you out:
Back when France was under occupation from the Nazis. As a result of the defeat of France and its Allies in the Battle of France, the French cabinet sought a cessation of hostilities. An armistice was signed onJune 22, 1940 at Compiègne. Under its terms, a designated area in the north and west of France, thezone occupée, was occupied by the German Army; in this region, the French government located at Vichy, headed by the ageing Maréchal Philippe Pétain, was subordinate to the Germans.
The Germans seized about 20% of the French food production, which caused severe disruption to the household economy of the French people. French farm production fell in half because of lack of fuel, fertilizer and workers; even so the Germans seized half the meat, 20% of the produce, and 80% of the champagne. Supply problems quickly affected French stores which lacked most items. Faced with these difficulties in everyday life, the government answered by rationing, and creating food charts and tickets which were to be exchanged for bread, meat, butter and cooking oil. Hunger prevailed, especially affecting youth in urban areas. The queues lengthened in front of shops. In the absence of meat and other foods including potatoes, people ate unusual vegetables, such as Swedish turnip and Jerusalem artichoke. Products such as sugar were replaced by substitutes (saccharin). Coffee was replaced by toasted barley mixed with chicory. Some people benefited from the black market, where food was sold without tickets at very high prices. Farmers diverted meat especially to the black market, which meant that much less for the open market. Counterfeit food tickets were also in circulation. Direct buying from farmers in the countryside and barter against cigarettes were also frequent practices during this period. These activities were strictly forbidden however and thus carried out at the risk of confiscation and fines. Food shortages were most acute in the large cities. In the more remote country villages, however, clandestine slaughtering, vegetable gardens and the availability of milk products permitted better survival. The rationing system was stringent but badly mismanaged, leading to malnourishment, black markets, and hostility to state management of the food supply. The official ration provided starvation level diets of 1300 or fewer calories a day, supplemented by home gardens and, especially, black market purchases.
These photos show a completely different story, here are a few:
These photos paint a very different picture (pun not intended) of Paris back then. Thousands of French Jews were killed during this time, not integrating with society and Nazi soldiers in some carefree bliss. Looking through these photos, it’s pretty creepy how real that this looks.
So what film did Andre Zucca use? It is said that he had access to a lot of German Agfacolour film stock making him one of the very few photographers who could make all color photo sets back then. Despite their faded coloring, they have held up pretty well for the past few decades.