Jean-Pascal Imsand - Retrospective

29 May to 22 August 2004

Among the Swiss photographers who appeared on the scene in the 1980s, Jean-Pascal Imsand (1960-94) was an outsider and a highly talented and sensitive artist. He began drawing at an early age and came into contact with photography through his father. After a short intermezzo at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Basel, he trained as lithographic printer in Pietro Sarto's studio in Saint-Prex. Spurred on by the encouragement of his friends, he subsequently turned his attention entirely to photography and began working for publications such as Femina, Emois, L'Hebdo and Voir. In 1988 he received the "Grand Prix Européen de la Photographie" ("European Kodak Award") for a series of wonderfully dark, technically brilliant photomontages in Arles. This award earned him international recognition almost overnight. He subsequently moved to Zurich where he worked regularly for du, Das Magazin and Le Nouveau Quotidien. In addition to his professional gainful employment in the reportage sector, he worked continuously on personal projects and published an original and unconventional homage to the city of his birth, Lausanne (Lausanne, une jeunesse, Lausanne 1990), and a selection of montages entitled Vision (Zurich 1992).

Although Imsand was a somewhat shy and retiring person, he made a name for himself as a sensitive portraitist of politicians, artists and other personalities of the cultural scene, ranging from partially unknown creative young artists in Lausanne to celebrities such as Godard and Nizon. Above all, however, he photographed his wife Sabina, a trained actress who was his playful accomplice and versatile model. A final book project, a large-scale portrait of his Zurich home district "Kreis 5" remained unfinished and unpublished. In this project, Imsand gradually discovered and confronted entirely different areas of life. These are observations of life in an urban neighbourhood, questions rather than answers: the hard-working seasonal workers who toiled along the trainline in front of his house in Limmatstrasse; Limmatstrasse itself - the real lifeline of the district; the playful, bustling business in a workshop for handicapped persons; the transfiguring light that spread over the visitors in the midst of the organised chaos of the "Brocki-Land" second-hand shop; the cool, almost clinical atmosphere of the Zürcher Stadtküche; and the cold emptiness of the Letten Areal, the home of the infamous drug scene with human beings cast aside like litter.

Rapidly observed reportage pictures or carefully elaborated photomontages, Imsand made all his prints with the sensitivity of a printer working with a hand press. Their uniquely fascinating impact is based on the contrast between night-black shadows and radiant shades of white.

Represented by the agency "Vu" (Paris) and associated with the photographers' agency "Lookat (Zurich), Jean-Pascal Imsand was among the most promising representatives of young Swiss photography around 1990. "Jean-Pascal Imsand - Retrospective" is the first exhibition to combine the main works of Imsand's short, intensive creative period and provide insights into his personal, poetic visual world, and his life as a photographer between reality and dream, document and imagination.

Initiated by the Fondation Jean-Pascal Imsand, Zurich, the exhibition is a collaboration of the Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, the Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne, and the Galleria Gottardo, Lugano. With a few exceptions, all the photographs displayed are original prints made by Imsand himself and originate from his estate administered by the Fondation Jean-Pascal Imsand and deposited in the Fotostiftung Schweiz.

Martin Gasser
Fotostiftung Schweiz

The book accompanying the exhibition:
Jean-Pascal Imsand. Photographer, with a preface by David Streiff and contributions by Dieter Bachmann, Jean-Christophe Blaser, Martin Gasser, Sylvie Henguely and Fabio Pusterla. Lars Müller Publishers 2004. 192 pages, 150 illustrations, in colour and black and white. Paperback catalogue edition in German; English, French and German editions, hardcover.

The poster for the exhibition with the photograph "Atlantic Ocean” (1991) was designed by Jean-Benoît Léviy (Atelier and, Basle), a longtime friend of Jean-Pascal Imsand. It is for sale in the museum shop. Silkscreen, four-colour, 128X90 cm; format A3.

More posters designed by Jean-Benoît Lévy with photographs by Jean-Palscal Imsand