Bernard Le Bars

© Bernard Le Bars

Helmeted silhouettes emerging from opaque smoke, sweating faces, but also afternoon naps at the fire station or the joys of a 14th of July ball, the photographs of Bernard le Bars, a Parisian fireman, offer an insider’s look at the fascinating world of fire fighters. Often taken on the fly to the point of being blurred and shaky, his pictures provide a feeling of immersion – we are plunged into the thick of the action.

Born in 1956 in Algeria to French parents, Bernard le Bars entered the Paris Fire Brigade at the age of seventeen. Starting as a cadet, in 1984, he became director of operations. From 1985, he started to take photos of the daily life of the firemen, life at the station and operations, which he later developed in a tiny laboratory located within the station. Throughout his career as a fireman, le Bars never left for an intervention without his camera, which earned him, in 1991, a transfer to the photo/video department of the corps. He directed this department until his retirement, in 1999, taking photographs – in an official capacity this time – of the firemen’s activities. Bernard le Bars is also famous for his work on the phases of fireman Erick Vauthier’s slow and difficult recovery after being seriously burned. He followed his recovery over an eight-year period (1993-2001).

Now retired, le Bars devotes himself entirely to photography and has lent his sensitive eye to other arenas. For instance, he published Une Année au Collège (2008), in which he follows the daily life of an intermediate school in Rennes, and Justice en France, which examines the workings of a courtroom.


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