FOR MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS JANE EVELYN ATWOOD (janeevelynatwood.com) HAS BEEN EXPLORING AND DISSECTING THE HUMAN CONDITION WITH A KEEN AND INQUIRING EYE. HER TENACITY IN TACKLING THE DARK SIDE OF HUMANITY CAN ONLY BE ADMIRED. HER CAMERA, LIKE A LOADED PISTOL, DOES NOT RECOIL FROM ANYTHING: ILLNESS, DEFORMITY OR EVEN VIOLENCE ARE HER PREFERRED THEMES.
They appear before her as if they were asking, or rather, begging, to be shown to the world, transformed into something that is noble and compelling.
It all began in 1976 when, with her first camera, Atwood decided to photograph the street prostitutes on the rue des Lombards in Paris. A chance visit to an exhibition by Cindy Sherman (cindysherman.com) a few years earlier had provided the impetus that led her to pursue an interest in what could be defined as “marginalization”. With her first work, full of humanity, but at the same time utterly heartfelt and brutal, Atwood laid the foundations of an approach to photographic methodology that she has stayed with ever since. The fruit of careful observation of the world of prostitution, it would influence her aesthetic and indelibly mark her artistic research.
Her intense and almost obsessive way of researching, has involved working with her subjects over long periods. A “technique” that has led to her forming profound relationships with the subjects she photographs: people-personalities portrayed as human beings, despite their “diversity”, their marginalization or the horror their situations can invoke. The universe shown through her photographs is that of the marginalized, the forgotten, the people we ignore in the daily life of a world that is too busy and indifferent. Jane Evelyn Atwood shows them to the world in all their distress and all their dignity, clothing them with a veil of beauty that makes them strong, unique and human.
Following the almost claustrophobic world of the rue des Lombards, the American photographer directed her sensitive and penetrating gaze to the world of blind children. The result was the collection of photographs entitled Extérieur Nuit (Night Outside). Her groundbreaking series of photographs of Jean Louis the first Aids sufferer to agree to be photographed for the press in France, documented his life, and ultimately, his death, from the disease.
At the end of the Eighties, already at the height of her career, she began an extensive project on women in prison. Over a period of more than ten years she was able to gain access to more than 40 prisons, including death row. This is a testimony without concessions, profound and impressive that shows how much her sense of rebellion is still alive. A “necessary” photographer who has faced, and continues to face the world, head on, with her eyes wide open… so as not to forget.