CULTURE & ARTS

Monique Jacot Is The Pioneering Female Photographer You Don't Know, But Should

Who is Monique Jacot?

Some know her as a socio-political reporter, documenting women’s rights protests and interviewing women at work in offices, factories and farms. Others know her for her photojournalism work in publications such as Elle and Vogue. Or maybe you're more familiar with her chronicling of poor social hygiene around the world -- from the United States to East Asia -- on behalf of the World Health Organization. Then again, maybe you recognize her from her more poetic works, whether they be atmospheric photos of the circus or surreal photograms, the result of hours of darkroom experimentation.

morges
Monique Jacot, Morges 1980 Gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur

Jacot, a Swiss photographer born in 1934, constantly teetered between art and activism, recording and rebellion, documentary and imagination. Her style was as fluid as her subject matter, which spanned the injustices of everyday life to the stretches of the mind's eye. Her inspiration was the world around her -- anything more specific was too limiting.

Jacot learned photography from Gertrude Fehr at the École des Arts et Metiers in the early 1950s, but soon became tired of the constraints of textbook studio photography. She turned to the streets, capturing mimes and circuses and theaters, places where fantasy swallowed reality whole. She soon became involved with the Magnum photography circle, whose fellow members included Henri Cartier-Bresson, Martine Franck and Robert Frank, among others.

dimitri
Monique Jacot, The pantomime Dimitri 1961 Gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur

Both at home and abroad, Jacot turned her camera on various struggles for survival, whether they be women protesting for equal rights, nurses in Niger or doctors in the former Soviet Union. The images range from whimsical to severe, surreal to painfully direct. It's her endlessly versatile way that earned Jacot the retrospective title "Reports and Daydreams."

"Jacot used her camera as a painter wields a brush -- as a tool to create a desired visual effect," writes Julia Friedman for Hyperallergic. "She upends the notion of a photographer having a trademark style, instead exhibiting an impressive facility with manipulating her medium."

Indeed, Jacot's portfolio features a breadth as wide, strange, dark and beautiful as the world it depicts. Take a look at the many faces of Monique Jacot below and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

  • Monique Jacot, Le Cret, 1986, gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
    Monique Jacot, Le Cret, 1986, gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
  • Monique Jacot, Lausanne 1954 Gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
    Monique Jacot, Lausanne 1954 Gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
  • Monique Jacot, Theo Lausanne, 1989, gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation S
    Monique Jacot, Theo Lausanne, 1989, gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation S
  • Monique Jacot, Las Vegas 1959 Gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
    Monique Jacot, Las Vegas 1959 Gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
  • Monique Jacot, Beersheba 1961 Gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
    Monique Jacot, Beersheba 1961 Gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
  • Monique Jacot, Paris 1962 Gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
    Monique Jacot, Paris 1962 Gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
  • Monique Jacot, Milan, 1984, gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
    Monique Jacot, Milan, 1984, gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
  • Monique Jacot, Boncourt, 1987, gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
    Monique Jacot, Boncourt, 1987, gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
  • Monique Jacot, Peney-le-Jorat 1988 Gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
    Monique Jacot, Peney-le-Jorat 1988 Gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
  • Monique Jacot, Oman, 1989, gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
    Monique Jacot, Oman, 1989, gelatin silver print, © Monique Jacot / Photo Foundation Switzerland, Winterthur
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BEFORE YOU GO

  • Alexia Webster presents compelling portraits of women taken in street studios in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa and Madagascar.
    Photo caption: Devota Kamaza
    Photo caption: Devota Kamaza
  • Annie Ling takes a painterly approach to sex trafficking in Moldova and Romania while addressing issues of memory.
    Photo caption: Tunde’s trafficker, the father of her children, is currently in jail for unrelated crimes.
    Photo caption: Tunde’s trafficker, the father of her children, is currently in jail for unrelated crimes.
  • Giulia Bianchi’s coverage of women who have been ordained as priests but are not recognized by the church takes us into their work with the marginalized of all faiths.
    Photo caption: Encounters with Disobedient Priests
    Photo caption: Encounters with Disobedient Priests
  • Ilana Panich-Linsman’s photographs of child beauty contests contextualize a $5 billion industry.
    Photo caption: Emily Dextraze is a 12-year-old beauty pageant competitor who lives in Westfield, Massachusetts
    Photo caption: Emily Dextraze is a 12-year-old beauty pageant competitor who lives in Westfield, Massachusetts
  • Julie Nyman speaks about her inner life as she puts herself under a microscope for all to see.
    Photo caption: Looking through a grain focuser, the observer notices a dancer
    Photo caption: Looking through a grain focuser, the observer notices a dancer
  • Laís Pointes presents phony Facebook profiles of herself and the silly replies elicited by her amusing digital identities.
    Photo caption: Shena Born Nowhere
    Photo caption: Shena Born Nowhere
  • Lara Tabet signifies memory and loss in her self-portraits with women who have lost a male partner or relative.
    Photo caption: Penelopes
    Photo caption: Penelopes
  • Nancy Borowick’s very personal project on cancer considers end-of-life issues through an intimate look at her family.
    Photo caption: In 2013, my parents were in treatment for cancer
    Photo caption: In 2013, my parents were in treatment for cancer
  • Nona Faustine finds spaces in New York City where the history of slavery becomes tangible, such as the slave-constructed City Hall, which stands on an African burial ground.
    Photo caption: And on this spit of land Massa and I reside
    Photo caption: And on this spit of land Massa and I reside
  • Tiana Markova-Gold explores the rights of sex workers and the dangerous conditions in which they work in Macedonia.
    Photo caption: Kristina, 22 years old, is the only transgender or male sex worker who works in the street on a regular basis
    Photo caption: Kristina, 22 years old, is the only transgender or male sex worker who works in the street on a regular basis