This small town symbolized the archetype of pastoral American life. Yet this idyllic place was also held hostage by a dark past, manifesting in the racial tensions that scar much of American history.
After studying photography in a photographic studio in Geneva and at the Photographic School in Vevey, Jean-Marc Yersin worked in advertising before turning to the report.
In 1980, he traveled to North America, from he brought back “Downtown”, about the place of the individual in major cities.
Upon his return, he worked as a photographer, working in ophthalmology, then at the Museum of Art and History in Geneva.
Since 1991 he has shared with his wife Pascale Bonnard Yersin the management of the Swiss Camera Museum in Vevey where he was a member of the founders of the Festival IMAGES ‘in 1995 and co-organizers in 1998 and 2000. He presided over the Fondation “Vevey Ville d’Images” at its creation.
For several years he was a member of the photography group of the Swiss Association for the Conservation of Audiovisual Heritage, Memoriav.
Before his retirement from the Museum in 2018, he gradually became a photographer. “Crisis” is his first achievement.
Crisis – Sketch Books from Another Age No. 1
16.5 x 21 cm / 48 pages. Printed in June 2017 by Polygravia SA, Châtel-Saint-Denis, Switzerland. © Jean-Marc Yersin, Blonay, Switzerland. Edition of 200 numbered and signed copies, in French, including 50 in English.
Crisis, the first volume of The Sketchbooks from Another Age
Photography is conventionally considered as bearing testimony to the past. Yet it is tempting to invest it with an anticipatory role, using it as a means of fathoming a future whose early indications are perceptible to those with an inquisitive eye: the moment at which the image is captured frequently offers the kind of leap of imagination required for this to happen. At that very moment, the object being photographed shakes off its role, its function, to appear as one of our future vestiges – a kind of preview of the way it could be seen, by others, in another time.
These photographs taken in June 2016 in Gary, Joliet and Chicago do not constitute an account, let alone a report… that would be to insult their inhabitants, who are living through very dark times. The town presented could equally well be here or somewhere else… now or later. The places in the photographs are accessible to everyone: nothing forbidden has been done, except where curiosity involves taking shortcuts in an environment where the pedestrian has become an anachronism on the margins of unrelenting flows of vehicles.The town spread around giant factories entrenched like military encampments or implanted by a lake amongst dunes and lagoons. A band of savannah patrolled by a few coyotes separates them, forming a kind of no man’s land traversed by highways and railways conveying endless freight convoys spanning rivers on monumental steel drawbridges riddled with rust. Impacted by the crisis, people have quit the town, leaving homes and business premises empty and falling prey to the depredations of time. Come night, the silent factories no longer light up the sky with their brown-coloured flares. Not a sound, other than a few sirens. Only the breeze still blows down the streets of the neighbouring metropolis. All that remains are the austere remnants of the ultimate crisis that devalues the work done by man to such an extent that it loses its ultimate value.
This summer, Crisis will be exhibited at the Jardin de la Photographie from July 30 until August 20 in Bremblens, Switzerland.