Widely respected by the journalistic milieu for his fearless independance, Morvan chose to photograph these youths in vivid close-up. Nevertheless, he maintains a neutral distance between photographer and photographee, making no attempt to judge or impose a single viewpoint.
To make this series, which captures the tensions and rivalry of gang warfare, Morvan implicated himself to the extent where he put himself in physical danger.
These rare images from the « Blousons Noirs « series remain an outstanding sociological testmony.
“Gangs” is the ethnographic narration of the gangs who reigned supreme in the suburbs of 1970’s Paris. Yan went out and conducted a real investigation, dedicating himself to this work for almost forty years. The images are the tale of a shared history, the story of the youth evolving in a microcosm governed by codes and peculiar rules. From the rockers’ black leather jackets in the 70’s to the Blacks Dragoons of the noughties, those who find themselves in these ‘anti-societies’ express themselves in order to find their place, status and recognition. The progression of these gangs is also linked to cultural phenomena: the rock and punk scenes of the 70’s and 80’s made way for American hip-hop and rap culture in the 90’s.
Anarchy in the UK
The negatives of this series have just been rediscovered by the photographer. They had been kept at home, buried in a box called “England” since the 1980s.
When Yan Morvan arrived for the first time in London in November 1979, he discovered bands of crested Punks, Nazified Skinheads, Rude Boys and Hooligans on a war path, Mods perched on their scooters. The photographer’s gaze is presented with a vast open-air theater whose actors seem to come out of A Clockwork Orange, with the millenarian grotesquerie of a Jerome Bosch. In the streets, unproductive young people are scurrying about in boisterous flocks, intending to respond to despair with vitality, to whom boredom seems much worse than suffering…
These pictures reveal the essence of an emotionally jealous England which intends to forever recycle a glorious past, and also which, in the convulsions of one of the worst crises in its history, is looking for a reason to exist.
( based on a text by Francis Dordor)
As a photojournalist, Yan Morvan covered Northern Ireland in 1981 when Bobby Sands, a member of the I.R.A., died of a hunger strike, photographing protests, skirmishes with British soldiers and the police, funerals, and the daily life of Catholics. Though Mr. Morvan, who was also 27 that year, never met Mr. Sands, the battle between a few hunger strikers and the government of Margaret Thatcher dominated Northern Ireland.
The Green Line, Lebanon
From 1982 to 1985, Yan Morvan tells the story of the war in Lebanon as he experienced it, without ever taking sides or favoring one of the actors of this drama.
He reconstructs as faithfully as possible the key episodes of this major conflict. At the same time, he delivers a striking report made with his large format camera on the “green line”, the no-man’s land that separates East Beirut from West Beirut.
For nearly forty-five days Yan Morvan traveled this line of desolation from the western side. From the mountain to the port, street after street, house after house, he met the actors of this bloody vein and shot their portrait with a 4×5 inch camera.
On display at the stand are large-format cibachrome prints from the 1990s, including a single print (the negative is missing) of the dignified portrait of Hayat Khorbotli.
In 2004, with a Deardorff 20 × 25 camera, I started a series on battlefields. Did these places still tell the story?
Without giving in to raw emotion, I wanted to address the conscience, to show, through landscapes that are sometimes insignificant, a “geography” of human madness.
I was looking for another way to show a reflection on the image and the reality of war. I started to photograph the battlefields of France, the beaches of the landing, and then those of Europe – our family which has so often been torn apart.
I travelled through the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific Ocean, Africa, America and Asia.
HUIT gallery – Arles
04.07.2016 – 23.07.2016
SIT DOWN gallery
25.01.2014 – 22.02.2014
Yan Morvan was born in Paris in 1954. After studying mathematics and then cinema he made photo documentaries on Hell’s Angels in Paris, and prostitutes in Bangkok. In 1974 the newspaper daily ‘Liberation’ published his work for the first time. He collaborated with ‘Liberation’ until 1976, then with the photo agency ‘Norma’. In the same year he published his first book ‘Le Cuir et le Baston’, and continued this series on biker gangs for some twenty years. He later joined ‘Paris Match, followed by ‘Figaro Magazine’ until 1980.
From 1980 until 1988 he worked with Sipa agency and became the permanent correspondant for the American weekly ‘Newsweek’, covering the principal conflicts worldwide : Iran-Irak, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Rwanda, Kosovo…..and also the wedding of Princess Diana. A freelance photographer since 1988, Yan Morvan is considered one the world’s leading war photographers and he collaborates regularly with international publications. His war journalism has won him the Robert Capa Prize (for reports from Lenanon in 1983), two prizes from World Press Photo and numerous awards from American photo journalism schools.
Sharing his fame and experience with young photographers, Morvan has taught at the National Photography School in Arles (ENSP) and the School for Journalism (CFJ) In 2000 his portraits of young victims of road accidents , commissioned by FNAC (National Collection for Contemporary Art) was exhibited at the international photojournalism festival, ‘Visa Pour l ‘Image’. Since 2004 his subject matter has often focused on disenfranchised suburbs, and war or road victims
Yan Morvan is currently considered one of the great photojournalists of France. His numerous scoops has earned him not only international acclaim and celebrity but also heavy penalties : in Lebanon, for instance, he has twice been condemned to death, and twice made a miraculous escape. His work for ‘Liberation’ and ‘Paris Match’ on gang warfare led to him being taken hostage and tortured by the serial killer Guy Georges. (Gangs Story, published by Editions de la Manufacture, recounts the story of gangs from the 1970’s until present times).
Les Inrockuptibles, 07/02/14 “Yan Morvan”
Street-tease, 06/02/14 “Gangs story : les clichés de Yan Morvan exposés à la galerie Sit Down”
Libération, 12/02/14 “Gangs story”
Modzik, 15/02/14 “Qui a déjà vu un Bad Boy sans son bomber ?”
The teenage kicks preservation society, 15/02/14 “Yan Morvan : Gangs, @ Galerie SIT DOWN, Paris”
Libération, 12/02/14 “Yan Morvan, bandes toujours”
Les Inrock Style,14/02/14 “Yan Morvan, photographe de gangs : “Ils se battaient à coups de chaîne pour s’affirmer en tant qu’hommes”
Vice France “YAN MORVAN – « Gangs » // Galerie SIT DOWN // Du 25 janvier au 22 février”