During a tour of the Middle East with her family, Sabine Jaccard discovered the joys of photography: she was 9 years old. Since then, photography never quit her.
As she loved French and English literature, she studied both at Oxford and London universities, then at the Sorbonne. Shakespeare watched over her in her studies and in her work as a photographer.
Her aim : to produce tableaux vivants that echo some of Shakespeare's main themes: the antagonism between reality and illusion, between light and shade, between body and soul.
In 2000, Sabine Jaccard was introduced to Henri Cartier-Bresson. It confirmed her vocation in life.
Since 2002, exhibitions follow one after the other.
Sabine Jaccard particularly loves street photography with black and white prints on silver paper, and not digitally produced prints. According to its Greek etymology, the word "photography" means "writing with the light" ; Sabine Jaccard has chosen to take backlit photographs to express her desire to approach, touch and understand what drives human beings.
In 2017, she published her first photo album book entitled « Water Theatre ».
Modern Cities : love
"Sabine Jaccard is a traveller through and through. Born in Paris in 1971, she has lived in Jordan, - and in Madagascar, on the high plains where she used to be director of L’Alliance française ; she travels to every corner of the world in search of those precious « moments of grace » which she likes so much to grasp and to fix on paper.
Indeed, very quickly and in parallel to her English studies at the Sorbonne, in London and in Oxford – where she discovered a passion for Shakespeare – Sabine threw herself into photography. She met Martine Franck in Arles, and then became a disciple of the Malagasy photographer Pierrot Men.
Her favourite fields, from contemporary urban architecture to portrait, and from advertising to fashion, bespeak her eclecticism. Hence the creation of photographic cycles – always on film rather than digital – which gives to human kind more than its due.
« Shadows Theatre », taken in Madagascar between 2000 and 2002, expresses Sabine Jaccard’s taste for the play of shadows and light and reflects her determination to show life’s movement. This passion also asserts itself in the exhibitions, « Water Theatre » and « The World’s a Stage ». Geometry, so treasured by Cartier-Bresson, is also very apparent, since Sabine Jaccard plays with lines and perspectives of buildings, of bridges, of public gardens, of fountains and basins to inscribe our lives into urban spaces very naturally.
Her gaze seems to tame modern cities and to reconcile them with all sorts of populations living there. She captures and keeps those « decisive moments » which often make our world look beautiful, sensitive and joyful. It is this humanism which Sabine Jaccard allows us to share : our modern cities conceal treasures of love."
Cuvelliez, writer, 2012 (translated by Sabine Jaccard)
"Since Sabine Jaccard asked me to help her with her photographic work, for her own work as well as for those of her students in Ambositra (Madagascar), we looked together at about a hundred contact sheets in search of "the" photo, the one where everything is set spontaneously, the photogropher's dream. We often chose the same photograph, wondering about this mystery: why this one and not that one, although more studied, witness of a more intense emotion, result of a difficult pursuit, or story of a more interesting anecdote? The good photo is often more felt than calculated, given like a favour. Yet one has to be able to seize it, then to notice it. Even if, because of lack of time, the focussing is not perfect, as long as everything is in it, it is a good photo because it gives you the desire to see. It has an action, an atmosphere, often due to little: a tube that drags along isolates a child from the others rejecting him into an enigmatic solitude; a stick forgotten on the soil fixes the composition; a ball appears like a gift of God in the camera; the precision of an inscription on a wall gives life to all the rest; a leg cut on the left handside corner frames a scene. Sabine was interested in shadows, never hesitating to cut her characters to concentrate on her shadows, focussed and cut but ambiguously rich. She found there a source of personal inspiration which makes her work progress. I would have liked my first exhibition, a long time ago, to be as considered as hers."
Pierrot Men (Malagasy photographer)
"The other side of sight"
"Sabine Jaccard studied English, she is a well-informed lover of Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll, the photogropher of children and the author of "The other side of the mirror" where a child explores the other side of the adults' world represented by a big chessboard. Her photographer's eye glances off on things and people as on the surface of a mirror. She doesn't see, she searches. In her quest, she has seized the chance of getting to know an illustrious neighbour, Pierrot Men. A good artist makes you see the world through his eyes. How is it possible to escape from his look when one lives in his world, the one of Malagasy villages populated by curious children, sometimes sad players, projecting their shadow-theatre on the vibrant screen of walls and soils whose texture incites the spectator to meditate, or warrior silhouettes hugging fragile and elegant fences like Japanese engravings? Pierrot Men is both the inspirer, the obstetrician and the creator of a world where Sabine Jaccard lands with her literary background and her personal story. If her work shows this hesitation, her personal search asserts itself when she studies the plastic and symbolic possibilities of shadows. They enable her to explore the next world of those faces of children now well-known and often like third-rate actors, a next world which brings her back to herself and to her own spiritual quest. It is also a means of exploring a medium, which uses, precisely, the projection of light and shadows on a plane and sensitive surface. When the body no longer exists, what is left from the person? A question to ask oneself in the country of spirits."
