For more than thirty years, Jane Evelyn Atwood has been exploring the human condition with a level of commitment that can only be admired. The Botanique pays a tribute to the exceptional career of one of the best contemporary photographers.
It all began in 1976, when she started photographing the prostitutes in rue des Lombards in Paris. Already fascinated by lives on the margins of society, she embarked, with this first project, upon the basis of a photographic methodology that she has stuck with ever since, and which today has brought her international recognition.
So it was that she formulated the foundation of her approach, an approach based on in-depth investigation, which often leads her to spend several years on her subjects and enables her to form strong connections with them. Her worlds are the worlds of the marginalized, the forgotten, the people whom we ignore or turn away from, but whom she has undertaken to show to us in all their distress and all their dignity.
After the closed world of rue des Lombards, Jane Evelyn Atwood brought her sensitive and penetrative gaze to bear on the lives of blind children, which provided the material for her work “Extérieur Nuit”, and then on the victims of antipersonnel mines whom she photographed in Cambodia, in Angola, in Kosovo, in Mozambique and in Afghanistan. There is also Jean-Louis, the first AIDS sufferer to agree to be photographed by the press, whom she accompanied right until his final breath.
At the end of the 1980s, already the recipient of numerous awards, she launched upon a long-term project about women in prison. Despite all kinds of difficulties, she managed, through sheer tenacity, and over the course of nearly ten years, to gain entry to more than 40 penitentiary institutions across Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the USA, including death row. This remarkable eyewitness account conveys the same empathy and sense of rebellion that are always the motivation of this artist.
In 2005, Jane Evelyn Atwood went to Haiti. The photographs she produced after three years of work break subtly away from the standard imagery of a country about which we know little other than its disasters. Abandoning black and white in favour of bold colours, she undertook to capture the effervescent spirit she discovered. The images she took later, when she returned six weeks after the earthquake that ravaged the country in 2010, make a cruel contrast with the earlier ones, presenting the painful spectacle of the devastated capital city.