This story starts at a flea market in Sancerre, France. Guy Laluque is a collector of stereoscopy antiques and has a collection of approximately 700 stereoviews from the First World War. He bought a collection of cardboard boxes with 45x107mm stereoviews at a flea market. He studied the images and found the death certificate of the photographer. He learned about the life of the photographer who’s name is Paul Piotin.
Paul Gustave Piotin was born on 14 April 1894 in Saint-Léger-les-Vignes in western France. He makes a number of trips abroad, which suggests that he comes from a wealthy family. He leaves for Chalon-sur-Saône where he works as a glassmaker at Maison Pinette. He is a passionate stereo photographer. He photographs during his travels to Italy, Switzerland and Spain and captures events such as the Tour de France and airshows. He experiments with long exposure times and the photochrom colour process. He photographs with a Vérascope stereo camera and accurately indexes his work by adding descriptions to the plates and the storage boxes.
The collection owned by Guy consists of a large number of glass plate negatives and positives in the format 45x107mm and a simple folding Vérascope stereo viewer. The plates are packed in cardboard boxes which he bought from three different photography shops in Chalon-sur-Saône. The boxes are numbered by Paul and provided with the subject. Many plates contain a description with the name P. Piotin. The photos were taken from 1910 until his death in 1916.
The photos that Paul took during air shows are special. On 17 December 1903, the American Wright brothers had made the first controlled flight with an airplane. Paul’s photos date from 1910 and show the early days of aviation.
Paul experimented with the Photochrom process. It’s a process for producing colorized images from a single black and white negative via the direct photographic transfer onto lithographic printing plates.
The First World War broke out on 28 July 1914. Germany declared war on France on 3 August. Paul is mobilised for the French army in Chalon-sur-Saône and receives registration number 1170. During his life at the front he creates many war stereoviews.
It’s remarkable that the inscription on the box with photos of the mobilization reads: “Guerre Franco-Allemande” (Franco-Prussian war). It shows that in the beginning of the war it was mainly seen by the French as a showdown between the two rivals France and Germany. Later boxes simply have the inscription “Guerre”, followed by the year.
Paul captures daily life at the front, such as: exercises, his comrades and the positions where he resides. Paul was killed in action during the Battle of Verdun on 5 August 1916. At that time he’s a sergeant in the 1st company of the 56th infantry regiment. According to his death certificate, he was “killed by the enemy” near Fort de Souville, one of the forts around the city of Verdun.