Raymond Depardon was born in 1942 in a farm near Villefranche sur Saône, in Burgundy. His early life was not easy but he always knew that photography was his passion, as he was telling us at Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, where a hundred of his pictures are exhibited until December 17. And very soon his parents accepted the fact that he would not become a farmer. He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his photos in Chad in 1977.
He quit school at 14 with his “certificat d’études” and started learning photography by correspondance. After having « borrowed » his brother’s camera, he takes photographs and prints them himself. Sometimes things go wrong like when after shooting Sydney Bechet in Lyon, he inadvertently destroyed his films while developing them in calcareous water… At 16, he manages to become an apprentice in Paris to Louis Foucherand, a photographer from Marseille. And he starts the Gamma press agency with four friends in 1966. He is now a member of Magnum as was Henri Cartier Bresson.
Raymond Depardon is now better known for his films on French rural society. And it all started with his parents’ Ferme du Garet. He spent a long time in 1984 reporting on their lifestyle. After travelling to war countries such as Beyrouth, Chad, Erythrea, Mauritania, Pakistan and Afghanistan where he followed Commandant Massoud in dangerous times, he went on to covering famous trials and took photos inside prisons. The pictures of Clairvaux, which is now closed, are terrifying. He also went many times to America.
Depardon also shot many pictures in psychiatric hospitals in different towns in Italy.
A whole section of the show is devoted to douleur (pain), big ones and small ones and he certainly is very close to all people who suffer. The exhitibion is therefore quite dark, but extremely personal. And the intimate size of the Henri Cartier-Bresson foundation gives it even more power. ( Raymond Depardon, “Traverser” , impasse Lebouis, until December 17 )
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