The choice of the term “photographic mission” to designate the DATAR project was not an obvious choice in the early 1980s. It stemmed from a political resolve on the part of the Photographic Mission’s two directors, Bernard Latarjet and François Hers, to give an innovative form to their project while providing institutional legitimacy.
Indeed, the term “mission” harks back both to the history of photography on the one hand and to DATAR’s culture of action as project leader on the other. It refers to the prestigious Heliographic Mission of 1851, considered the first institutional commission relating to the entire national territory. It also echoes DATAR’s working vocabulary; a “mission” being understood as “a permanent or occasional task given to a person or group for a specific action” .
Furthermore, the term “mission” serves to distinguish it from other types of relationship between the institution and artists. The aim here is to propose a new framework, combining the constraints of a commission with freedom of creation. A photographic mission can then be defined as an institutional order covering a given territory addressed to photographers considered as artists.
The development of this “mission” framework is accompanied by an explicit commitment to use the project to set an example of a concrete approach to decentralized public commissions.  In its role as developer of the land, DATAR worked within the Photographic Mission project to normalize its functioning. It was a matter of proposing a legal and technical framework for conducting a mission, in the sense of a specific project to produce and manage an original heritage. This normalization was accompanied by an explicit incentive to repeat the experiment on a wider basis. The results were quite diverse, including the launch of the Mission Conservatoire du Littoral (French Coastal protection agency).
 “Mission” entry, Dictionnaire encyclopédique Quillet, 1958 (translation)
 File of mission preparations, AN 20040212/01
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