|Dates: ||1915 - 1990|
|Born: ||France, Paris|
|Active: ||Brazil / France|
Jean Manzon began as an apprentice journalist in the newspaper L'Intransigeant in Paris when he was only sixteen years old. Shortly after he decided to be a photographer. He entered the evening paper Paris Soir and also worked in the illustrated magazine Match, established in 1938 by the same Company with the title of the old L'Intransigeant sunday sport supplement. Match followed the photo essay model of Life, but was more sentimental than its American counterpart. Between 1936 and 1939 Manzon photographed for the legendary magazine Vu. Convened by the French Navy to act in World War II as a photographer and cameraman, he participated in the Battle of Dunkirk. Unable to remain in England, due to the disruption of relations of this country with France, and unable to return to their homeland because of Nazi occupation, he decided to move to Brazil with the support of the Brazilian filmmaker Alberto Cavalcanti, who headed the advertising service of the British government at that time1.
Manzon arrived in Brazil in 1940 with a letter of introduction from Cavalcanti to work in the Department of Press and Propaganda (DIP) of the dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas government, where he remained until 1943. In the same year Jean Manzon began his collaboration with O Cruzeiro, an illustrated magazine owned by Diários Associados Company. He also began to collaborate with Paris Match, the new version of Match that emerged after the end of the Nazi occupation of France. Manzon began to publish photo books from the 1940s and to produce illustrations for different types of publications.
Jean Manzon contributed to the start of a revolution in the Brazilian press when he deployed the international illustrated magazine model of photojournalism in O Cruzeiro. This model boosted sales of O Cruzeiro to levels never seen before in the local press. Manzon was able to combine his knowledge of the new aesthetic developments of modern photography and the experience in the French press to make a visual translation of political ideas of Getúlio Vargas in his photo essays. His photos emphasized the country modernization and sought the construction of an updated national identity.
Jean Manzon devoted himself to various themes in their photo essays including, indigenous communities, the regional record of human types, the coverage of national politics, and even the mundane everyday life of celebrities. His photographs are characterized by staged scenes, technical accuracy and planned formal composition. In 1951 Manzon left O Cruzeiro and founded his own company, Jean Manzon Films Ltda., which became an important producer of documentary films, with a strong performance in government propaganda from the 1964 military coup on. Currently the Jean Manzon archive keeps part of his extensive photographic production and a significant collection of his films. This archive constitutes an important source of research on cultural, social and political history of Brazil, in the second half of the twentieth century.
- Jean Manzon’s activities in France before World War II can be found in his biography - Henry Rebatel, Le regard du jaguar (Rennes: Éditions Ouest-France, 1991)
Professor and Curator of Museum of Contemporary Art
University of São Paulo
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