Biography

« I grew up surrounded by grown-ups : my sister was 17 years older than me and my brother 19. I was all the more spoilt since I didn’t have a companion of my own age. I have only good memories from  my first years »

 

« I have always been fascinated by play of light … and  fate.

Like everything which lies in the dark,  human beings and things  start a kind of drift similar to dreaming, a dream or a nightmare, which, from extasy to fear, opens the door to this fourth dimension, in which, maybe without really believing in it, I always lived. It is all this that undoubtedly drove me to photography ».

 

Pierre Jahan was born on September 9th 1909 in Amboise and moved to Paris in 1933 where he died on 21st February 2003. He belonged to a generation of professional photographers who considered their work to be an art of pleasure, freedom and availability.

 

After taking part in various amateur exhibitions, Pierre Jahan arrives in Paris during Winter 1932-1933. Two meetings will be decisive to convince definitively Pierre Jahan to become a professional photographer. Recommended by a friend, Pierre Jahan meets the illustrator Raymond Gid, who was in charge a small advertising agency. Raymond Gid will entrust Pierre Jahan with his first professional order for a paint brand: in 1933, Pierre Jahan will take photos of workers repainting the Eiffel Tower. The second major meeting is with the photographer Emmanuel Sougez. Then director of the photography department for the magazine L’Illustration, Emmanuel Sougez will urge Pierre Jahan to make photography his profession. In 1936, Pierre Jahan will join Emmanuel Sougez in the adventure of the Rectangle which was a « group of notorious practitioners, organised to ensure the protection and the diffusion of photography as well as first class productions » (E. Sougez).

 

In 1934, Pierre Jahan’s photos are displayed in the pages of Plaisir de France, a magazine of which he will be one of the main contributors until the end of the magazine in 1974. At the same time, he begins to exhibit his work with avec Ergy Landau, Laure Albin Guillot, François Kollar, Rogi André, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray … After the Rectangle experience, Pierre Jahan joins the Groupe des XV in 1950 alongside Robert Doisneau, Willy Ronis, René-Jacques, to name a few. At that time he used to call himself an “illustrator” which implied a tight relationship with the text, with the book, with the order, but also some kind of modesty.

 

Pierre Jahan brought his contribution to countless number of books, magazines and other media : touristic guides, architectural guides, industrial reports, advertising campaigns, to name but a few.

His major works belong as much to the style of a direct and radiant photography as to the oddness of fantastic and surrealist inspiration, or in his recreative fantasies that Pierre Jahan’s rebellious spirit, applied, with a great liberty of ideas and style, to book covers and advertisement studies which was his main activity from 1945 to 1960.

 

Pierre Jahan’s long career reflects an independent, even epicurean behaviour as well as an inexhaustable curiosity to take, with ingenuity and humour, every opportunity to produce images.

1909
Born on 9th september in Amboise

(Indre-et-Loire)

1915
First photos taken

with his sister's Brownie Kodak camera

1915 - 1929
Primary school

literary studies at Secondary school

1925 - 1930
Takes part in many competitions and exhibitions

for amateur photographers

1932
Meets the photographer Emmanuel Sougez (1889-1972)

he advises him to become a professional photographer.

1933
Settles in Paris

First photo report illustrating the paint brand used by the workers who are painting the Eiffel Tower.

Starts working in Raymond Gid's typography and publicity workshop in Paris where he learns typography, typesetting and layout.

1934
Marries Cécile Brizemur ; they will have two children

Becomes an independant photographer. Starts taking photos of Paris by night.

1934 - 1974
Head photographer of the magazine "Plaisir de France"

a collaboration that will last 40 years.

1936
Sets up with Emmanuel Sougez, the "Rectangle"

An association of 10 photographers gathered for the defense of art photography.

1937
Photo report on the 1937 Universal Exhibition

for the magazine Illustration.

1938
Photo report on the life onboard the barge named Je sers (I serve), Pont de la Concorde in Paris

Produces the catalogue for the department store Les Trois Quartiers.

1939
Starts drawing on Britany
1941
Photo report on the Palais Royal writers in Paris, where he meets Cocteau and Colette

Starts painting in Kurt Hinrichsen's workshop.

1941
Takes photos in secret of the Occupation of Paris

and the removal of the bronze statues by the Germans.

1945
Organises at the Louvre Museum, with Raymond Gid, an exhibition on the return of masterpieces which had been evacuated during the War

From that time, he actively fought for the protection of author's rights. He will become vice-president of the Society for the protection of the photographers' author's rights.

Takes photos of artists, musicians, writers such as Picasso, Braque, Poulenc, Auric, Valéry, Cocteau, Colette for the Ministry of Information.

1946
Publishes with Jean Cocteau, “La mort et les statues”

a series of photos showing the removal, by the Germans, of the bronze statues in Paris during the war.

1947
Talk at the National Institute of Geography

entitled « Surrealist photography in publicity ».

Artistic Director for the magazine Messieurs.

Enters the Society of Decorators where he will become secretary then  head of the photography division.

à partir de 1947
Continues his advertising campaigns

particulary for Piguet perfumes, Citroën, Renault, Dupont lighters, Daum crystal, Ravinet Denfer cutlery...

1950
Member of the "groupe des XV"

with Robert Doisneau, Willy Ronis, René-Jacques, he will take part of the exhibitions organised by the group as well as the national Exhibition.

1951
Takes photos of the Pinder circus.
1952
Organises in Lucerne (Switzerland) the French section of the International Exhibition on photos

Presents the first exhibition in France of Kodak colour photos.

 

1952
Founder of the National Association of Advertising Photographers with René-Jacques

He will be General Secretary, then President.

He contributed to the foundation of the French Federation of Associations of Artist Photographers (fondation de la Fédération française des associations de photographes créateurs (FAPC)), which groups together the three associations of advertisers, journalists and illustrators, and he will be, for some time, Vice President

1952
Starts his collaboration as a photographer with Air Liquide
1952 - 1984
Will have 84 photographic exhibitions and 9 painting exhibitions
1956
Becomes photographer for the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique (CEA)
1958
Covers the integrality of the issue dedicated to the International Exhibition in Brussels for the magazine "Plaisir de France"
1960
Covers the integrality of the issue on Lebanon of "Plaisir de France"

From this date he travels in the countries bordering on France for a series on baroque art in France.

1969
Photo report in Spain on the Museum of Valladolid

Photography report with 4 other photographers on the Pan-African Festival in Algiers.

1971
Beginning of 19 audiovisual broadcasts
1972
Photo report on the Canal du Midi
1973
Photo report on Switzerland
1975
Photo report on Amsterdam and The Netherlands

and on the nuclear center at The Hague.

1976
Study on the baroque style in Germany, Austria and Switzerland
1977
Photo report on the atomic piles in Saclay for the CEA (Center for Atomic Energy)
1978
Organises, for the National Library in Paris, the photo exhibition entitled "Little known portraits of well-known people"
1979
Photo report on the Marcoule Centre for the CEA
1980
Photo report on the public Hospitals
1984
Inventory of photos on old shops and cafes in Paris
1990
Presents his paintings « Painting on a make-believe » under the name La Noiraie.
2003
Death on February 21 in Paris