Raymond Cauchetier was a struggling photojournalist in France when he had a chance encounter with Jean-Luc Godard, at the time a film critic. Godard was making his debut film, À Bout de Souffle (1960), with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, so he hired Cauchetier to be the on-set photographer. Talk about catching a break – though it didn’t seem it to Cauchetier at the time.
“Nobody thought the film would be a success,” the now 95-year-old tells Esquire. That wasn’t quite how things played out, and À Bout de Souffle became the touchstone movie of the “Nouvelle Vague” of French cinema, with Cauchetier documenting the movement and its proponents, including Godard and François Truffaut.
An exhibition of Cauchetier’s images opens in June, including some unearthed in production archives. “My photos remained unpublished for more than 30 years, lost in dusty boxes,” Cauchetier says. “It was only in 1992 they were resurrected and I began to ‘exist’.” It is existence in all its rebellious, ground-breaking, free-spirited glory that his pictures reflect.
All images courtesy Raymond Cauchetier and James Hyman Gallery. Exhibition runs until 14 August, jameshyman gallery.com. A new book, Raymond Cauchetier’s New Wave (Acc Editions), will be published alongside the exhibition