Friday, 12:00pm
10 April 2015

Accidental art sale

Haunting, retouched press photos from the collection of Raynal Pellicer are on display in a Paris gallery until late June

Raynal Pellicer’s collection of retouched press photos is on display at Galerie Argentic in Paris, writes Sean Eckhardt.

The photographic print exhibition, in the premises of Argentic, a photography and book dealer, is entitled ‘The Idol Factory’. The content is a remarkable archive of retouched press images of Hollywood stars, mobsters, politicians and many other famous figures from the beginning of the twentieth century through to the 1960s. (These will be familiar to Eye readers who read Rick Poynor’s article ‘The retoucher’s accidental art’ in Eye 88.)

Each image shows the markings of newspapers’ in-house retouchers, who used dark paint, crayon and ink to enhance, amend and edit the images, and to indicate crop marks for page layout. This crude editing process was necessary, even for seemingly flawless pictures, to ensure optimal reproduction quality when published. Decades before the advent of Photoshop, these markings create a new aesthetic that goes beyond the photograph’s initial subject matter, each becoming a one-of-a-kind artefact.

Clark Gable photographed by Clarence Sinclair Bull for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1933. The press clippings glued to the retouched photo’s back, which was standard procedure, provide a history of its use by the Chicago Herald Examiner and Chicago American from 1934 to 1956.
Top: Promotional photo of Priscilla (left) and Rosemary Lane, singers and film actresses, 1936. Publisher unknown.


To Pellicer, no collection is forever, and the time has come for him to sell the prints individually to fund his next project. This will consist of various double-exposed photographs.

‘The aim is not to have the prints, but to make something with it … when it’s made, you sell everything and start anew’, said Pellicer.

The opening evening at Galerie Argentic, Paris. © Galerie ARGENTIC.

Argentic 3

The prints are on display at Galerie Argentic 43 rue Daubenton 75005 (in the 5th arrondissement of Paris) until 20 June 2015. The prices range from €350 to €2000 for the image of Humphrey Bogart that graces the cover of Pellicer’s French-language book about his collection, Version originale: La photographie de presse retouchée.

Humphrey Bogart after retouching (to remove hand and cigarette). A Columbia Pictures promotional photo by Robert Wallace Coburn for the courtroom drama Knock on Any Door (1949), directed by Nicholas Ray.


See ‘The retoucher’s accidental art’ by Rick Poynor in Eye 88.

Sean Eckhardt, Eye media intern, London

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.