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Images on the move

Jean Mohr

"AIDS in Africa is claiming more lives than the sum total of all wars, famines, floods and ravages of deadly diseases."
Nelson Mandela, XIII International AIDS Conference, Durban 2000

Positive Responses to HIV is an international photographic project portraying the personal stories of men, women and children living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.

Photographer Jean Mohr likes trying to build bridges. Born in Geneva in 1925 of German extraction, he suffered exclusion and harassment during his adolescence and was treated as a "dirty Kraut" in 1939. "I was a sitting target," he says without trace of bitterness.

For Jean Mohr, building bridges is to get closer to others and to cross frontiers of all kinds. His first such "crossing" took him to the Middle East in 1949 where he enlisted as a delegate first for the ICRC and then for UNRWA (the United Nations' agency dealing with Palestinian refugees). For two years, this economic and social sciences graduate looked after Palestinian refugees in the camps in Hebron and Jericho. That was when he bought his first camera, a German-made Exacta. He then became a painter, taking up residence in Paris. At 30, it was time for another career change: photographer. His new profession was to take him to almost every corner of the earth on photographic missions for the UN High Commission for Refugees, UNRWA, the ICRC, the Federation and many others. At the same time, through the eye of his camera, Jean Mohr has undertaken a more esoteric kind of research, exploring the visual treasures offered by nature and the mysterious effects of time on various everyday objects and places.
Glancing through Jean Mohr's rich and unusual works, you frequently come across the theme of displacement, refuge and exclusion. When he encounters "outcasts", he feels an empathy with them, an echo no doubt of his own experience. Then, gently, he begins to build bridges - his own special way of taking photographs.

Jean-François Berger

Further sources:
A photographer's journey, Jean Mohr, CD-rom French/English.
After the last sky, Palestinian lives, Edward Sahid and Jean Mohr, Columbia University Press, 1998.
Another way of telling, John Berger and Jean Mohr, paperback, 1982.

Uncontrolled self-portrait, Geneva, 1966.

Palestinian refugees in a camp, Hebron, 1950.

Celebrating Passover, Wroclaw, Poland,1958.

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