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Tintin: Photojournalist or journalist?

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#1 · Posted: 22 Jan 2005 20:26
I've never been quite sure about this...
We know Tintin is a reporter, although we rarely see him actually reporting back to a paper (I think once in Soviets... Correct me if I'm wrong?); but is there anything written anywhere, which might suggest that Hergé originally conceived his character as a photo-journalist?

Or was he supposed to be a hybrid of some sorts, especially because this was a time before the big agencies came along, and photo-journalism became an "institution"?

I seem to remember two instance where he has a camera: once in America, and another separate drawing (reproduced many times) of him running with a camera.
Can anybody shed some light?

Also - anybody know of any comics that have a photo-journalist as a main or key character?
#2 · Posted: 22 Jan 2005 22:48 · Edited by: jock123
I remember once being really annoyed as a youngster, when some adult on TV made a remark about Tintin not being much of a journalist, because he didn't file stories...

"...what about the books?" I thought. "They are his reports!!"
That at least is how I have always seen it.

In re: Hergé meaning him to be a photojournalist, it's mentioned in the very first frame of the very first book, to the effect that every picture in the book is guaranteed to have been taken by Tintin - with the assistance of Snowy...

That aside, I wonder if you are thinking of the tale which arose about a "real-life Tintin", Robert Sexé?

Sexé was an intrepid reporter/ photo-journalist of the early C. 20th, who rode a motor-bike, wore plus-fours, and made voyages to the Soviet Union, the Congo and America (sound familiar?). Add to this that Sexé's best friend was a man named Milhoux (sp?)...

I have read that there are frames in Soviets which are very close in content and composition to Sexé's photos - which allowing for the fact that Hergé never (as far as I know) used a source photo as is, but would alter the view and features, wouldn't make it impossible that Hergé did indeed use him as the basis of his reporter...

...except for the fact that there is absolutely no concrete evidence that Hergé had any knowledge of the man, his journeys or his photos. Sexé was pretty big news in France and Belgium, by all accounts (although he seems to be unknown here he wasn't even someone who faded away into obscurity - he just moved into motor-cycling events, and I think he was some sort of official in motor-sports by the time he died), so Hergé probably had heard of him, but there is no evidence.

Given that Hergé was so meticulous in his archiving and filing, it seems impossible that he would not have kept any of the reference material if that was his source; it also seems highly unlikely that he would have destroyed it, and yet it isn't there. I believe when the Guardian covered the story, they included a note to the effect that the Fondation were baffled, as they couldn't explain the similarites, yet acknowledged that they were there, and were embarking on further investigation.

My own personal solution to the problem is that when Hergé wrote those early tales he worked in a newspaper office, and didn't have to have his own files - he used the paper's morgue as his primary source! Abbé Wallez would have possibly been motivated to have something similar to the reports that have been circulated to papers by Sexé, and Hergé would have had plenty of access to pictures from the newspaper files. He obviously was adept at searching the catalogue and appreciated it, because his own filing apparently followed journalistic practice.

Anyway, was that what you had in mind?

Update: This link is to a related article, which suggests that Hergé followed Sexé's exploits keenly in Le Vingtième Siècle, which could mean that the chain has been established properly. Also it was the Orient, not America, to which Sexé went - I stand corrected!
And another! And here is a photo of the man and his chums in Moscow in 1925 (Sexé is in the middle, sadly neither of the other two is Milhoux...), whilst this is the man in later life.
#3 · Posted: 23 Jan 2005 02:58 · Edited by: thmthm
Thanks Jock! I really appreciate all the info on R. Sexe and will definitely check more into him.
Actually I thought of the tintin books as his reports too, but was looking for something alluding to his employers, agency,etc...but thats not too important. I was more interested in the photojournalism aspect and now you've shed some light on it.
by the way, those photos remind me of Thw Motorcycle Diairies which I saw yesterday...
#4 · Posted: 23 Jan 2005 03:16
And there is a tiny bit of information about Robert Sexe, on our site as well: http://www.tintinologist.org/articles/robert-sexe.html
#5 · Posted: 23 Jan 2005 08:41 · Edited by: jock123
Ah! Apologies for not including your article as a reference, Irene, but I did a search on the site before writing the above, and nothing came up, I presume because the spelling of “Sexé” is different.

