The Photographer's Only Children's Book

LE PRAT (Thérèse)

Le Petit Python explorateur. Photographies de Thérèse Le Prat. Textes de Thérèse Le Prat et Philippe Stern.

Paris, Arts et Métiers Graphiques, [La Sapho], (1953).

Oblong 4to, publisher’s soft black glossy paper cover, title and photographic illustration on the first side, white foliage decoration in outline. (28) pp, layout by Claude Romagny, calligraphic text in cursive script, black-and-white photographic illustrations. Complete.

First edition of the only book for children illustrated by the great French photographer Thérèse Le Prat.

Cut-out black-and-white photographs accompanied by a text that undulates like a snake. The photographer and her husband, the art historian Philippe Stern (1895-1979), then curator of the Musée Guimet, imagined the adventures of the python and the young boy Alain. Thérèse, always passionate about faces, included a few African masks in the book illustration.

Thérèse Le Prat (née Cahen, 1895-1966) studied the violin, literature (she became a friend of Colette) and languages. From her marriage to the publisher Guy Le Prat in 1924, she kept her first Rolleiflex, which he gave her before they separated in 1930. She then became a photographer, shooting reports for the Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes, which took her to Asia, Africa and Oceania. In 1944, she married Philippe Stern, curator of the Musée Guimet and professor at the École du Louvre. The photographer turned to portraiture, first taking portraits of children, then of personalities from the literary, artistic and scientific worlds. From 1947 onwards, she chose actors as models, believing them to convey better the nuances of the feelings and emotions she wished to highlight. Her first two publications, “Visages d’acteurs” (Faces of Actors) in 1950 and “Autres visages d’acteurs” (New Faces of Actors) in 1952, revealed these portraits, for which she is now renowned. The actors were photographed from a three-quarter view, against a black background, simply in costume for any reference to the play. Unlike the theatre photographers of her day, she took these portraits off-stage, in her studio or a dressing room, seeking less to recreate the performance than to convey feelings through the expression of each actor, the face becoming the reflection of deep emotions such as gravity, melancholy and contemplation (mediatheque-patrimoine.culture.gouv.fr).

A very fine copy.

Ref. Not in Olivier Piffault, Babar, Harry Potter & Cie, Bilderwelt im Kinderbuch and Catalogue of the Cotsen Children’s Library.