Light and shadow


In 2018, photography lost one of its greatest figures. Abbas Attar, who preferred to be called by his first name only, was a man of few words but of 1 001 images. Renowned for his in-depth coverage of the 1979 Iranian revolution, his eye refused to be confined to a single region of the world. Fascinated by Mexico and myriad other countries, he led a captivating and far-reaching photographic investigation for over 30 years (and until his death) into the major religions and the complex relationships that men have with their gods. Before joining Magnum in 1981, Abbas worked for Sipa and Gamma. In each of these agencies, he left his mark on his colleagues, who still see him as one of the greatest photographic talents of recent decades. More than just a lensman, Abbas was a master of light who perfectly combined journalistic rigour, visual excellence and deep-rooted, human moral integrity.

There hasn’t been an exhibition of his work since his passing. And the La Gacilly Photo Festival is honoured to present, in collaboration with his family, a major retrospective of his work. His journalistic output will stand alongside lesser-known, more contemplative shots taken by Abbas of people and their environment.  This exhibition of black and white photography presents incessant collisions between reality and myth, derision and fanaticism, chaos and beauty, gentleness and sadness, and shadow and light.

In short, he was a man marked by doubt, but also by nuance – a notion that has become rare in our age when extremes tend to polarise any debate. So what should we think about the vastness of the questions humbly raised by Abbas on a subject as complex as belief? “I ask the questions, I don’t give the answers,” the photographer said mischievously in 2009. “People should look for their own answers. I give them elements; elements that are not objective, because my work is not. But I try to be fair.” To give us an insight, to better understand the world we live in.

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