This is common on the internet too, where at least one site gives his name as “Sex” and “Sx” (!) in the same article - putting his name in search engines is fraught with risk anyway: some of the results that come back are distinctly risqué!

Anybody have any thoughts on the best spelling. I’d go for “Sexé”, rather than “Séxé”, if only because the pronounciation of the latter seems unlikely.
Harrock n roll
#6 · Posted: 23 Jan 2005 11:22
Good stuff Simon! I also spotted the news item on Sexé at Tintinologist some time ago and tried to find the book - “Mit dem Mortorrad um die Welt” - about his bike ride, but to no avail. And the Philippe Goddin book “Sexé au pays des soviets” sounds interesting but seems just as elusive... Anyone know of any other books?

I also think the spelling is Sexé, if only because a google search of “robert séxé” (in quotes) returns only 4 hits, whereas “robert sexé” gets nearly 4000.
#7 · Posted: 23 Jan 2005 11:44
Thanks, Chris. I’ve tried to track down the Goddin book too, but have come up empty-handed every time; I also regret that I missed finding out that there had been a retrospective of Sexé’s photos in France a couple of years back until it was all over...

I have to say that I find the case just too compelling to dismiss - that there is no link seems scarcely possible, and applying Occam’s Razor places me firmly on the side of Sexé as if not the father then the uncle of Tintin (making Tintin-Lutin is his cousin, Totor his half-brother, and Freddy Lombard his disolute nephew...).
Harrock n roll
#8 · Posted: 24 Jan 2005 00:50 · Edited by: Harrock n roll
applying Occam's Razor places me firmly on the side of Sexé as if not the father then the uncle of Tintin (making Tintin-Lutin is his cousin, Totor his half-brother, and Freddy Lombard his disolute nephew...)

...and Bécassine his long lost aunt. The Robert Sexé connection must be more than complete coincidence (or a number of coincidences) in my opinion.

I don't know of any evidence to support that Tintin was conceived as a photojournalist. The only adventure I can remember Tintin having a camera is Tintin in Tibet, the scene where Haddock cajoles him into trying to get a photo of the Yeti. In fact there was an excellent exhibit at the 1989 London exhibition of the actual photo, "taken by Tintin" according to the description. It was a facsimile of a b/w photograph drawn in ink (by Hergé I reckon) which showed the Yeti with his eyes closed as if taken from Tintin's angle - the one the Yeti took himself ! I've not seen it since in any books though...

Also - anybody know of any comics that have a photo-journalist as a main or key character?

There's quite a tradition of crime-busting journalists in superhero comics. Peter Parker, aka Spider-man, was a photojournalist for The Daily Bugle, Superman worked as a reporter for The Daily Planet, and Batman - although he didn't need to work being a millionaire - dated Vicki Vale who was a reporter/ photographer for a Gotham City publication.
#9 · Posted: 24 Jan 2005 03:49
I didn't know about Spider-man being a photojournalist!
This is how ignorant I am when it comes to comic-books, and the reason why I haven't watched any comic-book movies (other than American Splendor!)
Tintin is the only exception; maybe it has to do with the fact that it's more "realistic", compared to super-powers and such (which I can't stand)...?
This much I know though: in Spider-man and Superman, most of it is based on the characters in their super-hero form.

Is there another comic-book series where the hero is a photo-journalist and his assignments and adventures (like Tintin's) are what the comic is about (as opposed to changing into a super-being and all that)?
#10 · Posted: 22 Feb 2005 15:22 · Edited by: yamilah
Snafu, I agree with you: Tintin's Adventures are his reports, to start with the 'Soviets', with its initial statement that "all photographs are absolutely authentic, taken by Tintin himself", a clue that implies Tintin has to duplicate himself to take pictures, as he appears on most of them. The 'many Adventures', presented as 'multiple avatars' in the French version, imply a total duplication...
Later in the 'Soviets', as you say, Tintin writes for a newspaper...
In 'Congo', he films a giraffe...
In 'America', he takes a picture of an Indian...
And that's over with the true 'reporter'...

Now empirically anyone can see these local cliches are readily reproduced on their own album cover, isolating them from the others by inviting to a kind of image reading, evocating a story in the story...

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