Agnès Varda frequently presented her career as encompassing three domains: photography, cinema, and visual art. While her cinema and late-career artistic work are widely accessible, her early photography remains a growing area of study. Moreover, it has often been repeated that Varda began her directorial career with little knowledge of cinema (stories Varda herself echoed). This article excavates little-known 1950s photographic studies from her archives to show how, in her early cinematic career, she utilized her training as a photographer to conceive her early films. The article demonstrates that Varda made extensive scouting photographs to plan the shots and motifs of her first film, La Pointe Courte (France, 1954), and sometimes sketched these compositions directly in her shooting script. The article also features photographs she made to develop themes in L'Opéra Mouffe (Diary of a Pregnant Woman, France, 1958). Photography, the author argues, enabled Varda to work aesthetically and economically, realizing these early films without the support of producers or state subsidies. Her photographs reveal her formal composition and thematic concerns; they also demonstrate the stunning scope of her planning and enable new understandings of her early creative process.

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