Pauline de Laboulay (art critic), 2002. Translated by Sabine Jaccard
"The World's a Stage"
"Of course, to guide the visitor, there is this indication of a "Theatre of the Human" inscribed on the invitation to the exhibition as a roadsign. The titles of the photographs themselves also work as signposts. Sometimes, though, as riddles: one tries to find the advertised Coliseum hidden by the wing of a startled gull; one stands speechless in front of this highly symbolic framing of St Peter's in Rome between the photographers' arms; one tries to penetrate the mystery of a strange Superposition in Stonehenge; one wonders which benevolent god has dispelled the crowd around those lovers, granting them the Brooklyn Bridge as a sublime setting. There are also those towns whose only names invite mythical pictures to set free from our subconscious for a breath of fresh air.
Yet, none of these words could really express what we are about to see. Sabine Jaccard leaves you no choice, she compels us to see with her own eyes or to go on our way.
Obviously, it is never simple to see through someone else's eyes...But those who have met Sabine know how intense hers are: her true self shines forth, her ingenuousness, which is both serene and anxious, baffles you, her seriousness makes you wonder. Here it is, this way of looking intensely at life with incredible grip. Sabine stares at you. She tries to understand, to intercept, what obviously cannot be seen.
And this creates those amazing, almost enthralling images. Really demanding pictures, at which one cannot glance superficially. Pictures which disclose layer after layer of truth composed of coïncidences and discrepancies. Here, nothing is just beautiful, nothing is linear, nothing is given at once. Here is life itself, with gushes and breaks, at stake on all those stages. And one can feel that it is a celebration of life.
In order to present this theatre, we could choose a more highbrow, a more technical or a more aesthetic approach. And call on more big words for help, as well as quoting high falutin' references. But we can also dispense with words altogether - since photography is silent and self sufficient by definition - and speak only of the photographer and look at her work as I did: with friendship and pleasure."
Cookie Allez, writer, 2010 (translated by Sabine Jaccard)
Theatre of water
"In this theatre of water, rigorous geometry reveals the elusive enchantment of a moment of being with gushing crystal-clear water turning into shadows against the light, or acrobatic divers leaping in midair. Everything is so oddly familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Are the sparkling water fountains merely the Parc André Citroën in Paris? Is the smooth, matt surface a lake in the Alps? Or is it another Midsummer Night’s Dream in broad daylight, with each actor splitting into his own shadow, at times graceful, at times comical, as in Shakespeare’s theatre with which Sabine Jaccard is so familiar?
In her photographs, each event takes place here and now, as in a theatre, and yet the story is never told. Plain Matisse-like silhouettes, which at first glance seem flimsy like so many childish sarabands in papier collé, turn out to be real playful children who spontaneously submerse themselves in this primary element that brings them all so much joy: a water garden, a fairyland forest of transparent trees whose summits blossom into a white haze in the wind, sparkling in the sunshine. Other children with similar shadows and similar acrobatic bodies run along a pontoon of solid wood. They are going to jump, have jumped or are hanging suspended in midair as if in semi-circles or as if curled up in balls above the still water. One of them is already under the water like a clumsy doll, creating a thousand sparkles of light on what suddenly becomes a glittering surface. Paradoxically, nothing seems to be at a standstill in what Sabine Jaccard captures in her photos. Everything invites movement or compels the eye to gaze at subtly meandering lines standing out that detach themselves against sometimes matt, sometimes shiny yet uniformly smooth surfaces from where figures suddenly appear, and there again combine contrary shapes that harmonise with each other; fountains shoot out into tall shafts at the centre of neat circles, embedding themselves into huge square slabs where children’s shadows play virtual hopscotch. The fountains themselves, which are quintessentially transparent, spurt up water vertically, casting long unexpected oblique shadows creating a backlight effect and seeming to deny the beholder the very fluidity they promise. Similarly, in the Talloires photos, before the mountains’ shading of greys, the lake’s perfect straight line on the horizon is at odds with the pontoons’ receding perspective which guides the viewer’s gaze to where the swimmer is poised to touch the water. These wooden planks have streaks of heavy shadows, making them appear even more geometrical, even more rigorously contrasted with the leaping movements that take shape.
