The photo in all its states...

... To be precise: in all its states! Every year since 1839, August 19th has been International Photography Day. It’s the ideal occasion to see not only how it has infiltrated, but especially how it’s revealed itself, throughout The Adventures of Tintin.
Land of Black Gold, p.62 A1 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022

First click!

A close link between the hero with a quiff and photography has always existed. As a proof, it is mentioned in the first vignette of his investigations in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, published in 1929. This vignette - purely narrative - even certifies to the readers that "all these photos, meaning the vignettes, rigorously authentic,... (have) been taken by Tintin himself. Here then, the comic strip book and the photo album meet and merge to form the portfolio of a reportage with multiple twists and turns.
This fusion of genres is all the more legitimate since the ninth art and photojournalism speak the same "double language". Both mix, in fact, words and images to tell the story better. A peculiarity that will inspire, a few years later, Paris-Flash... um Paris-Match its famous slogan: "the weight of words, the shock of photos".
Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, p.4 A1 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022
Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, p.4 B1 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022
But one thing is surprising. How can a great reporter like Tintin go on a mission without any equipment? This raises questions, indeed, because logically, it is difficult to see how he could be the author of this authentic photo novel praised in the introduction. Unless he had taken over an unorthodox technique that was particularly used in Russia at that time, namely: the faking of images. To begin one's journalistic career with false information... you had to dare!
Finally, the only cameras in the story are those of fellow journalists seen in the third and last vignettes of the adventure. It is therefore the principle of the "sprinkler sprinkled" that applies here since Tintin is not behind, but in front of the lens. A position that he will occupy almost exclusively thereafter, with rare exceptions. In Tintin in America, for example, he uses the shutter release to immortalise his meeting with the natives, while in Tintin in Tibet, he uses the flash to dazzle the abominable snowman.
Tintin in America, p.16 C2 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022
Tintin in Tibet, p.57 B3 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022

A vast depth of field... of application!

In The Adventures of Tintin as in reality, photography is plural: by its techniques, its practices, its processes, its applications and many other aspects. It is a multifaceted discipline that indeed, offers an infinite field of possibilities. A very useful characteristic for Hergé who regularly uses it as a "graphic-narrative" to spice up his plots. Here are a few representative examples of the genres, functions and uses he featured throughout the saga.

Always a Scoop...

The reporter’s obligation. In view of his hero's profession, Hergé logically refers to the "scoop", that famous exclusive - or breaking news - which every journalist dreams of getting at least once in his career.
But, against all odds, in Tintin in Tibet, it is the Captain who gets caught up in this game. His quest even becomes the main thread of the last twelve pages of the adventure and contributes to the denouement of the story. During this time, the artist offers him two golden opportunities.
Firstly, Haddock discovers - much to his amazement - the levitation abilities of a monk named Blessed Lightning. But, although his reflexes are good… he doesn’t manage to capture, on film, the supernatural scene he has just witnessed. But a new opportunity - and a big one - is offered to him, a few vignettes later, when he spots the Yeti. A legendary creature that everyone talks about, but nobody has ever seen. In fact, the captain insists that his young accomplice - in charge of meeting the creature - takes a picture of him in order to provide proof of his existence.
Tintin in Tibet, p.51 A1 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022
Tintin in Tibet, p.55 B2 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022
If the unpublished sells, so does the sensational... and maybe even more. That is why the tabloid press has this annoying habit of relaying, amplifying and distorting the indiscretions - even the most trivial - of celebrities and other public figures. And to flush them out, it calls on the paparazzi, these seasoned image hunters, ready to do anything - including taking liberties with the truth - and of which the injured sailor and the Italian diva are the victims in The Castafiore Emerald.
The Castafiore Emerald, p.23 B3 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022
The Castafiore Emerald, p.27 B1 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022

There is no photo...

In the field of tracking, there is also the spy photo, of course. And this one has its place in the police investigations led by the young reporter. In King Ottokar’s Sceptre, Hergé integrates it from the third page to allow him to launch himself fully into the story. A trick that works wonderfully, since he immediately starts to investigate.
The cartoonist takes the opportunity to show the technological advances in this field. To do this, he equips a man named Sporovitch with a state-of-the-art miniature camera that fits in the hand or rather... inside a pocket watch. Thanks to this sophisticated gadget - worthy of James Bond - he photographs Tintin and Snowy without their knowledge. Neither seen, nor known. Discreetly... "click, click, it's in the bag"! It's a pity that he isn’t good at framing. Still, with this failed photo, Hergé judiciously integrates an image within an image, thus creating a kind of mise en abyme.
King Ottokar’s Sceptre, p.3 D1 to D4 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022

Having your portrait taken...

