Born in New York and living in Paris since 1971, Jane Evelyn Atwood is one of the world’s leading photojournalists. In 1976, Atwood bought her first camera and began taking pictures of a group of street prostitutes in Paris. It was partly on the strength of these photographs that Atwood received the first W. Eugene Smith Award, in 1980, for another story she had just started work on: blind children. Prior to this, she had never published a photo.
In the ensuing years, Atwood has pursued a number of carefully chosen projects-among them an 18-month reportage of one regiment of the Foreign Legion, following the soldiers to Beirut and Chad; a four-and-a-half-month story on the first person with AIDS in France to allow himself to be photographed for publication in the press (Atwood stayed with him until his death); and a four-year study of landmine victims that took her to Cambodia, Angola, Kosovo, Mozambique and Afghanistan-always with the same personal and passionate approach.
Jane Evelyn Atwood’s work reflects a deep involvement with her subjects over long periods of time. Fascinated by people and by the idea of exclusion, she has managed to penetrate worlds that most of us do not know, or choose to ignore. She limits her stories to those which truly compel her, devoting to each subject the time necessary-in some cases, years-to explore it in depth. In 1989 she started to photograph incarcerated women, eventually managing to gain access to some of the world’s worst penitentiaries and jails, including death row. This monumental ten-year undertaking- encompassing forty prisons in nine countries of Europe and Eastern Europe, and the United States-remains the definitive photographic work on women in prison to date. It was published as a book in both English and French in 2000 and continues to be exhibited internationally. (see Books; Exhibitions)
Atwood’s particularity as a photographer lies in her in-depth approach, but she has also covered such news events as the Kobe earthquake of 1995, the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, and the Democratic National Convention in 2004.
Jane Evelyn Atwood describes her method of work as “obsessive”. She does not move on to a new subject until she feels she has completely understood the one at hand and her own relation to it, and until she believes that her pictures reflect this understanding.