Just as Shakespeare would have done with his stage, the “wooden O”, everything is captured at the starting point of a metamorphosis, another obsessive word for a poet of baroque contradiction and irresolute time; it is as if the almost awkward curve of a latent duration were inscribed in each instant, expecting its likely end, when suddenly time renews its course. Sabine achieves this through balls bobbing up and down on the very top of fountains, as they are caught between unsteady opposing forces. Turning into dark, glossy balls that bounce above the pearly crystal liquid, they are then on the brink of falling down only the better to rebound.
Yet a photo, which has been fittingly chosen to announce the exhibition, seizes time in an ideal apotheosis of a moment; a subtle game of recollecting and metamorphosis inscribes the children’s game in the one of human beings, when the slender elves of this Midsummer’s End Dream, or of a day coming to an end, still run amid the water columns, and as the fountains form a living façade of bright white before the black façade of a long building in the background, thus creating – as at the theatre – the illusion of an improbable Parisian Versailles. Meanwhile, the envelope of a hot-air balloon, which appears on the top central axis of the photo, makes a moment of perfect equilibrium visible by the almost flawless symmetry it provokes, as if some childish balloon had escaped from the law of gravity, or from any threat of imbalance, or even from that of the water which continues to fall, only to remain an element that will rise up in the air.
In her photos, Sabine Jaccard seems to want to appropriate the audacious creative contradiction that Shakespeare proclaimed in Macbeth, “Foul is fair, and fair is foul”. When she was at the Sorbonne and studying Shakespeare, she already knew how to represent a passage from King Lear by making a short film of remarkable relevance and which has since been shown at the Paris Film Library (Cinémathèque de Paris). She knew how to find subtle similarities between Shakespeare’s text and concrete matter – water, pebbles, sand, a cliff, camera effects between depth and height – just as she knows how to create a theatre without speech through these photos in which matter, shapes, light and shadows all have their own voice."
Gisèle Venet Professor Emerita, Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2005
Water and Dreams
"Sabine’s eye transforms and transcends. This is a constant feature of her photos, deliberately inscribed in black and white for years.
Projected onto the ordinary spectacle of life, her imagination performs a miraculous diffraction of reality which projects us beyond what our eyes can see.
Sabine transforms water into fire, into exuberant jungles, into phantasmagorical shapes, or into comets’ tails…leaving us free to interpret what we see.
Children metamorphose into pure joy in those chosen scenes and in those moments stolen to time, then fixed for ever in this new truth. They are a dance; they are a game; they are a scream; they are childhood. They are simply themselves in the superlative.
When she slips into a crowd with her camera, or sneaks discreetly right into life’s games, Sabine immerses herself body and soul in photography. When you follow her, you realize how acute her eyes are and how they show an extreme tension, even an anticipating power; this incites you to remain silent. That is why one can feel in her photos the will and strength to see clearly through the surface of the mirror that reality holds up to us. As well as her ability to look on the world with benevolence.
It is difficult to write about her photos without speaking about Shakespeare, who has nourished her with his plays, to such an extent that she borrows from his comedy “As you like it” the title of one of her most recent exhibitions: “All the world’s a stage”.
The sets, like the roles, are infinite, but “what the photographer reproduces infinitely takes place only once”, as the French art historian Roland Barthes very justly observed. Still, the artist must be there, immobilized by the dazzling site and yet able to recreate it in a different dimension.
There is magic to Sabine’s art. At the end of those little miracles, it is for the spectator’s eye to play the final act!"
Cookie Allez, writer (translated by Sabine Jaccard)
"In many tableaux vivants, Sabine Jaccard offers for our viewing a very subtle stage play which celebrates much evident themes in Shakespeare’s works : the contrasts between reality and illusion, between light and shadows, between body and soul.
On stage, Water and Human Beings play the principal roles.
The characters of Parc André Citroën in Paris, of Anacostia Park in Washington D.C, or of the UN Square in Geneva metamorphose into a thousand sparkles of light.
No need to be posed, it’s the eye of the photographer which directs its place.
One of her aims is to make the sap of Time gush forth, stressing its weights but also offering delight.
Sabine Jaccard is French and Swiss, and she lives in Paris. She particularly appreciates street photography in black and white film. To photograph, according to the Greek etymology, is to « write with light » : she has chosen to take backlits to bear witness to her compelling desire to approach, to touch, to understand what moves humanity.
And it is for the spectator’s eye to play the final act !"
Cookie Allez, writer (translated by Sabine Jaccard)