Anonymous and amateur is one of three central themes of the 2014 Paris Month of Photography. Many exhibitions which focus on this theme are exhibited at venues throughout the city. Here is a preview, with an introduction by curator Valérie Fougeirol.

The world of photography conceals hidden treasures produced by anonymous or amateur photographers. These unassuming images lie waiting to be discovered—when the best of them resurface, they offer us a fresh, intimate way of looking at the ever-familiar world. 

Although today it seems like everyone is an amateur photographer, the presence of these unexpected witnesses has a long history. From the First World War to the Liberation of France, innocent but insightful eyes have shaped the world's understanding of countless iconic events. 

Landmark events in private life also produce photographic treasures: the album of a lover or an archive of images of laborers training for a sports event provide personal, wonderfully idiosyncratic glimpses into small worlds. With the development of tourism and paid leave, amateur photographers contributed to the production of spontaneous images, sometimes clumsy but always charming. 

Besides the amateurs themselves, contemporary artists have begun making inventive, deliberate use amateur or anonymous images, which allows us to rediscover these unwitting photographers. Stéphanie Solinas has created an inventory of the “Deserters” at Père Lachaise cemetery, Miki Nitadori focuses on the Japanese diaspora in Hawaii and Romaric Tisserand explores negatives depicting a Portuguese soldier in Angola. The personal adventures of contemporary amateurs, for example Mike Brodie’s journey of initiation or Matt Wilson’s travel diary, reveal the inspirational stories that surround us if we know where to look.

There is another genre of discovery as well: the hidden work of a famous name that is unexpectedly brought to light. For example, the unseen photographs of Alix Cléo Roubaud, the highly cultured work of the playwright Witkiewitz or the inspired creations of the artist Carlos Cruz Diez. 

—Valérie Fougeirol, curator 

Editor's Note:
Mois de la Photo will officially run all across Paris through November, though many exhibitions will continue for several months. A full list of the exhibitions that fall under the theme "Anonymous and Famous Amateurs" can be found at the festival's official website.