Virtual visit: Black & White: an aesthetic of photography

The Black & White exhibition has been hung, everything is on the walls, but the public is kept at bay.

After three (!) attempts to open the exhibition to the public “Black & White: an aesthetic of photography Collection of the National Library of France”, the Rmn – Grand Palais has innovated and put virtual tours online until 18 June. Their hope is that the public will enjoy the exhibition anyway, but FUSAC reporter Judith Bluysen was not convinced.

Black & White

Affiche de l’exposition Noir & Blanc : une esthétique de la photographie

The Noir & Blanc : une esthétique de la photographie exhibition presents black and white masterpieces from the photographic collections of the National Library of France (BnF), exceptionally brought together for the occasion. Nadar, Man Ray, Ansel Adams, Willy Ronis, Helmut Newton, Diane Arbus, Mario Giacomelli, Robert Frank, William Klein, Daido Moriyama, Valérie Belin… The big names in French and international photography in a journey that spans 150 years history of black and white photography, from its origins in the 19th century to contemporary creation.

Two types of visits have been conceived. The autonomous tour with audioguide or the guided tour with a museum guide.


The virtual visit is autonomous with an audioguide. The visitor moves at his own pace through more than 300 prints including 33 works benefiting from audio guide content. An introduction by Sylvie Aubenas, principal curator of the exhibition, explains premice of the exhibition which is to present black and white photography as the choice of the photographers, as an aesthetic medium. During the virtual walk, some of the works are accompanied by icons that provide access to additional content, texts and audio. The high definition display of this selection of works also allows you to zoom in depth and appreciate its subtlety.

The video above is an extract of the autonomous visit.

The second option for visiting is a guided online visit by a museum guide. This lasts one hour and allows questions to be asked at the end of the visit. In this case the visitor receives a link and password for a specific time.

To make the online visits possible state-of-the-art technology was used based on multiple 360 ​​° photographic shots and laser surveys. The specialists Explor Visit (specialist in 3D virtual tours and remote guided tours) carried out the capture of the Black & White exhibition in very high definition. The 3D model thus constituted offers the visitor a feeling of immersion in the scenographic spaces and allows him to get as close as possible of the works exhibited.

But being swept through the exhibition actually caused some dizziness!  Judith Bluysen, a photographer specializing in black and white,  reported “No doubt the physical exhibition is interesting, but I actually became dizzy with the zooming, movement and especially the toric way the works were shown. Simple straight-on shots would have been fine, but the distortions and out-of-focus planes were exhausting. The circle “footsteps” were confusing, and the explanation of how to use the site wasn’t very clear or intuitive. The audio bit was sonorous and boring with… documentary voices and music. Black and white is impressive for its simplicity and straightforward communication, allowing the viewer to concentrate and extract the essential subject. This was anything but. I honestly could not watch it.”

Here’s hoping that we will soon be back in the museum, because it just isn’t the same. On a positive note the virtual visits cost less than visiting the museum and offer the advantage of a more focused visit without crowds.

Two tarif and visit options:

  • 4 € audioguide, self tour. The link purchased by the visitor to the visit is unique and requires a password. It is valid for one week: from Wednesday to the following Tuesday.
  • 8 € Guided visit with a museum guide from the Rmn – GP; In this case the visitor receives a link and password for a specific time.
    • Wednesdays: 14h30, 16h, 18h
    • Thursdays : 10h30, 14h30, 16h30

Both visits are reserved via grandpalais.fr .

Note that even though the wall texts are in both French and English, the zooms and the audio are only available in French.

The exhibition catalog, edited by the Rmn - Grand Palais in co-publication with the National Library of France, is on sale at boutiquesdemusées.fr.

#ExpoNoiretBlanc
exposition coorganisée par la Rmn – Grand Palais et la Bibliothèque nationale de France a bénéficié du soutien de la Fondation Louis Roederer