February 12, 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the photographer Janine Niépce, born February 12, 1921 in Meudon. A distant relative of the inventor of photography, Nicéphore Niépce, she was one of the first female photojournalists in France.

Janine Niépce was born into a family of Burgundian winegrowers who converted to the manufacture of airplanes, then to film sets. She joined the Resistance before studying art and archaeology, then became passionate about photography.

One of the first women in the world of photography

The year 1946 marked her entry into the world of professional photography. Influenced by Henri Cartier-Bresson, who will give her judicious advice on being a reporter, she joins Rapho in 1955.

In the second half of the twentieth century, her photographs retrace 50 years of evolution in the status of women, a disappearing agricultural life, the carefree period of the Glorious Thirty and May 1968.

A feminist, she participated in the foundation of the Family Planning Movement in the 1950s.

Janine Niépce had chosen to fix ordinary people and their daily life in black and white, a work that brought her closer to Robert Doisneau and Willy Ronis.

Publications and honors

Several books attest to her career:
France, with texts by Marguerite Duras (1992),
Women’s years (1993),
My campaign years (1995),
The harvest (2000),
French women, French people, a taste for life, with the historian Jacques Marseille (2005).

She was made Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters in 1981, Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1985. Janine Niépce was also a member of the Gens d’image, the UPC and the ANJRPC for 40 years. She died on August 5, 2007 in Paris at the age of 86.

Janine Niépce, Spéos and the Maison Niépce

From the very beginning of the intervention by Pierre-Yves Mahé (founder of the Spéos International School of Photography) to revive the house of the first photo in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes and to make it known to the general public, Janine Niépce was enthusiastic.

Janine Niépce watches with interest the progress of the work of Manuel Bonnet, one of Nicéphore Niépce’s direct descendants, as well as of Jean-Louis Marignier, a researcher at the CNRS, which will lead to the publication of the book Niépce, Correspondance et Papiers.

This book brings together all of Niépce’s correspondence in a 1,600-page work. It is edited by Éditions Maison Nicéphore Niépce. It is also entirely available online.

Janine Niépce signs the preface in 2003.

To know more

> See Janine Niépce’s website
> Discover the “Correspondance et Papiers de Niépce” website
> Visit the Maison Nicéphore Niépce’s website
> Learn more about Spéos International School of Photography

© Palden MacGamwell
Picture of Janine Niépce taken during her last class for Spéos on July 10, 2007
From left to right: Anne Sinclair; Hand washing; Colette – Photos by Janine Niépce/RAPHO