Joseph-Eugène Savioz was probably the first commercial photographer in Chamonix.
In his book documenting life in Megève, Césarine, Dr Charles Socquet reports that “Savioz of Chamonix presented to the local priest, a photo of the Calvaire de Megève taken on 26 April 1857, and he photographed a religious procession in June 1858.”
In 1860, Savioz and Joseph Tairraz, were Chamonix’s official photographers for the visit of Napoléon III (to celebrate Savoie becoming part of France that year). For a while after, his photographs bore the title “Photographe de l’Empereur” (photographer to the Emperor). It seems that he followed the Emperor back to Paris to further his career, as he is recorded as living there in December 1860.
Photographic evidence suggests that he was soon to return to Chamonix. In the early 1860s he formed a partnership with Tairraz, publishing views by “Tairraz & Savioz à Chamonix”. This partnership was short-lived from around 1861-62. By 1863, Tairraz was in business with his brother, publishing a catalogue and stereoviews as Tairraz Frères. Also in the summer of 1863, the local Chamonix newspaper, l’Abeille, was advertising Eugène Savioz’s Diorama of the Ascension of Mont Blanc.
The complex Savioz/Tairraz relationship, in the days before copyright, results in the same photos being published by both men and therefore it is difficult to ascribe with certainty the actual photographer of any given early photograph. A view taken from the summit of Mont Blanc was published by Savioz, even though there is no evidence that he ever made the ascension, while Tairraz certainly did. A stereoview of guides looking for the remains of their comrades photo has been seen published by “Tairraz & Savioz”, “Tairraz”, “Savioz” and even “Charnaux”, a Geneva based photo editor for whom Savioz became the principal photographer later in the 1860s.
In 1862, Savioz’s sister, Marie-Alexandrine, married Michel Couttet, a souvenir shop owner. By the early 1870s, Savioz was in a photographic partnership with Couttet, laying the foundations for a long dynasty of famous photographers.
The date and place of his death are currently unknown.
So it is therefore the overlooked Savioz who provides the link between Chamonix’s two great photographic dynasties, Tairraz and Couttet, and who should rightfully be regarded as the father of photography in Chamonix.