Roger Schall was a renowned French photographer of the 1930s & 1940s. He worked in all photographic disciplines from fashion, portraits, nudes, still life and reportage and secretly documented the Nazi’z occupation of Paris.
Roger Schall was born in Nancy on July 25, 1904 and his family arrived in Paris in 1911. His father also was a photographer that worked in schools. During the war, his family moved to Les Sables-d’Olonne. In 1924, Roger Schall did his military service in Strasbourg and he was sent to the photographic section in Lebanon in the Spring of 1925. At the end of his military service, he returned to work with his father, while taking evening classes to perfect his knowledge of drawing and painting.
In 1929, Roger Schall spent all his savings on a Leica camera. It was with this camera and a Rolleiflex bought in the early 1930s. The “revolution” Leica and Rolleiflex allowed him to fulfill his passion for images taken on the spot. Paris was his main exploration ground, where the night allowed him to capture and expose with strength and delicacy the particular shapes of a city made of diversities.
Roger Schall illustrated articles with photographies, including a few special issues for l’Art Vivant. He worked for Vu magazine. Like many photographers of his time, he worked mainly on commission and reserved his production for publications. At this time, he also made a series of nudes in his studio which where published in Paris Magazine.
In 1934, Vogue director Michel de Brunhoff introduced him to the world of fashion. His report on the Jubilee of King George VI in London that same year was published in the English edition of Vogue. After producing a series on the construction of the streamline Normandie, he was sent by Vu on le Normandie to cover the inaugural trip from Le Havre to New York in May 1935.
Schall was the exclusive photographer for the Transatlantic Company, sharing his cabin with Blaise Cendrars. He took advantage of his stay in the United States to take photographs of New York. He was sent by Vu to Berlin to cover the preparation for the 1936 Olympic Games. He worked there with Ullstein, the magazines Die Dame and Berliner Illustrierte. Roger Schall took several photographs from the World Fair held in 1937, the balls and social events, horse races and car elegance contests.
For the first issue of Match Roger Schall travels to Morocco with Colette for a report on the wedding of the sons of Pacha El Glaoui. He also made photographs of the casbahs of Marrakech and on the French foreign legion.
In the autumn, his report on the Nuremberg Congress was made a special issue of Match. In 1939, Life Magazine commissioned him a report on Switzerland and the military organisation. Passive defense, the Maginot line. Also for Life Magazine, Roger Schall went to Berlin for a report on a National Socialist family.
Mobilised in 1940, Roger Schall was assigned to a medical train in Verdun, where he carried out photo-cinema missions. Demobilised after the defeat of France, he returned to Paris, under the Occupation. In Paris, the Propagandastaffel controlled all publications.
In 1942, Roger Schall received an authorisation to keep exercising his activity as a photographer. He continued to work for Marie Claire and in 1943 visited his fashion designer clients for the presentation of the collections in Lyon. He then left for Corsica to complete the second edition of Reflets de France, a collection of more than 300 photographs, edited by his brother Raymond and published for the first time in 1942. Several other editions were later published: in 1943 with a preface by Henry de Montherlant, then in 1950 at Gründ editions.
In 1944, the first publication of the book A Paris sous la botte des Nazis, testimony in images of the four years of Occupation. This book, prefaced by General de Gaulle, was edited by Raymond Schall with photographs by Roger Schall, Robert Doisneau, Roger Parry, Jean Séeberger, André Papillon, Pierre Jahan, Maurice Jarnoux, and texts by Jean Eparvier.
After the war, Roger Schall developed an advertising activity: launching perfumes for Guerlain, Nina Ricci, Marcel Rochas. He produced advertising photographs for the Cristalleries de Saint Louis and Christofle.
In 1967, Roger Schall entrusted the studio to his son Jean-Frédéric Schall to devote himself to the management of his large collection of documents. He died in Paris on December 4, 1995, leaving a collection of over 80,000 photographs.