Gilles Peress (born 1946) is a French photojournalist known for his documentation of war and strife, including in Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia, Iran, and Rwanda. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Du magazine, Life, Stern, Geo, Paris-Match, Parkett, Aperture and The New Yorker. He joined Magnum Photos in 1971 and served three times as its vice president and twice as its president.
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Born in France, Peress grew up in Paris with an orthodox Christian mother from the Middle East and a Jewish grandfather from Georgia. Peress studied at the Institute d'Etudes Politiques in Paris from 1966 to 1968 and then at the University of Vincennes until 1971. Peress began working as a photographer in 1970, embarking on an intimate portrayal of life in a French village, Decazeville, as it emerged from the ashes of a debilitating labor dispute. In 1973 he photographed Turkish immigrant workers in West Germany and documented the European policy to import cheap labor from the third world. "Peress has worked as a journalist to help finance those projects that constitute his personal search—a search to understand his own history." He then joined Magnum Photos.
Peress soon traveled to Northern Ireland to begin an ongoing 20-year project about the Irish civil rights struggle. One of his most famous pictures from this period captures a young man named Patrick Doherty moments before he was killed whilst crawling to safety in the forecourt of the Rossville flats during Bloody Sunday.
Power in the Blood, a book that synthesizes his years of work in Northern Ireland, is the first part of his ongoing project called Hate Thy Brother, a cycle of documentary stories that describe intolerance and the re-emergence of nationalism in the postwar years. Farewell to Bosnia was the first part of this cycle, and The Silence, a book about the genocide in Rwanda, was the second.
In 1979 Peress traveled to Iran in the midst of the Revolution. His highly regarded book, Telex Iran: In the Name of Revolution, is about the fragile relationship between American and Iranian cultures during the hostage crisis. Peress has also completed other major projects, including a photographic study of the lives of Turkish immigrant workers in Germany, and a recent examination of the contemporary legacy of the Latin American liberator Simon Bolivar.
Peress participated in the photography collective This Place, organized by photographer Frédéric Brenner. For his project, Peress focused on the village of Silwan, where there are frequent violent clashes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers, and used large format cameras to document his experience.
Now, Peress is professor of Human Rights and Photography at Bard College in New York and is Senior Research Fellow at UC Berkeley. He lives with his wife Alison Cornyn and their three children in Brooklyn.
- 1977, Apeiron: Artist in Residence
- 1979, National Endowment for the Arts
- 1981, American Institute of Graphic Arts Award
- 1981, Art Director's Club Award
- 1981, Overseas Press Club Award
- 1981, Prix du Premier Livre/Foundation Kodak Pathe
- 1981, Prix de la Critique Couleur
- 1983, Imogen Cunningham Award
- 1983, Fondation Nationale pour la Photographie
- 1984, W. Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography
- 1984, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship
- 1986, Gahan Fellowship at Harvard University
- 1989, Art Director's Club Award
- 1989, Ernst Haas Award
- 1990, Art Matters Grant
- 1992, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship
- 1992/93, Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship
- 1993, La Fondation de France Fellowship
- 1994, International Center of Photography Infinity Award
- 1995, Camera Works
- 1995, Erich Solomon Prize
- 1996, International Center of Photography Infinity Award
- Telex Persan, with Gholam Hassan Saedi. France: Contrejour, 1984; Telex Iran, USA: Aperture, 1984, ISBN 978-0-89381-118-1; Switzerland: Scalo, 1997, ISBN 978-3-931141-36-3
- Eye for an Eye, USA: Aperture, 1988.
- Farewell to Bosnia, Switzerland: Scalo, USA: Distributed Art Publications, 1994. ISBN 978-1-881616-22-1
- The Silence. Rwanda, Switzerland/USA/Germany: Scalo, 1995. ISBN 978-1-881616-38-2
- The Graves: Srebrenica and Vukovar, with Eric Stover. Switzerland/USA/GermanyScalo, 1998. ISBN 978-3-931141-76-9
- 1992, A Peruvian Equation (part of the series “The Magnum Eye”, made for TV Tokyo)
- 1992, Street Musicians (filmed in NY for M. & Co. Agency, for Benetton)
- 1994, Farewell to Bosnia (video essay)
- Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois
- Arts Council of Great Britain, London, UK
- Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France
- First Bank of Minnesota
- Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Fondation Leitz, Rueil-Malmaison, France
- Fondation Nationale pour la Photographie, Paris, France
- International Museum of Photography, Rochester, New York
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
- Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota
- Galerie du Château d'Eau, Toulouse, France
- Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France
- Museum of the Moving Image, New York, France
- Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas
- Museum of Modern Art, New York
- New York Historical Society