Paris 2024 Olympic Games: Smith's raised fist, Spitz's mustache, Comaneci's grace… Raymond Depardon exhibits his legendary photos

Paris 2024 Olympic Games: Smith's raised fist, Spitz's mustache, Comaneci's grace... Raymond Depardon exhibits his legendary photos

Raymond Depardon a immortalisé de nombreux champions olympiques. MAXPPP – Mathieu Pattier

De Mexico à Tokyo, les JO de Raymond Depardon s'affichent en grand dans Paris. 

How to capture in a fraction of a second the raised fist of the black American athlete Lee Evans or the perfection of a gymnast like Nadia Comaneci… Photographer Raymond Depardon spoke about some of his Olympics including the photos are displayed in full force in Paris. "A glass of champagne", &quot ;a Palme d'or", "a real gift", confesses with emotion the octogenarian, to whom the French capital pays tribute with an XXL photographic tour on the occasion of the Olympic and Paralympic Games which are due to begin on July 26.

In total, 16 giant photos were installed between Montrouge and Saint-Denis, in the Paris suburbs, as well as in the heart of Paris and on several sections of the ring road. Eight of them were made on film and in black and white by Raymond Depardon, 81, between 1964 and 1976, during the Tokyo Summer Olympics and those who followed to those of Montreal.

Eight others are portraits of athletes competing in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris this summer. They were produced by his son, Simon, in color and digitally.

Fight against racism

Very close to City Hall, where electoral signs recall the early legislative elections, stands a huge portrait of the athlete Lee Evans raising his fist at the Mexico City Olympics. 1968 as a sign of the fight against racism against African-American athletes. Like other photos taken at a time when film was unforgiving and "where the Olympics were a second, two seconds, a third of a second", according to the photographer, this portrait was reproduced on a huge tarpaulin of 600 m2 installed on a building facade.

Near the National Assembly and Place de la Concorde, another photo shows athletes in the 3,000m steeplechase photographed very closely in the heart of a frenzied stadium , in Mexico. "In the political context, it does me a lot of good to come back to these archives at times when there were a lot of conflicts (…) we wanted to install this collective photo near the Assembly because we found that the message was beautiful, a form of union around a moment of truce", underlines Simon Depardon.

In Mexico, "it'was grandiose"

"In Mexico I was very young, I didn't know how it worked, it was grandiose with a 100 meters in less than ten seconds with only black (athletes), a historic moment and the most beautiful of audiences who always defended the losers", continues Raymond Depardon, "eight Olympics including five in summer&quot ; to his credit.

"And the press conference of black American athletes! When one of them responded to a journalist something like 'you don't know what it's like when you go to a restaurant with your wife, that' 39;it is empty, and they tell you that there is no more room…", he says -il.

He also remembers with joy "the arrival of the Africans" at the Olympics –"I, the photographer of decolonization, drank whey" – and from "Munich where in the final sprint, the& #39;German falls, is overtaken by the Kenyan Julius Sang and the Frenchman gets bronze, it lasts a third of a second, you have to be very well equipped…"

Comaneci, Sptiz…

Just like for the gold of the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci. "There was a compulsory exercise, she did a somersault, only one times, falling perfectly on the beam…", he remembers. "The right photo, it had to be done in black and white, in the descendants of our peers, Capa, Cartier-Bresson, I like the fragility of silver, the tension it arouses< /em>, adds the photographer, still reluctant today to use digital.

Another legendary moment: American swimmer "Mark Spitz in 1972 in Munich". "I couldn't do it, he was in the water all the time and so fast! Then there was the 400 meter medley, I thought of the butterfly and the moment you lift your head out of the water…" , he said, referring to the huge photo installed on the Paris ring road which shows the dark-haired swimmer with the mustache, his arms outstretched on each side of his head.

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