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The Casbah of Algiers 1960 - The spirit of a city

A beautiful photo book and a project of safeguard of a historical district

About the project

Casbah 1960 is a story of two soldiers who were called for a mission in Algeria. Yves Robertet and Alain Gedovius were assigned to the Armies’ Cinema Service, two Parisians who took pictures of Casbah day by day and night by night for almost two years.

When they had returned in Paris with their 900 negatives and some 300 prints, they resumed their professions and they searched for a publisher without success.

Yves and I completed each other wonderfully. He was a professional, he graduated from Ecole de
Vevey, the essential education for photojournalism or photo-reportage. As for myself, I had been
trained in film-editing, but when I joined the «O.R.T.F.» (French Radio&Television Broadcasting
Office), I opted for direct sound recordings. Several years earlier I had taken classes at the «Ecole
Supérieure des Arts Appliqués» and I was mainly interested in the architecture. On the other hand
Yves was passionate about everyday life.

With these photos, we wanted to preserve the face of a city the same way as we would have done
it for any French monuments in peril.

Many books have been published about Casbah of Algiers, with or without pictures, but none of
them presented the extreme contrast between the feverish animation of the day and the deathly
hush of the night during the curfew.

Yves and I always thought that we shouldn’t keep this photographic inventory for ourselves. On
the contrary we wanted to make it accessible to everyone who had not had the chance to know this
city in it’s difficult time when the Algerians struggled for independence that they proudly gained.

Then years went by and since Yves Robertet’s passing I remain the guardian of this treasure. Our
heirs, Yves’ and mine, have no vocation to make this treasure grow. It is a priceless capital from
the patrimonial point of view, for Algeria and for France, if we realize that one third of the houses of
the Casbah no longer exist today, whereas in our photos they remain beautifully charming.

What are the funds for?

In 2005 we made a selection of photos for an Exposition planned for 2006 in Algiers. We have
selected 120 photos and those pictures will be included in the book. These are the ones that have
been exposed many times (see the list of Exhibitions below).

The main themes of the photos are: streets during the day, courtyards, terraces with women,
cemeteries, minarets, shops, children in the streets, panoramas, night streets during curfew,
markets, etc ...

We did not want to show the war, that was not the subject of the book.

We have focused on everyday life and tried to paint an objective portrait of this millennial city. The
vast majority of the pictures taken during the day are located approximately, because we did not
have time to note everything down. The urgency was paramount. On the other hand, all night
photos are dated and the names of the streets are quoted. I did not make more than two film rolls per night (24 shots) and I took my time to write my descriptions with as much detail as possible.

Casbah 1960 will be a beautiful book of photographs in a 24 x 32 cm vertical format to highlight the
beauty of the streets. The book will be printed in black & white by Escourbiac, a French printer
located in Graulhet in the Tarn, known for his expertise in printing beautiful art-books. The cover
will be rigid, the interior pages will be printed on Arctic Volume quality paper with a cardboard
cover, straight back cover, with a bookbinding on both edges.

A four-colour softcover will be placed on top of the hardcover. Inside of the softcover you will be
able to find a plan of the Casbah in colours. This plan is a reproduction of the original outdated
map that we used at the time, so we did not photograph twice the same street. It will be useful to
those who would like to, out of curiosity, locate themselves in this labyrinth.

It is very important to me to print this engraving from 1862 of Thorigny on the flyleaf. It shows us
the moment of demolition of the ramparts, a stupid destruction that now deprives us of a
remarkable waterfront architecture dating from Turkish domination.

All pictures are in black and white, 6X6 Rollei and 24X36 Leica negatives. The digitalisation will be
done using the 30X40 prints of 2005 or using our «vintage» snaps. Most of the photographs will be
accompanied by texts collected from the works of travelers, historians, ethnographers and
novelists such as Pierre Loti, Ernest Feydeau, Guy de Maupassant, and as well Urbanists such as
Eugène Pasquali, an author of a remarkable thesis on El-Djezaïr, who I had the pleasure of
meeting several times when we needed confidential information about the interiors of historic

Each text will be placed on opposite page to the photo that suit the best.

Two short texts extracted from «L’Eté» (Summer) of Albert Camus will be published to accompany
two pictures, one of them illustrates well the «Rue des Bouchers», and the other one a trader of
créponné, an Algerian lemon sorbet, on the «Place du Gouvernement».

It is a personal choice, and I am sure to forget about the authors you know, but I need to
accomplish this project one day, so it becomes a reality, thanks to you.

The realization of Casbah 1960 requires a budget slightly superior to 17 000 €. Personally, I will be
able to finance a small part of the budget for printing itself, I could take care of the fees for the
compensations, first draft with scan fees, and a bit of the communication budget.

The 12,000 € will be fully used for the book prints!

