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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Georges Thiry

Dates:  1904 - 1994
Active:  Belgium
Self-taught photographer and friends of the Belgian surrealists. He took photographs of prostitutes.
Press Release, "Georges Thiry and the Good Time Girls", Galerie Lumière des Roses (28 April - 23 May 2014)
Photography was George Thiry’s obsession : ‘I take photos to amuse myself’, he would explain. For over forty years, his Rolleiflex dangling as a third eye on his chest wherever he went, Georges Thiry found Brussels a fertile environment for his "artistic walks".
From 1935 to 1975 this passion for photography was the origin of 40,000 negatives, almost as many contacts and a small number of prints.
As a friend of the Belgian Surrealists, of artists in general, and prositutes in particular, his portraits of the notable Surrealists – René Magritte, Paul Nougé, Christian Dotremont and Louis Scutenaire – certainly contributed to their renown. As for the beautiful and unknown good time girls, they stayed discreetly in the shadows of those they frequented during the day.
Famous, or not, all his models received the same treatment. Georges Thiry would photograph them, preferably at home, comfortable in their familiar surroundings. For the prostitutes home was often in their work place : generally a bedroom where they posed simply, smoking or pulling up a stocking… Sometimes they entered into the spirit of the game, taking on an unimprovised sketch : Finette in her dressing gown, Finette reading a book, Finette showing her behind….
In the history of photography, there are not that many photographers who crossed the threshold of brothels with their cameras. In the nineteenth century, there are a few pictures by Eugène Atget. There is a documentary on brothels by Albert Brichaut, there is a series of photographs by Bellocq at Storyville. From a few years later ‘The erotic clownerie of Monsieur X’., there are Brassai’s girls of the night, and finally there are the works of Jane Evelyn Atwood and Christer Stromholm . So, just a handful of photographers and a handful of pictures …. not of course counting all the anonymous photographs hidden in secret alcoves that we may never see.
Georges Thiry was one of the few insiders who gained the trust of prostitutes, the photographer client, close enough to his subjects for them to pose frankly, without flirting. He was able to capture those rare moments of repose – a woman against the light, smoking a cigarette by the window, lost in thought…
This trust between the photographer and his models, this sincerity from one to the other, this impression of good spirits often shared, make these photos unique in their lack of voyeurism. As such, the work of Georges Thiry - these few hundred negatives that have been unearthed by the Gallery Lumière des Roses, and the thousand or so negatives already in the Museum of Photography in Charleroi - is an exceptionnal collection.
Of photography Georges Thiry said simply ‘Here is my little passion’. Of the girls he frequented, portraits of them at once so tender and superb, he could have said the same.

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