The Tairrazes have been mountain guides and photographers from father to son for four generations. The Ancien Évêché Museum pays tribute to them by bringing together their work.
Iconic figures of mountain photography, the Tairraz have sublimated the Mont-Blanc massif for almost a century and a half. Exhibition Tairraz, four generations of photo guides can be discovered until September 1, 2024.
The history of this dynasty begins in 1857. At the age of 30, Joseph Tairraz discovered photography by purchasing a daguerreotype in Geneva. It was he who four years later took the first photo from the top of Mont Blanc.
The first shot from the top of Mont-Blanc
In addition to his work as a mountain guide, this farmer’s son invested in a darkroom and opened his studio. He photographed the Alpine life of the time, from shepherds to wealthy tourists who came to enjoy the early days of winter sports. His son George, born in 1868, followed in his footsteps, as did George II, the grandson, and Pierre, the great-grandson.
“They really made Mont-Blanc and its massif their playground. There were other photographers from the mid-19th century who came to photograph the mountain like the Bissons, who were Parisians, but they left. Whereas Tairraz, 150 years from father to son, climbs Mont- Blanc and immortalize him”, reports Sylvie Vincent, curator of the Ancien Évêché museum.
Tairraz’s photographs evolve in line with technological advances in photography. The George II is the 35mm generation, the first less bulky cameras that are finally easier to transport. Which allows you to get as close to the peaks as possible. The third generation, freed from technical limitations, makes artistic photography. “I was impressed with the quality. I didn’t expect to have so much detail”, Marie-Luce says in awe when she discovers the exhibit. Georges II also made several films on the mountain with his climbing friends Gaston Rébuffat and Roger Frison-Roch.
A passion he also passed on to Pierre, his son born in 1933. They filmed documentaries together. With the 4th generation, the visors are colored, black and white is no longer king. But aesthetics always prevails. “It is a dynasty of photographers and mountaineers who do not engage in physical or sports activities. They are there to enhance the mountain, to enlarge it. There is respect, harmony between the photographer and the environment.” concludes Sylvie Vincent. The last photographer in the Tairraz family, Pierre, died in September 2000 at the age of 66.