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Xavier Barral – “An eye that will be sorely missed”

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The photography and publishing scene has lost one of its most celebrated protagonists. Entirely unexpectedly Xavier Barral, founder of the eponymous publishing house, passed away in his sleep on 18 February.

Since it was founded in 2002, Xavier Barral Éditions have published a myriad of stunning photo books by many of the greatest photographers of our time. Barral worked closely with his authors to create individual publication concepts, and was equally dedicated to ensuring superior printing quality. The spectrum of photo books released by Xavier Barral Éditions was extremely diverse, spanning from the humorously colourful world of Martin Parr all the way to the darkly profound imagery of Josef Koudelka. The devoted publisher perceived each book as a unique creation. To Barral, every volume – be it by Patrick Zachmann, Jane Evelyn Atwood, Raymond Depardon, Sophie Calle, Pier Paolo Pasolini or David Lynch, to name but a few – were ‘book objects’ whose visual aesthetics, physical design and editorial selection must form a harmonious entity.

Xavier Barral was born in Paris on 22 November 1955. After studying graphic design and photography, he began to study scenography in Saint Charles. He created his first book designs for photographers such as Robert Doisneau or Eugène Atget. In 1992, he joined forces with Annette Lucas and Stéphane Trapier to establish the graphic design agency Atalante which went on to define the visual style of many leading cultural campaigns. At the same time, Barral continued to create book designs for various publishers, before founding his own publishing house in 2002.

Representatives of the French cultural scene have voiced their appreciation for the late publisher’s extraordinary approach to his work: “Xavier Barral’s substantial expertise made him a point of reference within the publishing world, and an invaluable companion in countless publishing projects dedicated to photography,” Jean-Baptiste Gauvin, editor of L'Œil de la Photographie, remembers in his tribute. “He was not content to simply create magnificent books, but also had the eye of a critic and curator – a role he fulfilled on several occasions. With his sudden passing, the world of photography has lost a sensitive, curious and empathetic mind with a great capacity for careful selection, and a profound understanding of how something ought to be presented. He had the eye of a photographer and an aesthete, an eye that will be sorely missed.

Over the years, LFI Magazine has not only introduced numerous photo books released by Xavier Barral Éditions, but has also presented numerous portfolios strongly influenced by Xavier Barral’s creations, such as the works of Pierre de Fenoÿl (LFI 6/2015) or Patrick Zachmann (LFI 3/2016).

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