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Bruno Braquehais

This artist's date and place of birth remain unknown. By 1850 he was already marketing coloured daguerreotypes, giving his studio address as Place de la Madeleine 10, Paris. From a contemporary of his we know that the artist was a mute; at meetings of the Societe Francaise de Photographic, it was Moulin who often spoke on his behalf. His handicap was to affect even his photographic approach: his images are cluttered with accessories that leave the models stranded, their bodies draped with veils in shroud-like fashion and with nothing to relieve their stiffly theatrical stance.

No trace of complicity between the artist and his sitters is to be found: in their non-presence, the women are photographed fondling a stuffed bird or a necklace, but still, the remarkably nuanced lighting used by the artist imbues his beautifully indifferent models with a degree of carnal presence such as can rarely be observed in the work of his contemporaries. There is some doubt as to the exact time Braquehais established a friendship with Alexis Gouin, but we have all reason to believe that as of 1852 he began asking Miss Gouin to do the colouring on his daguerreotypes and stereoscopic images printed on oil cloth. That was also the year he moved to rue de Richelieu 110, a new studio which he was to hold on to up until Goum's death in 1855. For copyright purposes, in 1854 he registered seven numbered copies of his work, printed out by Peruchet and entitled "Musee daguer-rien" ("Daguerrian Museum").

When Lacan had seen them, he praised them in the following terms: "It is impossible to handle collodion more skilfully. His prints are altogether limpid. The lines are finely marked without being hard, the tones are both highly translu- cent and remarkably forceful; the modelling is at once well-defined and mellowed; the lighting is deftly handled, thus conferring striking relief to the forms, which we are made to see down to the last detail..." Braquehais married Miss Gouin upon her father's death. Gouin's daughter was also a photographer, who had been trained in the craft by her father, as well as - thanks to her mother's training - a colourist. Braquehais took over Gouins' studio at rue Louis-le- Grand 37, where he was joined by his new wife and his mother-in-law. It was at this point in his career that his work took on the quality level that was to give the name Gouin its reputation.

He and his wife worked jointly in creating nude figure studies and producing stereoscopic portraits. They specialized in daguerreotypes, a technique they would be the last to use in Paris. Husband and wife held on to their respective professional signature features by each using the same scenic props as they had before and continuing to take their photographs as they were already in the habit of doing: Bruno Braquehais using two 1/6th-size plates and his wife using one 2/6th-size plate like her father did. Following the death of Alexis Gouin's widow, the Braquehais moved to boulevard des Italiens 11 and the studio took on the official name of Gouin-Braquehais.

Thereafter, Bruno Braquehais participated in several exhibitions: the Paris Exhibition in 1863 and again in 1864; Berlin the next year; then in 1867 again Paris, where he recieved an honourable mention for the work contributed. In 1869 he teamed up with Despaquis - who had been granted Poitevin's carbon process patents and had published a volume entitled "La photographic au charbon sans maitres" ("Carbon Photography for Amateurs", published by Leiber in 1866) - to whom he proposed producing the paper for L'arbon prints. His last known activity was a photographic reportage on the Commune of Paris (1871) which he entitled "Photographies Pari- siennes" ("Parisian Photographs"): some one hundred cliches of great historic interest. His name does not appear in the 1874 "Bottin" (trans. note: trademark applied to best knowr French trade directory), but we have no way of knowing whether that was the year of his death. Nor do we have any record of what be came of the talented photographer who was his wife.

1958, Bruno Braquehais



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