Marcel Lacombe (June 6, 1913 – December 22, 1967) was a French photographer and photo journalist. He is best known for his photography in German-occupied France (Vichy France) during World War II.
Marcel was born on June 6, 1913 in a small village in northern France. After his father died during World War I, his mother raised him on her own. At age eleven, Marcel moved to the city of Paris, where he stayed with his mother and her parents. There he received an education at a small public school and eventually began his career. Not much is known about Marcel’s personal life later on. Scholars have speculated he may have been with the French Resistance due to the nature of some of his World War II photographs. According to a letter written by one of Marcel’s friends, Marcel never married.
Marcel was originally interested in writing and journalism. During his early teens, however, he became fascinated with photography and chose to pursue it. Marcel unfortunately did not have a successful early career and found work as a journalist in order to support his mother and grandparents. He sold personal work and portrait commissions to a small number of clients on the side.
Marcel’s career took a turn during World War II. When France became occupied by Nazi Germany, the newspaper business Marcel worked for closed down. No longer with employment, Marcel began documenting the citizens’ daily lives through photography. His photography attracted customers and businesses, including Paris’ major newspaper, which he then worked for as a photo journalist. Marcel continued recording different aspects of life in Paris- his subjects included children, workers, soldiers, and the homeless. His most well-known photographs, “Soldiers in the Shop” and “Child Selling Flowers at the Station”, were taken during this period
When France became independent again after the end of World War II, Marcel decided to start up his own business with a friend he made from his previous job, Alfred Deforest. The two of them ran a small photography business, taking portrait and landscape commissions up until Marcel’s death on December 22, 1967. The cause of Marcel’s death is unknown.
Several of Marcel’s photos depicted what some scholars claim to be of the French Resistance. While some scholars argue that the photos were staged, others disagree, having theorized Marcel’s connection to the French Resistance using cryptic entries found in Marcel’s WWII journals as their source. Due to the lack of solid proof, the topic remains debatable.
One of Marcel’s photos, “Routine Check”, has been discussed on whether the original photographer is Marcel or his friend, Alfred. Various scholars have agreed the photo was taken by Marcel because its composition and subject matter matches his style. However, scholars have discovered that the handwriting of the date on the back of the photograph matches that of Alfred Deforest.