Our pick of Paris’s photography centres

The French capital is home to many institutions dedicated to the medium


It is not a surprise that Paris, which has streets named after photography pioneers including Nicéphore Niépce and Louis Daguerre, is home to numerous institutions dedicated to the medium besides the Centre Pompidou, including these four venues.

Jeu de Paume

The Jeu de Paume is a non-collecting institution specialising in photography, video, film and digital art, which opened in May 2004. It has a programme driven by the idea that cultural institutions should engage with “social and political challenges”, and is rooted in the historical context of the development of photography and moving images, explains its director, Marta Gili. Its building, which has around 1,100 sq. m of exhibition space on three levels, was constructed under Napoleon III in 1861 as tennis courts, and has been used to show art since 1909—including as a depot for art looted by the Nazis during the Second World War. It is approaching gender parity in on-site solo exhibitions held over the past five years, with many non-Western photographers also represented.

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

The photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and his wife, the fellow documentary and portrait photographer Martine Franck, opened the foundation in 2003 in an early 20th-century artists’ studio space in Montparnasse. While it conserves the couple’s archives—including photographs, albums, correspondence and video footage—and promotes their legacy, it is “neither a museum nor a mausoleum”, according to its director, Agnès Sire. The foundation promotes contemporary photography with the biennial juried HCB Award, and, for its three annual exhibitions, rotates works from the collection with shows on other photographers, as well as painters, sculptors and graphic artists.

Maison Européenne de la Photographie

The Maison Européenne de la Photographie focuses on contemporary photography and has an international collection of around 20,000 works from the 1950s to the present. It organises around 20 exhibitions a year—and has 1,200 sq. m of gallery space, as well as a library with an extensive collection of films on photography. It was opened in 1996 by the Paris Audiovisuel collective and is subsidised by the city of Paris. Le BalAn exhibition platform with a critical bent, Le Bal is dedicated to “document-images”, launched by the group the Association les Amis de Magnum Photos, with support from Magnum photographers. It opened in September 2010 in a former dance hall, which the city of Paris purchased for the new institution, with 300 sq. m of exhibition space on two levels. Le Bal shows historical and contemporary photography, video, film and new media works, and runs Bal Lab, a programme of talks, performances and other events, to explore documentary images.