Here’s a book that’s been on my bookshelf for a couple of years now, but one that I do periodically return to. Unlike the recent Lincoln Russell book of photos there is a thread of text that runs through this – though it helps if you can read French!
Alfred Gaspart only later in his life became celebrated as an artist, but he seems a fascinating individual. He was born in Argentina in 1900. Whilst his mother was Argentinean, his father was of French Basque origin. Also with two sisters Alfred and the family moved to France in 1903. Gaspart studied art and began working in both painting and photography, initially settling in Paris. From his Paris base he travelled to, and took much artistic inspiration from, the Mediterranean.
When world war 2 started Gaspart was first imprisoned in Saint-Die in Alsace (Lorraine as was) and, after unsuccessful escape attempts, he ended up in Stalag VIIA in Moosburg, Bavaria from 1940 to 1944. Much of his later artwork, including another book, drew on over 2000 sketches and portraits of fellow prisoners. Gaspard died on March 12, 1993.
For years Gaspart maintained a steady correspondence with his elder sister Paule (Paula), she appeared in many of his works, including just one photo in this book. The series of letters, in French, to Paule about his experience of “the weather, fears of bad harvests, the care of the vineyards and the production of the wine” are the thread that hold the pictures in this book together. Gaspart’s wider photographic work drew on landscapes, portraits, city-scapes and still lives, a diversity of theme that stood him in good stead for a collection that offers a glimpse of life in the Côte de Beaune where, from September of 1935 through most of 1936, he chronicled the workers and wine making in the area.
Pictures highlighting streets, vineyards and even ploughing horses could almost be contemporary! This book seems to be out of print at amazon but were still plenty of copies in Beaune’s Athaenium when I was there two weeks ago – you can probably buy direct from their website if you’re interested.