September 12, 2009 / 5:08 PM / 9 years ago

French photographer Willy Ronis dies aged 99

PARIS (Reuters) - Willy Ronis, the French photographer famous for his black and white images of ordinary people in post-war France, died aged 99 on Saturday.

Born in Paris in 1910, Ronis became one of the Groupe des XV, or group of fifteen, that included fellow photographer Robert Doisneau, that defended photography as a true art form.

A number of his snapshots of working-class Paris became classics, such as his image of a boy running with a baguette under his arm. Other famous photos include one of his wife nude leaning over a sink by an open window, called Provencal Nude.

“This representative of the humanist school, this engaged man, who in 1983 had the generosity to bequeath his works to the French state, did much more: he recorded, for each one of us, the poetry of our everyday lives and saved it from being lost in time,” Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said in a statement.

“This immense narrator gave us this gift which will last forever,” Mitterrand added.

A retrospective of Ronis’s work was held at the Arles festival, in France, this summer.

According to museum curator Marta Gili, cited on the festival website, Ronis explored the life of the destitute with “photographs of workers, picket lines and passionate unionist harangues in the Citroen and Renault factories in 1936 and 1950, the St Etienne mines in 1948 and the streets of Paris in 1950.”

The office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement Ronis had chronicled “post-war social aspirations” and was a “poet of a simple and joyful life.”

“With the passing of Willy Ronis, the twentieth century moves still further away, but we retain a unique account of it thanks to his humanist curiosity and his inspired gaze,” the statement said.

Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Matthew Jones

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