At the heart of May '68

An exhibition by Philippe Gras
22 August to 12 September 2018 - Alliance Française, 51 Grey Street, St Kilda

Fifty years on, we look back at the events that shook France to its core during the uprising of May 1968 in Paris. This exhibition by photographer Philippe Gras offers a unique view of one of the most important moments in France’s history, depicting the atmosphere in Paris in a way that is deeply moving and real.

The exhibition

Through an empathetic yet distant lens, At the Heart of May ’68, captures the intensity of the revolts while also exploring this historic period in all its realness: empty streets, graffiti in the metro, people cleaning up cobblestones far from the front-line, protestors taking a nap, policemen lining up for food. The photographs taken by Philippe Gras, discovered after his death in 2007, capture a side to May ’68 that is seldom seen.

As a photographer, Philippe Gras attempted to capture the perspective of some of May ’68’s most engaged participants: the striking students, protesting workers, policemen or even prominent French figures of the time in order to portray the events as truthfully as possible.

The exhibition comprises 43 black and white photographs accompanied by a 2-part documentary film Mai ’68: Un étrange printemps (May '68, A strange spring) which features first-hand accounts of several people who took part in the events, providing a multidimensional perspective that complements the photographer's pictorial work.

Historical context

The events of May ’68 refer to a period of civil unrest leading to demonstrations, occupations of universities and the largest general strike ever attempted in France. Men and women stood in opposition to capitalism and to outdated traditions, pushing for a new France underpinned by three main values: liberty, equality and sexuality. May 1968 represents a social turning point in the history of the country, and has become a symbol of youth-led social revolt.

Screening of the documentary: May '68, A strange spring

A two-part documentary film directed by the historian filmmaker Dominique Beaux that examines the events of May ’68 in Paris from the other side of the barricades highlighting the complexities of memory as many of those who participated in 1968 explain their thoughts of those events today. In French with English subtitles.
Read more

Entry is free, but please reserve your seats at least 24h before the screening.

Part I

Thu 23 August – 6:30pm


Sat 25 August – 2pm


Thu 30 August – 6:30pm

Book here

Part II

Wed 5 September – 6:30pm

Book here

Thu 6 September – 6:30pm


Sat 8 September – 2pm


Philippe Gras

Philippe Gras was a French photographer born in Paris in 1942. He began his professional life in the 60s, active in fashion photography, while studying at the Ecole Estienne of Graphic Arts. Between 1967 and 1982, he worked as a free-lance photographer, specialising largely in music, theatre and cultural events. He later worked with the Agency for the Development of Cinema and Provinces, a collaboration that allowed him to contribute to articles, books and photographic essays. His art lead him to produce photographic works for Hungary, Bhutan, Iran, South Korea, Cambodia and Vietnam. Philippe Gras passed away in 2007 in Paris. Since his death, a number of exhibitions celebrating his work have toured internationally. At the Heart of May ’68 has already been exhibited in many cultural centres around the world including Berlin, Manchester, London, Athens, Vancouver, Chicago and many more.

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