From a black+white world, conversation streams in colour – with Michel Tomasi, photographer

ANGEThree generations have testified their continual regard on this island with affection. Through alternating aspects, shaded sensibility, exposed settings, the spectator is invited to penetrate a world of being and suggestion.

I met Michel with enthusiasm, for I felt the desire to expose his personal sentiments would be indeed valuable.

Let’s start by going back in time, with Ange Tomasi – Michel’s grandfather (1883-1950). At the age of 20, he settled himself in Bastia, as a photographer, having trained with Jean-Baptiste Moretti, who spotted his growing talent. Finally, it is in Ajaccio after the war, that he will allow his skills to develop further, ending up with over 40.000 shots throughout his lifetime.

Toussaint Tomasi (1912-1967) his son, discovers his passion through the aviation squadron, and decides to enter the family business. In turn Michel, his son accompanied him when he went on reporting assignments; gradually learning the techniques transmitted through the generations, and keeping an interest with the latest developments of the profession. TOUSSAINT(2)

Michel started working with black + white when he was 16 years of age, his passion led him to Paris, where he also spent 20 years as chief operator in the stimulating world of cinema, along with teaching in technical schools; he states, he learnt quite a lot this way too, for the young public constantly questioned him, within this educational and instructive side – which was totally different from training to shoot in the film industry, two separate worlds, from which he holds affectionate memories having been with people from all age groups. Michel has travelled around the world for Kodak, explaining that in those days, this was how one perfectioned an art/profession, which is not always the case nowadays.

Over 1967/68, he had the wonderful opportunity of accompanying Lady Carrington on a boat here in Ajaccio, as she interviewed Elisabeth Taylor, he remembers these moments vividly too, and how impressed he had been.
In 2000, he held his 1st exhibition at the Bassoul Gallery, in Paris, where he showed his father’s images ‘Chroniques des années ’50’. Following this, and also due to the absolute success, a 2nd exhibition took place, with images of Ange Tomasi, his grandfather. Then in 2006, another exhibition for the Conseil Général up in the north of the island. Michel is a perfectionist, which is not surprising; for the creative artist will search until he catches what he is looking for.

MichelErnst Haas said: “With photography a new language has been created. Now for the first time it is possible to express reality by reality. We can look at an impression as long as we wish, we can delve into it and, so to speak, renew past experiences at will ..” and this is what has been perpetuated; the sensation of memory omnipresent, hues, details, anecdotes .. all through three generations.

My meeting with Michel took place within his recent exhibition right here in Ajaccio, where the public could admire over 60 black+white images, photographed by his grandfather. Indeed, I wondered if Michel himself had a particular favourite amongst these images, to which he replied one taken of Boulevard Sampiero (also adding, the town of Ajaccio).

How does he see/define photography today ?

Certainly a way of viewing the world, within which the regard is the most important. However, nowadays, there is a quantity of ‘eye pollution’; we are induced to everything and anything – the public has a very difficult time in making the fundamental difference.

His personal references for photographers ?  ange 3

Haas, Newton and Doisneau (especially his earlier works, before he became imitated and spread all over).

The Corsicans remember well, the fact that the Tomasi family had a business/studio right in the centre of Ajaccio, which Michel took over in 1990; he decided to close it last March – there would have been around 20000 images altogether.

Future projects:

As of October 2014, his work can be found at Photo Hall (Ajaccio town centre) and he can be reached there too. Deciding to work with colour, ‘tone on tone’ in harmony, Michel would like to expose region by region of the island. Also in mind, an exhibition with the Diaspora on the mainland (Marseille, Paris) and for friends of Corsica in the States (NY) – especially as there are many Corsicans over there, totally taken in with black+white; but, treating only the 1950’s for these images. At some stage, he would like to tour around the States too.

I couldn’t help but sense his deception as regards attitudes today. For example, twenty years ago, people would ask for copyright permission – today, many photographers’ images are just downloaded from internet far too easily. He finds digital photography lacks length of time; life expectancy is only around ten years, and although he uses it, he also continues to shoot with film photography, mainly depending on what he wishes to shoot, and digitising slides. 66005

I was delighted to learn his interest and liking for (written) graffiti; the idea of bearing a message appeals to him. Our conversation just flowed over the hours, evoking details that led us both to laugh with a continuous ease, he took pleasure in evoking certain ‘buzzes’ of the ’50’s – and I learnt he had been to Dublin on a few occasions, so, this also triggered off some entertaining stories !

As Doisneau so appropriately said, “A hundredth of a second here, a hundredth of a second there – even if you put them end to end, they still only add up to one, two, perhaps three seconds – snatched from eternity” thus, life rolls on such as an evolving film .. a

World of photography is gripping, stunning; a subtle reality achieved instantly through observation – to then become part of the past; leaving us to deal as best we can, with emotions that spring from our senses – for what we see is what we are.

Photo credit: Michel Tomasi Copyright ©

2 comments to From a black+white world, conversation streams in colour – with Michel Tomasi, photographer

  • Mario Ravry  says:

    I have 3 portraits in black and white of 3 members of my family. All are signed by ATomasi, Ajaccio 1906. They are in very good shape. Do you have any idea of their value

    • Pamela  says:

      no, I’m afraid not, you’d have to inquire through professional photographers, they would be able to help you here.

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