I need your support to be able to finally publish this book, as a unique work of backup and as a
memory of the Casbah of Algiers.

About the project owner

In exchange for your contribution, you can receive a copy of the book CASBAH 1960 free of
delivery costs, as well as:

  • a black and white print in 13 x 18 format, to choose from 10 photos,
  • a signed and numbered print in 24 x 30 format, to choose from 10 photos,
  • a signed and numbered print in 34 x 40 format, to choose from 10 photo photos
  • a DVD of the short film KASBAH directed by Alain Gedovius.

This short black and white film of 13 minutes is an experiment that we realized when we returned
from Algeria. It is filmed from a point of view of a stranger who walks thru the old nocturnal city
emptied of its inhabitants. The clip is conducted by a soundtrack made of North African or Egyptian
music of Mohamed Abdel Wahab who occupied all the radios back in 1960. This short film is
reserved exclusively for a private and family audience.

  • "LA REVUE FRANÇAISE" - 7, rue de la Fayette - Supplément to No.114 bis - JANUARY 1960
  • "FEMMES NOUVELLES"  DECEMBER 1960 n°55 - Article by Djemila Tahraoui
  • "GEOGRAPHIA" - FEBRUARY 1963 - Article by Yves-Guy Bergès
  • "QANTARA" - The monthly magazine of the Arab World Institute - JULY 2009 - Article by D. Lesbet

Vidéos about "Casbah 1960" :

  • KASBAH - a black and white film of 13’, Rostrum camera, with a soundtrack. Directed by: Alain
    Gedovius. A long nocturnal discovery in a deserted city narrated by a man of whom we do not
    known whether he is a military, explorer or simply a tourist.
  • A reportage for TV channel France 24 / Beur FM - Length 13'. An interview recorded at the
    Algerian Cultural Center in 2012. The clip was filmed in the Exhibition Hall, with a journalist, Larbi-
    Cherif Abderrazak. The channels above have broadcast this interview many times between 2012
    and 2015.

  • 20 april - 20 june 2006 ALGER - PALAIS DES RAÎS (BASTION 23)
  • 15 february - 4 march 2012 PARIS - ALGERIAN CULTURAL CENTER IN PARIS
  • 02 JUNE - 05 JULY 2012 - SAINT-DENIS - Médiathèque du Centre - (Meeting hosted by Samia Messaoudi)
  • 12 JULY - 31 AUGUST 2012 - SAINT-OUEN - Médiathèque Persepolis
  • 18 SEPTEMBER - 10 NOVEMBER 2012 - BAGNOLET - Médiathèque
  • 30 SEPTEMBER - 10 NOVEMBER  2012 - PARIS - IREMMO GALERY - «Les Terrasses» Series
  • 10 OCTOBER -12 NOVEMBER 2012 - PARIS - PORT-ROYAL - LIBRARY R.M. RILKE - (Meeting hosted by Nassima Dris)
  • 12 OCTOBER- 15 NOVEMBER 2012  - NOISY-LE-SEC - Médiathèque
  • 17 NOVEMBER 15 DECEMBER 2012 - ROMAINVILLE - Médiathèque Romain Rolland
  • 15 NOVEMBER - 15 DECEMBER 2012 PANTIN - Médiathèque Elsa Triolet - (Meeting hosted by Anne Ruel, with Benjamin Stora and Sylvain Prudhomme)
  • 16 OCTOBRE - 03 NOVEMBRE 2012 - CHOISY-LE-ROI - Médiathèque of Aragon
  • 22 JANUARY - 23 FEBRUARY 2013 - BOBIGNY - Médiathèque
  • 05 MARCH - 20 MARCH 2013 - BOBIGNY - Bibliothèque Émile Aillaud

I would like to thank to the Palais des Rais in Algiers, where the first major exhibition took place in 2006. I am thankful for their support and encouragement, in particular from the Director Mr Boukacem, and the Commissioner of the exhibition Djaffar Lesbet.

My thanks also go to Mr. Yasmina Khadra, the Director of the Algerian Cultural Center in Paris for the warmth with which he welcomed our photos in 2012, the year of the 50th anniversary of the Algerian Independence.

A big thanks belong to Mrs Schreiber, the President of the Association of Libraries in Seine Saint-Denis for the many exhibitions she has supported.

A special thought for Angela Sielski who accompanied me relentlessly along the three successive models.

I do not forget Bernard Cesari from Ibis Press, who supported the project from the very beginning, without being able to follow it until its completion.

Finally, I would like to thank to Alain Escourbiac, the printer, for his wise advice on the realization of the book, and Christian Dupuy from the Netalinea web agency for his communication work on the project.

The project website :

Facebook page of the project :  Casbah 1960 - the spirit of a city


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