Raymond Cauchetier (born January 10, 1920) is a French photographer, known for his work as the set photographer from 1959 to 1968 on many of the seminal films of the French New Wave. His photographs are an important record of the New Wave directors at the beginning of their careers, and of their unconventional and groundbreaking production methods. A 2009 profile of Cauchetier in Aperture magazine declared that his photographs "are themselves central works of the New Wave."
Self-taught, Cauchetier began taking pictures while serving in the press corps of the French Air Force in Indochina; his unit did not have the budget for a photographer and he bought his own Rolleiflex camera. He remained in the region after his service ended, taking pictures of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. In 1957, he met director Marcel Camus, who was in Cambodia to shoot the film Mort en fraude (Fugitive in Saigon), and was hired as the set photographer.
Upon Cauchetier's return to France, he failed to find work as a photojournalist, and was instead hired to take pictures for photo-romans, a kind of photographic graphic novel, by publisher Hubert Serra. Through Serra, Cauchetier became acquainted with Jean-Luc Godard, then working as a film critic and hoping to become a filmmaker himself. Godard hired Cauchetier as the set photographer for his debut film, À bout de souffle (1960), a breakthrough both for Godard and for French cinema.
Other films Cauchetier worked on include Léon Morin, prêtre, directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, and Jules et Jim by François Truffaut. His photographs of the production in 1960 of Godard's third film, Une femme est une femme, captured off-camera moments in the growing relationship of Godard with lead actress Anna Karina; Godard and Karina would marry the following year.
Cauchetier stopped working as a set photographer in 1968 due to the job's low pay.
I've never received the slightest advice from a professional. I've always improvised, and invented what I needed to do, with my own inspiration. Is that why some people think my photos never look like other people's?—Raymond Cauchetier, Brody (2009), p. 36
- Brody, Richard (Winter 2009), Raymond Cauchetier & The French New Wave, Aperture (197): 30–37
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