CRP: Jean-Marie Donat Collection: Everything Must Go

Jean Marie Donat collects photos representing artificial Christmas trees, the Coca-Cola logo or televisions. This preliminary observation leads us to two conclusions. Jean-Marie Donat has an exceptional collection, which is true. Jean-Marie Donat has mental health issues that deserve nuance.

Four years of collecting photos that are considered vernacular today forged this collection. The market value of these images is as heterogeneous as their origin. In most cases, the quality of the recording is questionable, but it never matters. They are the remains of hundreds of slices from the lives of hundreds of anonymous people. If they exist, it is because each of the authors agreed to produce a unique photograph that was significant at a certain point. Outside of his work as a publisher, we can say that Jean-Marie Donat methodically applied himself to collect tens of thousands of units. If this routine practice of the hygiene of life seems at first sight to be a quest without end or direction, it is nevertheless a demonstration that the image proves.

It is in the careful arrangement of these nearly 40,000 units that we must see the real exception, the originality of this collection. Collected from auction rooms or the Internet, these photographs hide behind a veil of lightness the most gruesome observation. What do they tell us about ourselves? We are the architects of a sick world, drunk on our endlessly repeated self-image. We try to stamp our lives over time thanks to photography, which is addictive and has a complex relationship.

Faced with all these images, Jean-Marie Donat suggests us to take another look at photography, against the current habit of reading images. Today we zap, slide, slide, slide… It’s low and running out, the picture is already thrown away. Rather, this collection highlights photographs that are difficult to read and decipher. It is required to approach, to enter, to weave a ring. As if to understand them, one had to surrender oneself to the mystique of the image, to what it could reveal. The devil hides in the details, in the background, in the small hints, in the attitudes of the supporting characters. The pioneer, Jean-Marie Donat, made this collection an ode to photobombing long before anyone invented a word to describe these involuntary intrusions into the background.

Never cynical, often ironic, humor is omnipresent here. This makes the message stronger and the observation less painful. On the other hand, there should be no judgment or hatred. The collector considers and claims to be a part of the men’s world he describes. Here’s the proof: he’s the first to obey the sirens of possession and hoarding. So let’s laugh at this upside-down world, laugh at these photos that, if it weren’t for this new destiny, would have sunk into the graveyard of images like worthless objects doomed to disappear.

Audrey Hoareau
Co-curator of the exhibition

Jean Marie Donat
Born in Paris in 1962, Jean-Marie Donat is a publisher, collector and artist. For more than 30 years, he has built a vast photographic corpus around a powerful idea: to give a singular reading of the century.
A series of photographs from his collection are the subject of rare limited edition books. His collection has been exhibited in numerous exhibitions including Rencontres d’Arles (2015), Hamburg Triennale (2018), Image Vevey (2020) and Centquatre-Paris (2021).
In parallel with his artistic practice, Jean-Marie Donat now heads the editorial creative agency AllRight. In 2015, he also founded Innocences, a publishing house dedicated to the image in all its forms.

The collection combines more than 40,000 photographs, ecta ​​(slides) and negatives from around the world. It covers nearly a century of photography history (1880-1980).
An important part is the cultural and social testimony they convey, as well as the vernacular, anonymous pictures chosen for the deep humanity that originates from them. From this material he composed, among other things, more than 200 thematic series. For some, his artistic experience leads him to change the subject.

Jean-Marie Donat Collection: Everything Must Go
Until February 12, 2023
CRP / Hauts-de-France Regional Center of Photography
Square of Nations
59282 Douchy-les-Mines / France

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