Far from being simply a writer who illustrated his literary work, Gustave Roud was a passionate photographer from the age of 16 up to the end of his life. Never exhibited during his lifetime, nonetheless this element of his work places him as one of the most important European writer/photographers of the period between the two World Wars and just following World War II. Despite the posthumous exhibitions at the Centre Beaubourg (Paris) and at the Musée de l’Elysée (Lausanne), as well as the publication of a catalogue (Terre d’ombres, Slatkine, 2002), his status as a photographer remained for a long along the margins of his literature. This came about, however, through the wishes of Philippe Jaccottet who managed his oeuvre after his death. Nonetheless, Gustave Roud conserved and transmitted his abundant work, which was accomplished with determination and rigor.

Shooting protocols, formal diligence, and a knowledge of photographic debates highlight an increasing interest that surpasses a simple hobby or religious amateurism. At the end of the 1930s he began to work in color film, which placed him in the avant-garde in this area. It was during this period of the 1930s that he established an alliance between literature and photography as well as a singular aesthetic. Interested in technique, his early years as a photographer are concerned with the principles of experimentation: glass plates for stereoscopy, autochrome plates for the filming of Pathé-Baby. Later he works with color, but without radically changing his shooting procedures. Gustave Roud had a small laboratory, printed his own black and white prints, took care of his paper, and selected his formats. The publication of his photographs in Swiss journals or in the original edition of Haut-Jorat accompanied his journalism or in other various forms: sending photos to artist and writer friends, post cards to his family, gifts to his models. This diffusion is better understood within the context of his epistolary relationships and local or artistic sociability rather than with respect to the world of professional photography in which he rarely engaged. His photos mainly circulated in the different circles of his entourage. His role as official photographer for private events such as marriages, however, underscores the general confidence in his technical skills. 

Photographic series

Gustave Roud’s photographic archives are held at the Cantonal and University Library of Lausanne by Françoise Subilia, and include 13,000 documents (film, prints, autochromes, slides...). Even though these archives were not organized by the author, they are structured mainly into series. Dates, models, and shooting days are used to catalogue these items. We selected twenty or so symbolic photos per entry. Most of the time, the captions were not given by Gustave Roud himself.