The graphic effect of double representation is even more impactful when it’s a portrait. Also, in The Blue Lotus, Hergé has fun putting Tintin in a scene, coming face to face... with himself - or at least, with a poster featuring him. Luckily, this wanted poster is a tribute to him. We see him smiling and in profile - which is not usually the case for this type of image. Usually identity photos meet strict criteria aimed at facilitating immediate and unequivocal recognition of a person.
When it comes to resemblance, there is one person who doesn't compromise with her image. The performer of the Jewel Song is far from happy when she discovers her face on the front page of the newspaper Tempo di Roma, in The Castafiore Emerald. But it is ultimately less the unauthorised and unphotogenic nature of the shot that she denounces than the loss of control of her image, in the "reputation" sense of the term. In photography therefore, everything is a question of sensitivity, of point of view but also of susceptibility.
The Blue Lotus, p.25 D3 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022
The Castafiore Emerald, p.41 C2 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022

Memories, memories...

A cliché among clichés. The inevitable family photo also finds its place in Hergé's work. The characters willingly lend themselves to this popular tradition that allows them - like everyone else - to immortalise the faces and highlights of their lives.
In The Blue Lotus, for example, Tintin and Chang pose to symbolically seal their friendship, but this was without counting on the fact that the initiator of the idea is ultimately more of a sniper than a portrait shooter. The family photo has its advantages, but it also has its disadvantages, and on this point, Hector and Alfred Alembick won’t disagree. Because it is because of an ordinary photograph of them that the twin brothers in King Ottokar's Sceptre confuse the police.
The Blue Lotus, p.48. D1 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022
King Ottokar's Sceptre, p.61 A1 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022
In the same vein, but even more anecdotal: the commercial tourist photo. Hergé pays homage to this other great popular practice whose charm is their amateurism and spontaneity. It is true that trainee photographers take pictures in a hurry, with the sole aim of building up a catalogue of memories to look back on later.
The most characteristic specimens among them are easily recognisable by their improbable aesthetic approach as well as by their outfits, which often go hand in hand: colourful shirts, hats, high socks and above all... the indispensable photo-camera ostensibly worn - high and short - around the neck. Hergé uses this stereotype to caricature the aficionados of the genre in Tintin and the Picaros and more particularly their very voluble and lively representative: Jolyon Wagg.
Tintin and the Picaros, p.51 C1 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022
Tintin and the Picaros, p.51 D3 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022

Scientific enlightenment...

On a more serious note, Hergé also evokes the contributions of photography to the world of science. It is therefore not uncommon to see the scientists in The Adventures of Tintin using this process when conducting their research.
For the humanities side, let us quote Professor Alembick, for example. This expert in sigillography, seen in King Ottokar’s Sceptre, takes advantage of his field studies to collect a maximum of visual information related to his subject. To do this, he enlists the help of a professional photographer who is commissioned to "record" one by one the artefacts at his disposal: seals, archives, treasures, and so on. The iconographic collection obtained - a true visual encyclopaedia of the Syldavian civilisation - will allow him to analyse in detail what he would not have been able to perceive on the spot, in the heat of the action.
On the applied science side, Professor Phostle, seen in The Shooting Star, uses spectroscopic photography to identify the composition of the meteorite that is about to collide with the Earth. Thanks to a long and wide white barcode recorded on a negative, he detects in the blink of an eye the presence of an unknown metal. Proof that the photo is an effective key to understanding the mysteries of science.
King Ottokar’s Sceptre, p.41 A2 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022
The Shooting Star, p.11 C3 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022

Watch the birdie!…

This photographer's expression - usually used to capture the attention of models and encourage them not to move - finds its full meaning in Hergé's graphic work. Taken literally, it even seems to have inspired several gags and sleight of hand.
And as Tintin's creator has more than one trick up his sleeve, he imagines clever mechanisms in the manner of conjurers and magicians, masters in the art of camouflage and concealment. So, the camera in The Blue Lotus conceals a small machine gun of which only the end of the barrel points through the lens. As for the one in King Ottokar's Sceptre, it has a spring able to be used as a catapult to launch, like a vulgar projectile, Muskar XII’s precious sceptre, out of Kropow Castle.
But the prize for the best trickery undoubtedly goes to the "devil in a camera case" used by Captain Haddock, in the first volume of the lunar adventures, to snap Calculus out of his temporary amnesia. We cannot say if the idea came from him or from the overflowing imagination of his creator. It doesn't matter because the expected effect is indeed there since he is the victim of his own trap. Photography will never stop surprising us...!
The Blue Lotus, p.49 A2 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022
King Ottokar’s Sceptre, p.46 B2 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022
Destination Moon, p.47 C4 © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2022
2 reviews
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23/08/2022 18:50 PM
Excellent photo collection, I've downloaded all. Many thanks.
19/08/2022 20:59 PM
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