The French photographer, Robert Doisneau, has taken lots of pictures of the French railways…some of these were official, others were more informal.
This is an image of holidaymakers in la France profonde, circa 1940 it turns out.
I was amazed to find that the station, in the middle-of-nowhere, is Carlux, in the Dordogne. I know Carlux because my family have a house there. It is a tiny village, and I can confirm that it is, indeed, in the middle-of-nowhere.
Even more amazingly, Doisneau loved the area and had holidays there over a long period.
Who knows, I might even have seen him when I was small…
I wish I’d known that then.
PS I’ve been researching into Doisneau and the Dordogne…it turns out that he visited the area over a number of years and took photos of Sarlat and Souillac..and worked for the foix gras producers, Rougie. I’ll check it all out.
I looked more closely at the photo too. Look at the track; not many trains going through.
It’s been great to look at historic images of the people who ran the railways…
There are lots of photo images. You can imagine how delighted I was to discover that Salgado had been invited to document the life of the SNCF through its employees.
In France, the generic title for a railway worker is cheminot…an in the old days, the association with the railway provided for a secure and permanent employment. In fact, the French railway recruited, like the old British Civil Service, by examination.
One of the key roles on the railway was to look after the rural roads…and employees were given a small house of standrad form, next to a lvel crossing and wwith a vegetable garden attached.
I’ve been interested in the specific history of these vegetable plots for a while. I love it when various interest come together.
I discovered that Robert Doisneau has also taken lots of ptictures of trains and people.
I like these coloured prints of provincial railway stations and seaside views. Usually, they are black-and-white albumen prints with hand-colouring added, through a pochoire stencil.
The French were very good at producing these kinds of images.
The combination of colour and black-and-white produces an interesting two dimensional effect…the coloured elements seem to float in relation to each other. Not the floating world, but something a bit like it.
John Hinde was a photographer who did something similar in Britain during the 1950s with Butlins holiday camps…and Sir Peter Blake’s collages have a similar spatial set-up.
I love the photographs of all the people, from top to bottom, who help run the railway.
The railway system, in its mechanical form, quickly became a very large employer…and, from the early days nwards, photographs recorded every aspect of the enterprise. These images attest to the evident pride, both individual and collective, afforded by the railway.