Marc Riboud

Article Bio Works Projects
transformation, war
Visual Arts (photography)
Europe, Western
created on:
July 13, 2003
last changed on:
Please note: This page has not been updated since January 16, 2006. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
information provided by:
Other languages:


The chronicler of transition

Born in Lyons in 1923, Marc Riboud is one of the greatest photo-journalists of our time. In 1952 he joined the photo-agency Magnum then in the 1960s he was one of the first European photographers to travel through Africa. He there took sensitive and eloquent photos of everyday life during the period of transition to independence. Riboud´s photos are more than documentary in both showing and transcending reality.
It may be surprising to find information about a photographer born in Lyons in France in 1923 in a databank like this. Marc Riboud is not an African by birth but has become one to some extent by occupation. He was one of the few photographers who travelled through Africa during its transition to independence in the early 1960s, visiting countries like Algeria, Nigeria, the Congo and Ghana. The photos then taken are now of great documentary worth but are also much more than journalism in showing the start of a new era, the frictions of readjustment, the hopes and the awakening confidence. In both showing and transcending this reality, they become art.

Before Marc Riboud chose photographer as his trade, he completed studying engineering. In 1951 he got to know Henri Cartier-Bresson, a co-founder of the photo-agency Magnum. Cartier-Bresson was thrilled by the photos which Riboud had taken before and during the Second World War and wished him to keep at it. A year later he was accepted by Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and David Seymour at Magnum as a colleague, and the 28 year old began travelling round the world. From 1955 on, he worked in the Near and Far East, in India, Nepal and the Soviet Union. He was one of the first Western photographers to view China during the cultural revolution; he drove a car from Alaska to Mexico; and in the 1960s he visited not only Africa but also war zones in Cambodia and North and South Vietnam. From 1975-77 he was the vice-president of Magnum in Paris, then in 1979 he left the agency to go back to the Near and Far East and take photos in Czechoslovakia and Poland.

Marc Riboud took his first photos at the age of 14 with a handy pocket camera which he then took with him for many years on his journeys. Its smallness enabled him to use it inconspicuously and thus to take photos which leave an impression of immediacy and authenticity, and of intimacy without nosiness. And though he often had to make decisions from one second to the next, the photos are notably well composed. Photos like one of a rather plump young woman who on the day of Nigerian independence is holding a child by the hand and has wrapped a cloth with the freedom-emblem around her hips, like one of three men waiting in front of an official flag on the same occasion, or like one of a man selling a copy of El Moujaheddin, the first independent newspaper in Algeria – such photos are more than records of everyday life in a time of transition. They are also lessons in aesthetics, about the interplay of light and shade, of lines and surfaces, and about the choice of angle and width of vision.

Marc Riboud is a photographer whose works have appeared not only in newspapers and magazines but also round the world in museums and galleries, including the art gallery in the Barbican Centre in London, the ICP in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago. His more than a dozen books have been received as classics of artistic photo-journalism. He now lives mainly in Paris.
Author: Ulrich Clewing


1923 born in Lyons, France
1937 first photography
1945-48 study of engineering
1952 in the photo-agency Magnum
Since 1955 journeys through Africa, Asia and the East Bloc
1975-76 vice-president of Magnum
1979 left Magnum

The artist lives and works in France.


Larry N. Mayer et al., Who Will Say Kaddish?: A Search for Jewish Identity in Contemporary Poland

Published Written,

Marc Riboud et al., The Concerned Photographer 2: The Photographs of Marc Riboud, Roman Vishniac, Bruce Davidson, Gordon Parks, Ernst Haas, Hiroshi Hamaya, Donald McCulli,

Published Written,

Marc Riboud, journal by Marc Riboud

Published Written,

Marc Riboud, Face of North Vietnam

Published Written,

Marc Riboud, Visions of China: Photographs, 1957-1980

Published Written,

Marc Riboud und Jean Lacouture, Angkor: The Serenity of Buddhism Riboud: 11. Chine: instantanés de voyages

Published Written,

Marc Riboud., Marc Riboud by Marc Riboud

Published Written,

Marc Riboud, Capital of Heaven (Introduction: Francois Cheng)

