TURBULENT AMERICA presents three decades of work by photojournalist Jean-Pierre Laffont covering American culture and history from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Jean-Pierre Laffont has always been a free spirit and a gifted, singular photographer, loyal to his own insatiable curiosity and uninterested in assignments. He sought to tell the stories of his era with a tender and compassionate gaze. Upon arrival in the United States in 1965, he quickly became a privileged witness to a nation embroiled in controversy and for three decades photographed its political, social and cultural mutations, observed the fate of its leaders and documented the tragic divisions of its civilization. This Turbulent America is above all his: brimming with spontaneity and humanity. In the intense canvas he paints for us, we find an abundance of the events that left their marks from the 60s to the 90s; the heroes and heroines; the captivating parade of social outcasts and fanatics, and the daily life of a people who live by the rhythm of their country’s failures and its moments of euphoria, harsh as well as liberating. Today, his photographic odysseys, filled with iconic images, bring history back to vibrant life in the form of a personal archive of events, which helped chisel the multiple facets of his adopted homeland.
– Jonas Cuénin
AMERICA AS I LIVED IT
“I was born French in Algeria, grew up in Morocco, and studied photography in Switzerland, before finding work as a photographer of movie stars in Paris. What I wanted to be, however, was a photojournalist and it was the United States that fascinated me. I arrived in New York in 1965 and for more than 3 decades, I traveled trough the country trying to capture the spirit of the times. In the Sixties, New York was dirty and dangerous. The country was going through profound changes and it looked like everyone was in the streets protesting. In the Seventies, the American dream seemed to be disintegrating. The American people no longer trusted their government. I covered the rise of the Black power movement and the Ku Klux Klan. During President Carter’s years, I did photo essays with the poor in his home state of Georgia. The American spirit was down. Still, the war in Vietnam had ended and through the hippie movement, the American youth found its voice and optimism. In the Eighties, Americans were ready for a new beginning. When I look back at the individual photographs I took during this quarter-century period, the images at first seem to depict a ball of confusion… riots, demonstrations, disintegration, collapse and conflict. Taken together, the images show the chaotic, often painful, birth of the country where we live in today: 21st-century America. They do what photographs do best: freeze decisive moments in time for future examination. These photographs form a personal and historical portrait of a country I have always viewed critically but affectionately, and to which I bear immense gratitude.”
The show includes 118 images ranging in size from 20.5×30.5cm (8″x12″) to 180.5×120.5cm (71″x47.4″).
Photographer’s Paradise: Turbulent America 1960-1990, Jean-Pierre Laffont / Foreword by Sir Harold Evans / Edited by Eliane Laffont Published by Glitterati Incorporated, 2014. 392 pages; 10×13 1/2″ hardcover with 2 gatefolds; 359 photos
“Jean-Pierre Laffont’s America is a land of poverty, corporate greed, racism and violence. But it is also a land of optimism where hard work, sheer will and following your dream can lead to almost anything. It is so vast that it can contain both the quiet desperation of fifth-generation farmers struggling to remain on their family land and the hopes of a new immigrant searching for a better life.”
– New York Times
“Laffont joined the long tradition, beginning with de Toqueville, of Frenchmen who were able to see what it was.”
– New York Magazine
“Even if you are familiar with the best photojournalism of that time, Laffont’s eye for the surreal and the surprising is almost uncanny. (…) As his turbulent America unfolds, you see a singular vision emerge: fearless and darkly poetic.”
– The Guardian
“Jean-Pierre Laffont’s extensive photo archive seems almost mythological: How could one photographer cover so many seminal events with such a unique vision?”
“Through Laffont’s lens we see the emergence of a brave new world, one that allows the youth to follow their dreams, for better or for worse. The result is a remarkable monograph that is a work of significant art history, revealing an astonishing breadth, detail, and scope as profound and compelling as the man who took the photographs himself.”
“Paging through Photographer’s Paradise is like watching a nation grow and crumble under its own weight. His images record the vast diversity of communities, societies, and often people on the fringes of those groups. Laffont’s photojournalism becomes a historical record of the times.”
“Laffont might just be the greatest photojournalist you’ve never heard of. The Algerian-born Frenchman covered nearly every story of importance in America during the transformative decades of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s with provocative clarity, intellectual honesty and emotional resonance.”
– Black & White Magazine
“There’s spiritual balm in the images of what Laffont calls the rural crisis. His poignant pictures are reminiscent of the fortitude and grace immortalized in Dorothea Lange’s images of the Great Depression.”
– Sir Harold Evans, from the foreword of Photographer’s Paradise: Turbulent America 1960-1990