Publisher and editor Robert Delpire, the former director of the Centre de National de la Photographie, died in Paris on September 26, writes Richard Sandomir of the New York Times. Delpire helped to raise photography’s status to art by championing the work of Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
As a medical student in Paris in 1950, he started Neuf, a faculty bulletin that was transformed into a cultural periodical that printed photographs by Cartier-Bresson, Frank, and Robert Doisneau, in addition to drawings by Saul Steinberg and texts from André Breton and Jacques Prévert. The magazine put him on the map and led to a bright career in publishing that allowed him to work with photographers William Klein, Brassaï, Robert Capa, and Inge Morath. He was the first to understand the artistic value of Frank’s work and published a book of his pictures in 1958, the iconic Les Americains, which was published in the United States a year later by Grove Press as The Americans, with an introduction by Jack Kerouac. “A publisher is a craftsman,” said Delpire to the French newspaper Libération. “He is at the service of the author. To make a good book of photography is not to make a book for oneself but for the author.”
Delpire also ran an advertising agency and was a producer for the 1969 Muhammad Ali documentary Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee and the 1966 feature film Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?, both of which were directed by William Klein. Peter MacGill of Manhattan’s Pace/MacGill Gallery said, “[Delpire] was an uncompromising lion. He would not, if he felt something was to be done a certain way, let other realities encroach on the making of a book or exhibition. He didn’t care. He moved forward to do what he felt was right. And he was keeping the photographers’ best interests at heart.”