Readers of La Lettre know Yan Morvan. He’s “The Eye of La Lettre”, the photographer who has from our very first issue provided you with a veritable “Who’s Who” of the world of photography.
month he will publish (in French) Reporter de guerres (Éditions La Martinière), a memoir of war reporting initiated by Aurélie Taupin. It’s the story of Yan Morvan’s “forty years on the razor’s edge”—a sentence on the publicity strip that I consider the book’s true title.
Yan Morvan was, of course, a war correspondent. He even won the World Press Photo award in the “Spot News” category for his coverage of the war in Beirut. Not to mention the Robert Capa Gold Medal. “He’s the only one who had the nerve to take studio portraits on the frontline,” one of his colleagues and competitors told me.
Morvan sincerely recounts the morning of October 23, 1983, when two deadly bombings struck American and French forces. His photograph of a soldier’s hand trapped under the rubble of a building was seen around the world.
Yan Morvan is no stranger to foreign wars.
But this book is entitled Reporter de guerres, plural, and Morvan takes an interest in every war, every conflict, including those so-called “society” wars. For more than forty years, he has covered gang wars in Parisian suburbs. “Ten minutes outside the city limits, there are drug dealers fighting to defend their turf,” he says.
On the front in Yugoslavia, in Rwanda, in Grigny (a charming project in the Paris suburbs), Morvan goes the whole nine yards. For Gang, one of his books with Jean-Mac Barbieux, he plunges himself into a world he cannot leave unscathed. He got beaten and interrogated, but he also got a scoop… He knows what it’s like to have someone waiting downstairs for you, to be next on the list for abduction, or death…
An iconoclast, a slave to his curiosity, Yan Morvan took an equally avid interest in the world of sex, as in his (now highly collectible) book Mondosex, a “small catalogue raisonné of sexual behavior at the beginning of the 21st century.”
It’s impossible to tell you all of Morvan’s adventures. When I gush about the quality of his work, he responds, “And I’ve got more on the way! I don’t know how to stop. Sometimes I don’t even stop to make use of the work I finish.”
For him every day is a fight, an ongoing struggle to get the best news out there. He’s an outstanding journalist. But his life is also an eternal struggle with himself to go deeper still into the world of artists—Yan Morvan is a true photographer. For him, you have to cut the term photojournalist in two. He is a journalist AND a photographer, one who isn’t afraid of digital, who’s always a step ahead. When Jean-Jacques asks him to take portraits for La Lettre, he brings out his architect’s lens!
I first met him almost forty years ago. He was a rabid young reporter with one camera body and one lens. When I met him again at La Lettre he was an accomplished photographer, but he hadn’t lost his youthful passion. He kept looking for ways to innovate, to put new techniques into the service of his vision of the world and contemporary art.
Morvan is eternally unsatisfied. He doesn’t know rest on his laurels. He has to put himself in danger for every report that he files, finding there the pleasure of a kid who discovers the world and tells himself, ‘I can do it.”
French readers will be surprised to discover his candor. Reporter de guerres isn’t a tale of some legendary war correspondent always on the move, but an inventory of the difficulties, the ordeals, the successes and failures of a fiercely independent man determined to see things through.
This is a must-read, especially for young photographers, who should also read these three other indispensable manuals on photojournalism.
While we await the book’s release, Morvan shares with us the pictures from Reporter de guerres.
Reporter de guerres
Aurélie Taupin and Yan Morvan
Editions de la Martinière