Roland Barthes once said that you’re not really an actor in France unless you’ve been photographed by the Studio Harcourt. In truth, it could be said that Harcourt hasn’t restricted itself to portraying only the most talented actors, but also the more famous individuals in the worlds of art and culture, politics, sport and many others. It could be added that they have not been exclusively French, but have originated from all over the world.
The Studio was founded in 1934 by the brothers and magnates of the Lacroix Press, Robert Ricci and Cosette Harcourt; but it was the latter who looked to cinema stars to create a style, including the Harcourt name on snapshots with more or less inimitable deco-style characters.
Techniques and methods – apart from the use of digital cameras – have remained the same over eighty years. Harcourt photos are distinctive by being in black and white and not using flash. In fact, the effects of light and shade are produced by eight projectors with Fersenl lenses, but before the shoot subjects receive the attention of able make-up artists. The result? A portrait which will catapult your image into the legendary and roaring Parisian Annèes folles.
Nowadays Harcourt makes some concessions to the rules. Colour photographs can be taken on request, and portraits can be made of animals and objects. Brands such as Chanel, Hermès, Cartier, Barbie, Harley Davidson, BMW and many others have availed themselves of the Studio to immortalise their most iconic products under the world’s most famous spotlight. Chapeau.
Paris, November 2016