Landscapes, Architecture, Still Lives
Tournassoud is a particularly talented photographer of landscapes. With a manner reminiscent of an impressionist painter, he studies the incidence of natural light on his subject at various hours of the day and at various seasons of the year.
He tries to capture the atmosphere: rainbows, clouds, sunsets, morning fog, and stormy skies. He takes great care in his printing to emphasize the effects of fog and fugitive reflection, which he captures on photographic plates. Jean Pierre Sudre, one of the great contemporary French photographers, said about these prints: "... there is this astonishing quality of nature rendering in a variety of grays which, mingled together, weave all the harmony of the unit..." The Saône River and its shores, the woods and the ponds of the Dombes Region were among his favorite subjects (he made nearly 500 black and white glass plates entitled effects of clouds" "the Saône" "The Dombes").
His own village of Montmerle offers multiple resources to the landscape photographer. In addition to the landscapes in his immediate area, Tournassoud would also photograph the landscapes of the Bugey Mountain and the Jura, those of the High Plateau of the Loire River, the Dauphiné, the Alps de Haute Provence, Provence (where his wife was from), the Camargue, the Alps Maritimes as well as the autumn landscapes in the North of France, particularly in Pas-de-Calais where he visited several times during the war and later when he accepted assignments to photograph the stud farms and the aviculture activities of this region. He also took pictures of the sights of Brittany and Vendée when he visited with George Clemenceau in 1921.
Tournassoud had a fascination for trees (under wood, forests of pines, oaks, olive-trees, almond trees, foliages of autumn, winter in the forest, forest of fir trees under snow), a fondness for water (shores of the Saône River, navigation and barge traffic on the river, landscapes with boats, fishermen, the ponds of Dombes, Guinières or Sologne, canals and platane trees, barges, fishing harbors and fishing boats, sail boats, beaches and sea shores), and an appreciation for flowers (parks, gardens, rose gardens, flower bouquets).
Still Life: Tournassoud knew early on that the new color process of the Lumière brothers would be perfect for still life pictures. He would use this process to make remarkable compositions of still life including flowers, fruits, game, carafes, vases and kitchen utensils made out of copper. He would position each object carefully according to its form or its color in order to obtain a harmonious composition, which he will then capture on the Autochrome plate. Once again, Jean Tournassoud demonstrates, in this work, his excellent knowledge of the classical rules of composition though he also understood that rules sometimes need to be broken.
Tournassoud would also make a large number of plates of urban and rural architecture: Montmerle and its historic region, and inventory of Ain castles, some sights of Lyon, the Marseilles' harbor, and a tourist folder entitled "Villefranche du Beaujolais". For his priest friend André Chagny, he published a booklet in photogravure entitled "Pays the l'Ain" which was used to promote various tourist attractions and point of interests in Ain (the enlargements of these photographs are still exhibited at the Chamber of Commerce of Bourg en Bresse. Some of the plates were exposed on the stand of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Ain during the international exhibition in Brussels in 1935. The Ain Chamber of Commerce was awarded a gold medal that year).
Finally the Tournassoud's files contain many photographs of religious monuments, which is a testimony of his great Faith: Chapels, Churches, basilicas, the Grande Chartreuse near Grenoble, stained glasses, pictures of religious paintings and statues, pictures of crucifix broken during the bombardments, etc. He would publish many of his monuments and landscape pictures as postcards.
Urban and Rural Architecture