Edition 2023

Don't forget me

Jean-Marie Donat Collection

Faces are serious, attitudes formal, clothes European, signaling the drop of a new anchor. They arrive from North Africa, a large part from Algeria, from sub-Saharan Africa and the Comoros. Their portraits come from the archive at Studio Rex, a family-run photo studio established in Belsunce two generations ago, closed in 2018. Place of passage between the train station and the port, this iconic district of Marseille is temporary host to newly arrived immigration.

Ten years ago, I came into possession of this rich photography collection made up of tens of thousands of photographs taken between 1966 and 1985. By combining, selecting, and compiling these “image-records”, a large-scale picture archive emerged, linking the personal to historical record, built around three types of photographs.

Around 700 wallet prints that survived the journey across the Mediterranean to be used by the studio to make montages, left behind due to quick departures following a long-awaited promise of employment.

Around 10,000 photo negatives in 13x18 format, originally meant for use as official documents in France.

And finally, over a hundred studio photos, meant to be sent back home testifying to the attainability of success in the host country.

Out of this cosmopolitan surge, neither name, nor date, nor story remains. My installations attempt to give substance to these individuals which history made invisible. Thanks to these photographs, which are evidence, trace, and memory, a dialogue is opened between the two shores of the Mediterranean. Don’t forget me [Ne m’oublie pas] is a passageway between France and Africa, a memorial bridge between past and present, and a journey made by humans and photographs to revive memory.

Jean-Marie Donat

Curator: Jean-Marie Donat.

Publication: Jean-Marie Donat, texts by Souâd Belhaddad, Belsunce – Don’t forget me, delpire & co, 2023.

With the support of the Antoine de Galbert Foundation.

  • Institutional partners

    • République Française
    • Région Provence Alpes Côté d'Azur
    • Département des Bouches du Rhône
    • Arles
    • Le Centre des monuments nationaux est heureux de soutenir les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles en accueillant des expositions dans l’abbaye de Montmajour
  • Main partners

    • Fondation LUMA
    • BMW
    • SNCF
    • Kering
  • Media partners

    • Arte
    • Lci
    • Konbini
    • Le Point
    • Madame Figaro
    • France Culture