Jean Bogais

photographer & sociologist (PhD)

This project explores my lifelong interests in society as a sociologist (PhD) and in photography and the importance of art to reflect on complex societal issues often connecting past, present and future.

View a sample of photos here. Gallery: Leica Fotografie International (LFI).

Update: Photo book project (theme-based) sponsored–and to be published–by Leica Australia in 2025.

I'm a Paris-Sorbonne educated sociologist (PhD) with over 35-years-experience mostly around violence. I watch people and their social conditions in a raw form. I'm interested by their surroundings – the places where they live and the places they are connected with physically and metaphorically to better understand their being. For more information on my background click here.

Whales and continents
Whales and continents

Photography has always been my preferred medium, a means to immerse myself in creativity, capturing scenes and emotions and sharing my vision with a viewer. It is about self-expression, my freedom of speech.

I have had a strong interest in the history of photography–and art broadly–since my tennage years and studied the work of many photographers and painters. My interest in investigating and documenting, together with my dedication to justice and human rights, led me to become a foreign correspondent (including working with CBC and AFP broadcast) in the early part of my career, and a UN investigator who–with others–went on to documenting evidence for international tribunals in important investigations ranging from human rights abuses to genocide (Cambodia.) I have continued working with international organisations until recently, including education/training of frontline practitioners. Photography has played a important role in these programs as well as in the university courses that I designed and developed over time.

Privately, although I like to experiment with a number of "genres", my preference is street photography.

"Adventure" has been an important part of my life too. Among other significant adventure projects, I am a round-the-world solo sailor when traditional celestial navigation was the only available means of navigation (no GPS available in the 1970s.) _______________________________________

Instead of talking just about myself, I'd like to share a few words about photographers who I admire and who have/had a strong influence on how I see and feel photography and the world at large. Just four among many others, which also include Albert Watson, Josef Koudelka, Bruno Barbey, Elliott Erwitt, Dorothea Lange, Sebastiẫo Salgado, Penti Sammahlati, Carolyn Drake, Matt Black.

Henry Cartier-Bresson (France, 1908-2004) In his biography written by the French writer and editor Pierre Assouline, Henry Cartier-Bresson said: "I wore the uniform of a war correspondent in 1945 when we arrived in Berlin, but it never fitted me. I could never see myself forever touring disaster areas or reporting from the smoking rubbles of Germany. The quest for the invisible would always excite me more than the spectacle of violence." Cartier-Bresson made the invisible visible. His ability to introduce a delicate mix of simplicity and complexity in his images depicting people from all around the world in all sorts of situations introduced art in photojournalism.

Mary Ellen Mark (U.S., 1940-2015) Mark once said: "I'm interested in people who haven't had much of a chance." Her work on socially critical photography with her portayal of marginalised people has been very important to the understanding of structural violence. For her best-known project "Ward" (1976), she lived for two months in a high-security women"s ward at the Oregon State Hospital in order to capture on film the moods and ongoing anxieties of mentally-ill women confined to a locked ward. (Mark's work resonates with me as my Doctorate explored the sociology of violence and rejection of the other in the aftermath of forced migration events.)

Ernst Haas (Austria/U.S., 1921-1986) One of the most accomplished photographer of the 20th century, Haas is widely considered a pionner of colour photography who transgressed the borders between the artistic and the everyday. Through his lens, street detritus and torn posters were reimagined as abstraction, together with all matters of New York commuters, street peddlers, taxis cabs brim with lyricism and dramatic tensions. Immigrating to the U.S. in 1951, Haas made New York his home for the rest of his life. He used the new medium of colour photography to capture a city pulsing with energy on every block. He became a member of the famed Magnum Photo cooperative, becoming its 4th president.

Saul Leiter (U.S., 1923-2013 Saul Leiter was born in Pittsburg in 1923 who began painting and taking photographs as a teenager. His mother gave him his first camera in 1936, the same year as the first Kodachrome slide film was released. In 2006 Leiter's first monograph, Early Color (Steidt), was published, revealing him as a master of color photography from as far back as the late 1940s. Although Leiter would create many beautiful and groundbraking images in black and white, he would never share the prevailing view that colour photography was best suited to advertising and other so-called non-serious contexts. The unique style of his color street photographs taken mostly in the streets of downtwon Manahattan where he lived for most of his life positioned him as a true avant-gardist.

Prize winner: Jean Bogais - The photo below "World"s Apart is PHAA Public Health Art Prize winner for 2023.

Worlds Apart
Worlds Apart

PHAA (Public Health Association of Australia) statement: "The photo, taken in Sydney, illustrates how someone's social conditions can influence their life and human rights. In the submission, Jean also highlighted the contrast between this man working alone on the ground on a dirty fishing wharf cleaning a large net barehand without tools or protection, and the modern industrial development nearby."

The organiser and sponsor of this competition, the Public Health Association is Australia's peak body for public health, advocating for the health and well-being of all Australians.

All photos taken with Leica M cameras & lenses (film and digital) – all manual.

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