Jean Gaumy

From the interiors of submarines to the deserted landscapes of arctic seas, Jean Gaumy probes both the overly narrow and the supremely vast. For the man who believes that taking photographs means “emerging from the resistant unknown that refuses the light of day”, the unknown seems to hide away as much in enclosed places as it does in immense empty spaces. The series L’Hôpital (1976), an investigation into the daily lives of doctors and patients in a hospital, and Les Incarcérés (1983), the first investigation into the prison environment in the history of French photography, both place human confinement at the centre of his work. However, in 2010, he published a series of mountain landscapes, D’après nature (Prix Nadar), which present a more contemplative view. Sometimes, immensity and narrowness are combined within the same work, for instance in his many reports on trawlers, in which interior scenes from ships alternate with views of the ocean, as in Pleine mer (2001, Prix Nadar).

Born in 1948, Jean Gaumy became a member of the Gamma agency in 1973 at the request of Raymond Depardon, then joined the Magnum agency in 1977. He has undertaken many reports in Africa, Central America and the Middle East, where he took his famous photo of Iranian women practising their shooting during the Iran-Iraq war. From the 1980s, he started directing documentaries inspired by the same themes as his photographs. Sous-marin (2006), for instance, bears witness to a four-month investigation aboard a nuclear submarine belonging to the French army. He has since become the official painter of the French navy.

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