Vincent Burgeon’s comic book Photographix is perhaps less about drawing than it is about the countless anecdotes and abundant information we are given to read. Burgeon set himself a daunting task: to survey the history of one of the most important inventions in the contemporary world: photography. He starts with antiquity, when our ancestors reproduced the world using techniques such as drawing, painting, engraving, and goes up to the discovery of ways of “transcribing the reality through a direct imprint of light.”
Passionate about images, Vincent Burgeon is a photographer, graphic designer, illustrator, as well as a university instructor in graphic design and photography. In the fall of 2017 his publisher suggested an ambitious project: “How about telling the story of photography in a comic book?” Vincent Burgeon agreed. “Between editorial reflection and technical investigation, the work slowly began to take shape.” An exhaustive approach being out of the question, the cartoonist chose to adopt his own point of view rooted in his personal photography practice, his readings and experiences. “After all, isn’t adopting a point of view precisely what photographers do, but also historians?”
Told chronologically, Photographix begins “before photography,” and we discover that the father of modern optics was Ibn al-Haytham, a great Arab scholar. Next we meet the pioneers: Niépce, Daguerre, as well as Hercule Florence, a French inventor living in Brazil, who was the first to use the term “photography” around 1833, at a time when “heliography” dominated the discourse. Burgeon takes us to the four corners of the globe, through wars and censorship: photography is everywhere, printed, exhibited, digitized. It is used for propaganda purposes but also as an instrument of resistance. It becomes art. Vincent Burgeon’s comic book tells the story of this epic, which may be read from beginning to end, but may also be discovered by opening the book at random to learn something new every time.
By Sabyl Ghoussoub
Born in Paris in 1988 into a Lebanese family, Sabyl Ghoussoub is a writer, columnist and curator. His second novel, Beyrouth entre parenthèses [Beirut in Parentheses] was released by Antilope editions in August 2020.
Vincent Burgeon, Photographix, Dunod Graphic, 175 pages, 19,90€.