« 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.