T. ADLER BOOKS
Lucien Gauthier, Photographer
Edited by Tom Adler, Lisa Barnett. Text by Serge Kakou.
The travel narratives of European explorers who discovered Tahiti in the eighteenth century gave birth to the myth of a forgotten Eden. From Bougainville to Gauguin, many adventurous spirits would seek out her shores. In 1904, Lucien Gauthier, enchanted by the island, decided to become a photographer. The collection of images that he would assemble over the next 17 years illustrates the myth of a peaceable paradise. His work, which celebrates the beauty both of Tahitian women and of its verdant landscapes, expresses his personal vision of an ideal world. Today he is recognized as the creator of a photographic icon: the Vahine.
Lucien Gauthier (1875-1971) was born in Paris and left for California at the age of 27. Upon discovering Tahiti in 1904, he was immediately seduced. He quickly mastered the métier of photographer and opened a portrait studio, which allowed him to meet the local beauties, who posed for him both clothed and nude. Sumptuous landscapes completed his collection of images. His body of work was widely diffused in the form of postcards, establishing his fame. He left Tahiti in 1921 and settled in the suburbs of Paris, where he continued to sell prints. For the Colonial Exposition of 1931, he published a collection of his most beautiful photos. Upon seeing this book, Matisse went to visit Gauthier and left his company determined to travel to Tahiti. Gauthier's door would remain open to all Tahitians at heart, up to his death in 1971. This book situates his body of work in the history of photography in Tahiti from 1847 onward, and offers a selection of his most beautiful images, chosen from among 800 original negatives. The sole archive to have remained intact, it offers a rare view into Tahitian photography of the epoch.