Should you ever find yourself in one of those slightly annoying and annoyingly intimidating conversations with a handful of culture snobs who start to quiz you on your favorite artists and photographers– remember this name: René Maltête. Repeat a few times, and you should have it.
“Favorite artist?” – that’s always easier to bluff. Throw names out there like Monet (who doesn’t like a Monet?) and you can usually get away with a knowing nod, having studied all the big boys in that Art History class you took to avoid doing any real hard work in college.
‘Favorite photographer?’ – this on the other hand can be a social land mine if you don’t know your sh**. If you don’t take an interest in over-priced coffee table books or photography galleries, these names tend to flow less easily off the tongue.
Less offensive than saying David LaChappelle or some other contemporary fashion photographer, the name René Maltête will likely raise an eyebrow or two amongst culture snobs and perhaps even test their knowledge. Considerably less mainstream than his snap happy comrade of the same era, Robert Doisneau (responsible for half of the romantic black & white postcards sold to tourists in Paris), Maltête photographed the French with buckets more tongue and cheek. You can describe him as a humanist photographer with a big sense of humor. There isn’t too much of this “alterior meaning” business going on behind René’s work which is probably why I enjoy it so. His satire is loud, slapstick and clear.
I’d like to thank my Auntie in Marseille for digging up these old photos for me. Enjoy …
René Maltête (1930-2000)