DAYS & PLACES
Africa by Jean Pierre Evrard.
Photography by Jean Pierre Evrard.
After studying at the fine art school in Cambrai, and working with Kodak, JP Evrard's travels on the African continent began. In search of treasures from the past, his photography brings us closer to a world of wonder through elegant composition and masterful technical skill. We interviewed Jean-Pierre to find out what his early years were like, and how he looks back on his career, the joys of travel and the labour of love that is film photography.
IP: What is your most cherished childhood memory?
JPE: When I was a child it was war in Europe (I was born in 1936), my father sent his family to Morocco where my mother, my sisters and I stayed during all the wartime. I never forgot the light, the colour, the scent of flowers in this wonderful country. I waited 30 years to come back to Africa which becomes my main interest in photography.
IP: How did you first become interested in photography?
JPE: I was not a very good student in school. I especially liked to play football but I was also very attracted to poetry and arts in general. One of my teachers who was fond of photography gave me the hint that lead me to this business.
IP: How did your apprenticeship in Cambrai, and your later work in graphic arts and advertising, inform your artistic perspective?
JPE: According the advice of my boss I took evening classes at the Fine Art School in Cambrai. There I discover graphic arts processes and later applied for a job at Kodak Company where I was a successful technical representative, sales executive in graphic arts, marketing manager at professional photography. I was in charge of advertising, promotion and training of professionals in France. It was in Africa where I began to realize my own pictures.
After all those years at that wonderful American company, my five children had gone to live their own lives. So, I decided to quit Kodak to devote myself entirely to my photography. I got the reputation for being a good technician especially in the silver black and white processes, but I had few photographs in reserve. To remedy that, I started to travel to a lot of countries, particularly in Africa. Then I entered an agency that delivered my work. I made several exhibits so far, and for over 15 years I work with the famous gallery Agathe Gaillard in Paris.
IP: You travelled a lot for your work. When taking photographs around the African continent, you often position your subjects engaging in their occupations. What was your intention behind this? What do you attempt to document?
JPE: I am a traveler and I like to meet people, to discover other cultures. I picture the inhabitants of the countries that I visit, but it is mostly their way of life, their cultural or familial environment, the objects, the tools, the dresses they use daily or in the past that interests me. It is the accumulation of the spontaneous testimonies of people, the search for the trail of the past that attracts me, with probably a little presumptuous hope that this search could have some interest in the future.
After the time of travel is the time of working in the lab. For more than 35 years I accumulated several thousands of pictures of all sizes in around 40 countries in the world. Most are filed and stay sleeping in portfolios. The lucky ones have been published or exhibited or sold to collectors or museums. Now I have been working only with collectors through the gallery Agathe Gaillard in Paris.
IP: You also work in black and white film. Why did you have the desire to use black and white?
I try to obtain maximum quality of the traditional B W processes, creating new techniques and researching old formularies wrote in 19th century technical books, practicing all sorts of toning or oxidations with various chemistries, using old papers that I collect among photographs who prefer the more comfortable digital process. Those expired papers are very rich in silver and produce beautiful black and white images.
So far, I am 82 years old and I devote all my time and all my energy to get the maximum quality of silver processes that most photographers have left behind. Strangely I receive a lot of young photographers who come to me being interested in the old techniques and I enjoy transmitting to them what I received from old masters, some of which were my friends and others unfortunately I have never met but I studied their work so much that I feel like I have always known them. Among them there are some American great masters who are still my models like Irving Penn, Eugene Smith, Paul Strand and especially the wonderful, the great, the lovely Walker Evans. Thanks to photography I have been living in a magic world and my lab is my paradise.
Jean Pierre Evrard is represented in France by Galerie Agathe Gaillard https://galerieagathegaillard.com/