Best known for his 16 year collaboration with Le Corbusier, Lucien Hervé (1910-2007) was one of the great architectural photographers of the twentieth century. Read on and perhaps learn a little more about him here.
Lucien Hervé was born in Hungary in 1910 as László Elkán. At age 20 he moved to Paris to work in fashion. In 1949, whilst being a writer for art journals, one of his editors suggested to Hervé to travel from Paris to Marseille to see Unité d’habitation, a housing complex by architect Le Corbusier.
Hervé took 650 photographs that day (try beat that fellow lomographers!) and without thinking what it might lead to, posted them to Le Corbusier. Impressed, Le Corbusier replied and asked Hervé to become his official photographer. The two men would work together for the next 16 years—until the architect’s death in 1965.
A self-taught photographer, Hervé experimented with over or underexposing images or severely cropping them to attain unusual compositions. He followed the work of avant-garde artists such as Piet Mondrian, László Moholy-Nagy, and Alexander Rodchenko closely, since through Le Corbusier’s designs, he could easily relate to their stark use of geometry and abstract forms.
Hervé’s style features multiple vantage points in order to portray an experience. Few of Hervé’s images of the chapel at Ronchamp for example, show it head-on. Hervé instead focused on small details, close-ups and shadows. Many of the shots appear abstract when seen alone, but when viewed in sequence, they create a rich whole.
Lucien Hervé has been celebrated for his exceptional work and prolific output. Although best known for the thousands of photographs he took of Le Corbusier’s projects in France and India, in subsequent years he would collaborate with other well-known, world-class architects including Alvar Aalto and Oscar Niemeyer.
The Getty Research Institute holds a collection of over 18,000 of Hervé’s photographic negatives and if you’re interested in reading more, Getty Publications, released a book titled Le Corbusier & Lucien Hervé: A Dialogue between Architect and Photographer by Jacques Sbriglio.