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PHOT’Aubrac 2020 : Hans Silvester


My parents gave me my first camera for my fourteenth birthday, and that’s when I started to take my first pictures.

After graduating from the Friborg school in 1955, it was traveling that gave me a taste for reporting.

The Camargue first. In 1960, a reportage captioned with texts by Jean Giono was an immediate success.

In 1962, I moved to Provence, but I continued to travel the world: South America (for a humanitarian reportage), the United States (where I stayed six months), Central America, Japan, Portugal, Egypt, Tunisia, Hungary, Peru, Italy, Spain.

I joined the Rapho agency in 1965 and opened in 1977 the first issue of Géo magazine with a chronicle on a village in the Basque Country.

Both an animal photographer on various themes such as pigeons, Camargue horses, birds, cats from the Greek islands, etc., I am also interested in singular traditions: petanque, scarecrows, kites, etc …

From the 1980s, I turned my work towards environmental activism. I then photograph all the natural parks in Europe and denounce in images the ravages of deforestation in the Amazon, or a long report on the Calavon river under the title “the murdered river”, about the pollution of a french river


Fascinated by these ragged effigies, a true form of Art Brut, I want to keep them in mind while making contact with the local farmers, who at first are quite suspicious, then amused by this surprising interest. To my surprise, they tell me that they don’t believe these scarecrows are really usefull, because birds sometimes roost on them!

The act of creating these effigies, mostly male, rarely female, is in a way akin to performing a magical gesture, to making a symbol of defense and appropriation tangible. An emblematic way of marking the territory signifying to birds and other animals, many of them were more numerous than today: beware this land belongs to a man who may not be far with his gun!

Hans Silvester

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