Maurice Tabard’s photographs are visually very complex, involving negative printing, double exposure, solarization, montage, and other modernist techniques. Many of his photographs incorporate shadows cast on or by whole or partial figures who are situated in indeterminate settings.While Tabard was not a member of the inner circle of Surrealist artists in Paris, his works share many of their same interests in altered realities and uncanny presentations of figures in dreamlike settings. His relentlessly experimental work was somewhat ahead of its time and more appreciated after his death than during his lifetime; Tabard cared more about expanding his understanding of what photography could do and be rather than establishing a signature style. Tabard was born in Lyon, France in 1897. His
father was a silk industrialist, and Tabard’s first artistic experiences were as a designer of patterns for silk textiles. In 1914, he and his father left France for New York, where Tabard became a student at the Institute of Photography. Between 1916 and 1920, he continued his studies with Emile Brunel in New York. After the death of his father in 1922, Tabard became a professional portrait photographer for the Bachrach Studio in Balti-
more. He photographed many important homes and famous people, including President Calvin Coolidge and his family. In 1928, Tabard returned to Paris to become a
fashion photographer. There he encountered the Surrealist writer Philippe Soupault, who in turn put him in touch with a number of prominent magazine editors, including Lucien Vogel, Giron, and Alexey Brodovitch. Tabard worked for a variety of magazines, such as Bifur, Vu, Jazz, Jardin des Modes, and Marie-Claire. He made the acquaintance of the Surrealists Man Ray and Rene´ Magritte, and his work began to reflect the influence of Surrealism, particularly with the use of uncanny double exposures, which he called ‘‘simultaneous impressions.’’ His debt to Magritte is evident in his later photograph, ‘‘Eye-Sea’’: Hommage a` Magritte (1938). In the late 1920s, he also met Roger Parry, to whom he taught photography, and Andre´ Kerte´sz. Around 1932, he began systematic experimenta-
tions with the technique of solarization, in which partial reversals of tones create uncanny dark outlines and white halos around forms, creating such works as Composition with Guitars, of 1929 which uses the sensual shapes and flat planes of the guitars to great effect. Man Ray and Lee Miller had
begun experimenting with solarization in 1930. In 1933, Tabard published an article about the technique in Arts et Me´tiers graphiques, much to the consternation of Man Ray, who wished to keep the process to himself. During the 1930s, Tabard relentlessly experimented with montage, sandwiches negatives, multiple exposures, solarization, and collage techniques and was highly respected as an avant-garde photographer, with his work appearing in such journals as Bifur, Art et De´coration, and Arts et Me´tiers graphiques. His work was shown in Modern European Photographers, organized by Julien Levy in 1932, and at Galerie de la Ple´iade beginning in 1933. At the time of the outbreak of the war, Tabard
worked in Lyon as the director of the photo studio for Marie-Claire. During the German Occupation, he worked as a still photographer for the Gaumont film studio. In 1942, he traveled to Africa as a documentary film maker; later he became a war correspondent for the French Motion Picture Service. He was voluntarily engaged as a photographer in Alsace until the end of the hostilities. After the war, Tabard continued to do fashion
photography. In 1948, Alexey Brodovitch, editor of Harper’s Bazaar, brought him to the United States. There he met Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. Tabard began teaching at the Winona Lake School of Photography in Winona Lake, Indiana, and in 1948, he was honored for his services by the Photographer’s Association of America. Between 1950 and 1955, he delivered a series of lectures in the United States on the structural composition of images, derived from his book, La Geome´trie est la fondation des arts, published in 1948. At the same time, he continued working for a number of French fashion magazines, work that he maintained until his retirement in 1966, his astonishing contributions to avant-garde photography of the earlier era little known, as much of this material had been lost in the war. In 1975, his work was included in the exhibition, Paris 1925-1939, capitale de la photographie, at the Salon de la Photographie. In 1983, he received the Grand Prix National de la Photographie in Paris. After his death in 1984, he was honored with a number of exhibitions in Europe, including a retrospective exhibition at the Fondation Nationale de la Photographie in Lyon.