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Finalist 2023, Pierre de Vallombreuse

For this photographer, time takes on another dimension.

Pierre de Vallombreuse portrait

At the age of 20, Pierre de Vallombreuse wanted to become a draughtsman. A few years later, photography became an obvious choice when he started travelling. From the outset, he was not so much interested in roaming the world or simply becoming a passing witness. No, he wanted to understand the way of life of those he photographed by spending long periods with them. Since 1986, his work has focused on indigenous peoples around the world, on all five continents. For this photographer, time takes on another dimension. One example is his work on the Palawans living in the Philippine jungle, which he has been pursuing for over 30 years. “It was there that I felt reborn, the greatest story of my life”, he explains. For him, photography is more than a profession, it’s a way of life, an experience. At the crossroads of ethnology, humanism in the philosophical sense and the artistic approach, his work is akin to a tireless inner quest. He was General Secretary of the Association Anthropologie et Photographie (Paris VII University), founded by Edgar Morin and Jean Malaurie. The titles of his series speak volumes about his vision of humanity: “Peuples” (1989-2005), “Hommes Racines” (2007-2012), “Souverains” (2015-2016). His vision gives pride of place to ways of life, traditional knowledge, everyday gestures, the links between these peoples and nature, not forgetting the landscapes. These are testimonies in the form of a tribute to those who might today be considered the guardians of our humanity. A precious vision at a time when we know we are at a turning point, threatened by climate change. A witness, an observer, a committed and concerned man, Pierre de Vallombreuse is all of these things, and much more, a dedicated explorer.

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    “Pierre de Vallombreuse has committed himself, using photographic testimony, to the existence and survival of all the peoples who have historically been the victims of national states, and whose civilizations have been the victims of our civilization. He discovered his own humanity by discovering their humanity. In this struggle, the meaning of his life was also revealed.
    Edgar Morin

    Born in Bayonne on July 23, 1962, Edgar Morin’s desire to be a witness to his times was sparked by his parents’ close friend Joseph Kessel.
    In 1984, he entered the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris with the idea of pursuing a career as a press cartoonist. A trip to Borneo the following year changed the course of his life when he met the last nomads of the jungle: the Punans.

    From a sedentary artist, he became a nomadic witness. Photography would become his means of expression.
    After Borneo, in the jungles of the Philippine island of Palawan, he discovered a valley that would shape a large part of his life. For the past 34 years, he has been recounting the lives of its inhabitants, once isolated but long since exposed. He has lived with them for over four years, during 23 trips, and continues to document their evolution. A first part of his work on the Palawan was presented at the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d’Arles in 1988, while he was still a student at Arts Déco. His career was launched. He was General Secretary of the Association Anthropologie et Photographie (Université́ Paris VII) created by Edgar Morin and Jean Malaurie. Since 1986, he has tirelessly borne witness to the lives of indigenous peoples on five continents. He has built uṕ a unique, constantly evolving photographic archive of over 140,000 photos of 42 peoples, paying tribute to the world’s precious diversitý.

    Reading the book “Tristes Tropiques” sheds light on his trajectory. As Claude Lévi-Strauss says each people underlines the multiplicitý of responses to the living conditions imposed by nature and history.
    Like the anthropologist, Pierre de Vallombreuse helps us discover the complex reality of their ways of life and defends respect for and fair representation of these fragile populations, whose heritage is vital to us, far from the exotic representation to which they are too often reduced. All too often, these populations are the first victims of genocide, war, racist ideologies, economic predation, food shortages, ecological disasters and the “disintegrating integration” referred to by Edgar Morin in the preface to his book “Peuples”. So many crucial questions which, far from being confined to these more or less remote territories, concern our humanitý. The realitý he shows us through photography is not exotic but that of their struggle to survive.


    Chiapas, Mexique, 1998

    Chiapas, Mexique,1998

    Peuple Yi, Sichuan, Chine. 1999

    Peuple Maya – Chiapas, Mexique, 1998

    Territoire de Jariah Jarkand, Inde, 2007
    Irian Jaya , province de papouasie occupée par l’Indonésie. 1997.

    Peuple Badjao. Borneo. Etat de Sabah, Malaisie.2016

    en jeune garcon joue

    Peuple Basque, Bilbao

    La Vallée. Île de Palawan.Philippine 1994