Our Artists

Willy Ronis

Willy Ronis is one of the major figures in 20th Century photography. A humanist photographer, his black and white unposed photos are highly poetic.


The early years

Willy Ronis learned about photography alongside his father, who owned a portrait studio. He did not see himself as a photographer in his youth; he was more interested in music. Family duty (when his father fell ill) meant that he had to become more involved in the business of the studio.

In 1936, Willy Ronis decided to dedicate himself to photo-journalism and became particularly interested in the Popular Front. Sensitive to the cause of the working classes, he also produced a series of social reports. He met Robert Capa
and David Seymour, whose ideals he shared. He also had an opportunity to meet Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Willy Ronis, humanist photographer

Willy Ronis sought refuge in the unoccupied zone during the war and returned to Paris in 1944.  He joined the Rapho Agency in 1946. He worked with Regards and Time Magazine and was the first Frenchman to work with Life Magazine.

During the golden age of French humanist photography, Willy Ronis worked with Robert Doisneau, Pierre Jahan and René-Jacques to set up the Group of XV, an association that aimed to promote photography as a genuine artistic expression.

Awards and successes

In 1953, Willy Ronis’ works were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York alongside those of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau. In 1957, he won the gold medal at the Venice Biennial.

In 1972, Willy Ronis left Paris to settle in Provence, where he worked on photo reports of the region. He also taught in Avignon, Aix-en-Provence and Marseille. Sur le fil du hasard (On the knife-edge of chance) was published in 1980. This collection of photographs was a great success and he was awarded the Nadar Prize for it.

He returned to Paris in 1983 and bequeathed his work to the French government. There have been many retrospectives of his work in France and abroad.

Willy Ronis’ poetic Paris

A Parisian by birth, Willy Ronis did much of his work in the streets of his home city. He was interested in people and daily life: “It was understandable that my city and the people I meet, who struggle and entertain themselves there, should be my natural subjects”.

Taken unposed, his “chance photographs” as he called them, are reminders of a Paris that no longer exists.

Willy Ronis took a very large quantity of photographs of Belleville and
Ménilmontant. These were brought together in Belleville-Ménilmontant, a collection published in 1954 and reprinted many times, thus showing how the poetry and humanity conveyed by Willy Ronis’ photographs have lived on and continue to influence new generations.


Books and collections of photographs by Willy Ronis:
- Nues, (Nudes) text by Philippe Sollers, Éditions Terre Bleue, 2008
- Provence, text by Edmonde Charles-Roux, Éditions Hoëbecke, 2008
- Les chats de Willy Ronis, (Willy Ronis’ Cats) Éditions Flammarion, 2007
- Ce jour-là, (That Day) “Traits et portraits” collection, Mercure de France, 2006
- Paris éternellement, (Eternal Paris) Éditions Hoëbecke, 2005
- Belleville-Ménilmontant, Éditions Hoëbecke, 1999
- Mon Paris, (My Paris) Éditions Denoël, 1985
- Sur le fil du hasard, (On the knife-edge of chance) Éditions Contrejour, 1980
- Bellevile-Ménilmontant, preface by Pierre Mac Orlan, Arthaud, 1954

Useful links

- Find out more about the 2006 Willy Ronis Retrospective at the Town Hall in Paris
>> Read the
communiqué on the Photosapiens website

- The Rapho Agency

Willy Ronis 's products at Nouvelles Images

> Prints and posters

Prints and posters Provence Nude, Gordes, 1949 Prints and posters The caretaker's Cat Prints and posters Kindergarten, 1948 Prints and posters The Little Parisian, 1952

> Canvas prints

Canvas prints Chez Max, Joinville, 1947 Canvas prints Tour Eiffel Canvas prints Fondamenta Nuove, Venise, Italie, 1959 Canvas prints Deena de dos, 1955

> Postcards

Postcards The Little Parisian, 1952 Postcards Place de la Bastille, Paris, 1957 Postcards L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, 1979 Postcards The Little Parisian

Nationality(ies) : French
Born on : 14/08/1910
Profile : Photographer
Artistic current(s) : Humanist Photography
Theme(s) covered : Portraits - Characters