Jean Mohr (born 13 September 1925 in Geneva, Switzerland) is a Swiss documentary photographer who is active since 1949, primarily with some of the major humanitarian organizations of the world, including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the World Health Organization, and the International Labour Organization.
The son of German immigrants who came to Switzerland in 1919, his father applied for Swiss citizenship as a reaction against Hitler, and the family became Swiss citizens in 1939. Mohr did not become a professional artist until he was thirty, first studying economics (like fellow documentary photographer Sebastião Salgado), receiving his Master's Degree in Economics and Social Science from Geneva University, and later studying painting at the Académie Julian in Paris. In 1956 he married Simone Turrettini, a documentary filmmaker. They have two grown sons and four grandchildren.
He has produced 26 books of photography, five with his literary collaborator John Berger and one with Edward Said. His most noteworthy recent book is a 50-year retrospective of his work photographing Palestinian refugees, Side by Side or Face to Face, published in collaboration with the ICRC and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, in Geneva, where he lives.
He is most famous for his lifelong documentary collaboration with John Berger on six volumes. His other major life's project has been the photography of Palestinian refugees over a fifty year period, from his first ICRC assignment in 1949, through the Six-Day War in 1967, to an assignment there for the ICRC in 2002.
Among his major awards are a 1978 prize from Köln naming him the photographer most involved the cause of human rights, a 1984, Contemporary Photography Prize in Lausanne for his exhibition "C’était demain" ('It was tomorrow'), and a 1988 City of Geneva Prize for the Plastic Arts, the first time a photographer had been named. In 1964 he was also designated one of the fifty major Swiss artists of the time. His work may be found in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art among other museums.
He also provided some cinematography and stills for the 1989 film, Play Me Something, written by Berger, directed by Timothy Neat, and starring Berger, Hamish Henderson, and Tilda Swinton. He has been the subject of several BBC films, mostly with Berger, including "A Photographer Among Men" (1975), "Pig Earth" (1979) and "Another Way of Telling" (1988), both concerning books by Berger, and "Traveling with Jean Mohr." His photos were also used in the stage setting of the 1987 opera production, Gastarbeiter (Guest Workers) by Vinko Globokar. His work with theatre companies includes a production called Check Up by Edward Bond and directed by Carlo Brandt. He also collaborated with and photographed L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande for ten years, publishing books on two of its conductors.
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“Men are like plants; the goodness and flavor of the fruit proceeds from the peculiar soil and exposition in which they grow. We are nothing but what we derive from the air we breathe, the climate we inhabit, the government we obey, the system of religion we profess, and the nature of our employment.”
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