Jules Decrauzat: The First Swiss Sports Photographer

DAS LEBEN EIN SPORT / LA VIE UN SPORT

1,250 glass negatives from between 1910 and 1925 were recently found in the archives of the Swiss photo agency Keystone. After some thorough research work, it was concluded that the photos formed an important chapter of Swiss photographic history: they were shot by photographer Jules Decrauzat, widely considered now to be the first sports photographer and first major photojournalist in the history of Switzerland.

Decrauzat was born in the city of Biel in 1879, started out his career as a sculptor in Paris, and there discovered the medium of photography. In a world in which most photos were static and posed, Decrauzat realized the camera’s potential in capturing news as it happened.

He went on to photograph the Boer War in South Africa in 1900, then South Africa, and then Europe as a member of the French media. He finally returned to Switzerland to capture sport photographs for an illustrated magazine based in Geneva. Here are a few of his sport photographs:

Team Fiat with Nigg and Parmelin drives past the kilometer sign post at Eaux-Mortes in the canton of Geneva, Switzerland. Image taken on the occasion of a race organized by TCS (Touring Club Schweiz) in 1911. (KEYSTONE/ Photopress-Archive/ Jules Decrauzat) Glasplate

Team Fiat with Nigg and Parmelin drives past the kilometer sign post at Eaux-Mortes in the canton of Geneva, Switzerland. Image taken on the occasion of a race organized by TCS (Touring Club Schweiz) in 1911.

Motorcyclist Robert dashes past a kilometer post with his 500ccm machine by the Swiss producer Motosacoche SA Dufaux & Cie at a motorcycle race in Geneva, Switzerland, 1915. (KEYSTONE/ Photopress-Archive/ Jules Decrauzat) Glasplate

Motorcyclist Robert dashes past a kilometer post with his 500ccm machine by the Swiss producer Motosacoche SA Dufaux & Cie at a motorcycle race in Geneva, Switzerland, 1915.

The tennis player M. Rodziunko tries to hit the ball by cutting a caper at the tennis tournament in Caux, canton of Vaud, Switzerland, in 1921. (KEYSTONE/ Photopress-Archive/ Jules Decrauzat) Glasplate

The tennis player M. Rodziunko tries to hit the ball by cutting a caper at the tennis tournament in Caux, canton of Vaud, Switzerland, in 1921.

A glider pilot is lifting from the ground in Geneva, Switzerland, pictured in the year 1911.  (KEYSTONE/ Photopress-Archive/ Jules Decrauzat) Glasplate

A glider pilot is lifting from the ground in Geneva, Switzerland, pictured in the year 1911.

Decrauzat passed away on June 29th, 1960, and his photographs faded from public consciousness. Some estimate that Decrauzat created roughly 80,000 over his lifetime, but the vast majority of his images have been lost or destroyed. About 1.5% of his images found landed in the hands of the photo agency Keystone, which managed to preserve them over the decades until their recent rediscovery.

The Swiss Foundation of Photography is now collaborating with Keystone on a photo book and an exhibition celebrating Decrauzat’s work. There are a couple of new online galleries in which you can browse through images found in the book and in the show, which will run at the foundation through October 11th, 2015.


Image credits: All photographs by KEYSTONE/Photopress-Archive/Jules Decrauzat and used with permission

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