“La vie devant soi”: exhibition by Janine Niépce at Quai de la Photo

“La vie devant soi”: exhibition by Janine Niépce at Quai de la Photo


Organized by Spéos in collaboration with Quai de la Photo and as a part of the Biennale of Photography held at the 13th arrondissement of Paris City Hall, Polka Galerie and its Factory proudly present the exhibition “Life Ahead,” featuring the works of Janine Niépce and Emma Ball-Greene.

Aligned with this year’s Biennale theme, “Childhood, Adolescence, and Youth,” Polka Galerie aims to honor youth in its broadest sense through the lens of these two artists. From March 27 to May 27, 2024, immerse yourself in a captivating selection of approximately sixty images displayed across the two levels of Quai de la Photo.

About the Exhibition

Although Janine Niépce and Emma Ball-Greene never crossed paths, their photographs share a spontaneous and direct style that unveils unique perspectives on youth—a fertile period of self-discovery, interpersonal connections, and exploration of the world.

As a prominent figure in French photography, Janine Niépce documented life’s evolutions throughout the latter half of the 20th century, particularly focusing on the journey from childhood to adolescence. Through her lens, she captured interactions, games, fashions, aspirations, dreams, as well as the challenges and worries of the young. According to Hélène Jaeger-Defaix, granddaughter of Janine Niépce and guardian of her archives, “nothing eluded her benevolent gaze, always seeking spontaneity. With children, Janine could connect effortlessly, relishing their language, taking interest in their drawings, rhymes, and daydreams. She had to be cunning to prevent them from freezing or posing, encouraging their natural activities. Janine always expressed her faith in future generations and their potential to reshape the world.”

For Emma Ball-Greene, youth embodies a phase of profound transition marked by significant physical and emotional changes. Her intimate photographs mirror this complexity, offering a personal perspective on her own youth. Through her lens, she delves into the subtleties of transitioning femininity, blending the maturity of adulthood with the lightness and carefree spirit of childhood.

Exhibition Curators: This exhibition is curated by Dimitri Beck, of Polka, and Victor Moullin, of Polka Factory.

About Janine Niépce


Janine Niépce, a distant relative of the pioneering inventor of photography, Nicéphore Niépce, holds a significant position as one of France’s earliest female photojournalists. Born in 1921 to a family rooted in Burgundian winemaking, which later diversified into aircraft manufacturing and cinema set design, her journey led her to join the Resistance during wartime. Following this, she delved into studies in art and archaeology, eventually finding her true passion in photography. Her professional career officially commenced in 1946, marking the beginning of her remarkable contribution to the field.

Influenced profoundly by the renowned Henri Cartier-Bresson, who offered invaluable guidance in her pursuit of photojournalism, she found her place at Rapho in 1955. Through her lens, Niépce chronicled the evolving status of women over five decades, capturing their journey from rural agrarian life to the transformative era of May 1968, amidst the buoyant times of the “Trente Glorieuses” post-World War II economic boom. A dedicated feminist, she actively engaged in the Family Planning Movement from the 1950s onwards.

Niépce’s photographic oeuvre primarily focused on portraying ordinary individuals and their daily existence in stark black and white, aligning her approach closely with the ethos of Robert Doisneau and Willy Ronis. Reflecting on her legacy, her granddaughter, Hélène Jaeger-Defaix, highlights her grandmother’s significant contribution in systematically documenting the lives of women.

Janine Niépce’s remarkable achievements were duly recognized with her induction as a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters in 1981, followed by the prestigious honor of Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1985. She passed away in 2007 in Paris, leaving behind a rich legacy of photographic documentation, at the age of 86.

About Emma Ball-Greene

Emma Ball-Greene, a photographer of Franco-British descent, currently resides in Berlin. Born in 1996, her focus lies particularly on youth and the intimate spheres of life. Through her dedicated approach, she endeavors to spark curiosity and shed light on the realities faced by modern women and human rights issues. Her diverse portfolio spans both documentary photography and the realm of fashion.

In an era where women’s voices are increasingly amplified, societal norms persist in imposing stereotypical and diminishing perspectives, fostering feelings of insecurity and superficiality. It is this observation that drives Emma Ball-Greene to center her work around this paradox: how is it that despite the unprecedented freedoms enjoyed by contemporary women, they are still portrayed with less confidence and resilience than previous generations?

Practical Information

  • Opening: Wednesday, March 27th from 6 p.m. onwards.
  • Location: Exhibition Hall of Quai de la Photo, 9 Port de la Gare, 75013 Paris.

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