The multifaceted career of Swiss photographer Monique Jacot comes from her affiliation with a choice selection of 20th-century photographic endeavors: Jacot studied with modernist photographer and teacher Gertrude Fehr, was a member of the Magnum Photos community, and worked as a photojournalist for the World Health Organization (WHO). A current retrospective at Das Verborgene Museum, Reportages and Daydreams, Jacot’s first exhibition in Germany, reflects this diversity.
Perhaps due to Jacot’s range of professional and artistic affiliations, her work exhibits no singular style. Instead, each photograph demonstrates its own compositional logic. “Saint Germain-en-Laye,” a striking image of girls lined up at a gate, (1969) displays a Kerteszian interest in shadow, while “Lausanne” (1954), a whimsical portrait of a little boy quietly reading a comic while a circus performer rehearses in the background, could be straight out of Kertesz’s 1971 collection On Reading. And yet, in the same period, her 1961 portrait of the mime Dimitri, “Der Pantomime Dimitri,” shows none of the aforementioned photographs’ restraint, capturing a flamboyant character in the moment he blows a smoke ring.
When Jacot’s camera focuses on women, including her series Femmes de la terre (1984–89), about women working in Swiss agriculture, and portions of her work for the WHO, she often foregrounds the female body, giving it a functional heft through domination of the frame. “Le Crêt” (1986) and “Boncourt” (1987) show women performing physically demanding, dirty farm work. Their bodies don’t appear dainty or out of place — these photographs focus on physical competency, not aesthetic concerns.
Jacot used her camera as a painter wields a brush — as a tool to create a desired visual effect. She upends the notion of a photographer having a trademark style, instead exhibiting an impressive facility with manipulating her medium.
Monique Jacot: Reportage and Daydreams continues at Das Verborgene Museum (Schlüterstraße 70, Berlin, Germany) through March 1, 2015.
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