A postcard publisher doing business under the name “L.L.,” then “Lévy fils,” the Léon & Lévy studio was founded in 1964 by Moyse Léon and Isaac aka Georges Lévy. Around the 1900s, they decided to send their photographers to travel the world and North Africa in particular: Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt. Equipped with cumbersome optical chambers, the photographers used imposing glass plates measuring 16 x 42 cm. These unusual dimensions allowed them to obtain high-quality horizontal and vertical panoramic views.
In conjunction with the exhibition “The Orient In Big” at the Roger-Viollet gallery and photo agency (which purchased the Léon & Lévy collection in 1970), 50 black and white prints of these period photographs are being showcased for the first time and exclusively to the general public. These images were initially intended to be used for postcards and photo albums for a clientele with an appetite for travel that wasn’t easily feasible at the time. The images depict Roman ruins, huge palm trees and dunes as far as the eye can see, street scenes from Marrakech, Tunis and Cairo, old boats sailing on the Nile, and the pyramids of Giza.
The gallery’s modern, high-quality prints allow us to appreciate the details of these scenes from the last century. Some of the photographs are particularly eye-catching, such as the portraits of women from the Ouled Naïl tribe in Algeria, smoking nonchalantly while sitting or leaning against a low wall. The Roger-Viollet gallery is making all these photographs available for purchase, while throughout the year, a big part of the gallery’s collection can be viewed on their website, offering a glimpse of the world during various time periods.
By Sabyl Ghoussoub
The Orient In Big. Through January 15, 2022. Galerie Roger-Viollet. 6 rue de Seine, Paris 6.