Charles Nouette



Charles Nouette





6 May 1869 - 2 May 1910






Charles Nouette was originally a self-taught photographer who only later became familiar with archaeological methods. Biographical information regarding Nouette is rather scarce, except from the obituary Pelliot wrote on his memory in 1910. Thanks to this we know that Nouette was originally an electrician and that an illness had prevented him from continuing in this profession. He then dedicated his life to photography and this combined with his scientific knowledge and natural ingenuity attracted the attention of various contemporaries, notably Pelliot.

According to L’Annuaire du Commerce et de l’Industrie Photographiques of 1902, Nouette had a studio located at 22 rue Henri Barbusse (former rue Denfert-Rochereau) in the fifth arrondissement in Paris. His studio’s presentation says: “Agrandissement et réduction de plans, machines, architecture, bijoux, étoffes, en un mot toutes photographies ayant pour objet les catalogues et les épreuves à conserver ou à graver. (…) Tous formats. – Prix suivant format et difficulté. »

Nouette contracted tuberculosis during his trip in China, and died six months after he returned to Paris, while he was still developing Pelliot’s expedition photographs. Nouette was forty-one. He is buried at the Monthléry cemetery.

Information concerning the initial encounter between Pelliot and Nouette remains unknown. Primary sources only mention that Pelliot contacted Nouette during an early stage of his preparations for the expedition and asked him to serve as its main operator. Letters exchanged between 1905 and 1906 also revealed that the two men discussed in detail the photographic equipment that would be suitable for the expedition. The particular attention paid to photography from the preparation phase was related to the new methodological emphasis and value ascribed to photography in the archaeological field, which I will discuss later. In the same way that these kinds of expeditions were multidisciplinary, Nouette had multiple duties. Pelliot’s notebooks describe that amongst other duties he also checked on the workers that excavated the sites, drew schematic plans of grottoes, took some rubbings and managed the bulk of mails to be delivered. Yet his role as the operator of the mission appeared to be his most prominent position.


[Nouette] / Nadar, Portrait of Charles Nouette, 1905, photograph. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Société de Géographie, SG PORTRAIT-2545 (BIS)


Pelliot, Paul. “Charles Nouette [Necrologie].” Toung Pao, no. 2 May Volume XI (1910): 293.