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Interview with Marc Charmet - Collection Spotlight

Bridgeman Images is proud to represent the CCI archives for image licensing and reproduction. The Charmet Collection is comprised of a rich variety of photography, cartoons, drawings, posters and illustrations. 


David from our Content Partnership Team met with Marc Charmet, the collection's owner for an interview about CCI and the Archives Charmet founded by Marc's father.

What do you remember of your father's archives

Saturday morning, 8 o'clock, I am 12 years old, my father and I, balanced on a scooter, go to the Bibliothèque des Arts Decoratifs (the Library of Decorative Arts in Paris), he handles documents, illustrations, huge binders, he takes photographs, I stand there and adjust the lights, then on another day of school holidays the Bibliothèque Nationale, rue de Richelieu, the Mazarine, illustrious places, priceless manuscripts, images from another time, sometimes I'm bored, but people are nice to me... I sit on a chair and look at these testimonies from another time. For me, these are my father's archives, another version of history, magical places, beauty hidden in the dust...


The connected man in the future, always working and never sleeping. Illustration in the magazine: Aller Lapja, Hungary, 1927 / Private Collection / Photo: © CCI / Bridgeman Images

What was your inspiration to launch your own collection? How did you start it and what areas did you focus on early in development?

Apart from the obvious emotional bond, by working on my small collection I stay in touch with my father whose passing has marked me deeply, I have always been fascinated by the small versions of history. Wanting to be a comic book author, before turning to music, popular illustration has always interested me. I find it moving to see all these faces of people who existed and that we have forgotten, of children in advertisements of the 50s, of characters, a bit like when I pass in front of a block of buildings at night and see some lights in the distance and I wonder: who are these people, what are they doing? In front of my postcards, my imagery, in front of these illustrious proofs of non-art, of non-beauty (while we are persuaded that art should be everywhere, a chef is an artist these days) I just see the desires of a society, its real life, its fears... that's why I want to focus more and more on ordinary life rather than art, history...


Fashion in the Thirties, 1930 / Private Collection / Photo: © CCI / Bridgeman Images
Fisherman's bastion, Budapest, ca 1930 / Private Collection / Photo: © CCI / Bridgeman Images

How did the Charmet collection become the vast archive it is today? What was the philosophy behind this development?

Painstaking work, for nearly 20 years, every day unearthing new media, scanning, photographing, correcting, collecting without limits, I believe in hoarding, in the power of mass, like a mine, or by dint of digging, and removing earth, breaking rock, and finally finding a diamond in the rough. I hope to have some in my collection.

Is there an area of ​​the Charmet collection that you are most proud of or that you consider particularly rare?


I don't know if they are rare, but I particularly like everything that deals with lifestyle in the 50s: advertisements for Tupperware, children sliding on a toboggan (which probably would not be safety compliant anymore), I like this air of freedom and enthusiasm that I read in the eyes of people, models...

An African marabout, ca 1930 / Private Collection / Photo: © CCI / Bridgeman Images
Paris' Auto Show, 1950 / Private Collection / Photo: © CCI / Bridgeman Images

How do you work with technology? Which technical possibilities excite you in the future?

Of course, I work in front of the computer all day long. I correct defects and improve, while all the while trying to stay historically accurate. A few years ago I started to colourise black and white documents, I like to give them a second chance, while it has long been taboo for me, I also think about the possibility of creating small animations, to make gifs of them, it would be very fun even possibly to bring a little humour to them to make them more "catchy", in this I will get closer to my first love of comics... But that's another story...


On a giant submarine, c.1910. Life under the ocean in the future: passengers on a submarine. Chromo from the futuristic collection: "In Year 2000", France, ca 1910 / Private Collection / Photo: © CCI / Bridgeman Images

Discover all images from the Charmet Archive

Discover all images from the Marc Charmet collection


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