Published Written,

Marc Riboud, Gares et Trains

Published Written,

Claude Roy, Marc Riboud: Photographs at Home and Abroad

Published Written,

Marc Riboud et al., Marc Riboud in China: Forty Years of Photography

Published Written,

Group Exhibitions (Choice)

Exhibition / Installation
2005 "Guangzhou Photo Biennial 2005“, Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China "Magnum“, Fotoforum, Innsbruck, Austria "Planet Football”, Goethe-Institut London, London, Great Britain "Planet Football”, Gallery of Photography, Dublin, Ireland "Planet Football“, Goethe-Institut Rom, Rome, Italy "Planet Football“, Kulturhuset, Stockholm, Sweden 2004 "Planet Football“, Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece "Paris des photographes“, Kloster Unser Lieben Frauen, Magdeburg, Germany "Magnum Stories“, The Guardian Newsroom, London, Great Britain "La collection photographique de la Fnac“, Palais de l´Archevêché, Arles, France "Speaking With Hands“, Guggenheim New York, New York, USA "Magnum Style”, Staley + Wise Gallery, New York, USA 2003 "Fables de l´identité“, Jeu de Paume, Paris, France "Explore! Icons of Modern Photography”, HackelBury Fine Art Limited, London, Great Britain "Fables de l´identité“, CNP - Centre national de la photographie , Paris, France "Magic Moments II“, Haus der Fotografie, Hanover, Germany "Contacts“, ArtandPhotographs, London, Great Britain 2001 "The Short Century“, Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany "The Short Century“, House of World Cultures, Berlin, Germany 1999 "Augenblick und Endlichkeit“, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany 1981 "Paris-Magnum”, Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, France 1973 "Concern Photographers“, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel 1972 "Behind The Great Wall”, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

Solo Exhibitions (Choice)

Exhibition / Installation
2005 "Marc Riboud“, Galerie Arcturus, Paris, France "Gazes“, The Gallery at Hermes, New York, USA "Leeds 1954-2004“, Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China "50 années de photographie en Chine“, La Galerie Photo - Galerie Municipale de Photographie, Montpellier, France 2004 "Marc Riboud - 50 Years of Photography“, Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, France "Photos choisies. 1953 – 2002“, Galerie Camera Obscura, Paris, France "50 ans de photographie“, MEP - Maison Européene de la Photographie, Paris, France "Marc Riboud“, HackelBury Fine Art Limited, London, Great Britain "Istanbul, 1950-2000“, Fnac Ternes, Paris, France 2002 "Marc Riboud - Huan Shan - Photographies 1989“, Galerie de France, Paris, France 2001 Leica Gallery, New York, USA 1997 "40 Years of Photography in China”, The Barbican Gallery, London, Great Britain 1996 "China“, Centre National de Photographie, Paris, France 1988 "Marc Riboud”, Galerie Agathe Gaillard, Paris, France "Lasting Moments”, International Center of Photography, New York, USA 1985 "Retrospective“, Musee d’Art moderne de la Ville, Paris, France 1984 "China“, Galerie ACPA, Bordeaux, France "Images de Villeurbanne“, Villeurbanne, France 1982 "China“, Galerie Photo, Geneva, Switzerland 1981 "From China & Elsewhere”, Gallery Photograph, New York, USA "China”, The Photographers Gallery, London, Great Britain 1978 "Marc Riboud“, Galerie Agathe Gaillard, Paris, France 1977 "Marc Riboud“, Galerie Municipale, Toulouse, France 1975 "Nord Vietnam“, Rote Fabrik, Zurich, Switzerland "Marc Riboud”, International Centre of Photography, New York, USA 1974 "Marc Riboud”, The Photographers Gallery, London, Great Britain 1967 "China”, The Photographers Gallery, London, Great Britain 1966 "China”, Asia House, New York, USA "China”, Institute of Contemporary Art, London, Great Britain 1963 "Marc Riboud“, The Art Institute, Chicago, USA


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

The Short Century

Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa

(18 May 01 - 29 July 01)