Jaeger-LeCoultre - Portraits de Manufacture

by Ian Skellern
(c) March 2006


Mona Schweizer 'Portraits de Manufacture'

A group selected from world's most promising young photographers
share with us their vision of Jaeger-LeCoulte's Manufacture in a
new book: Portraits de Manufacture.

It was nearly 75 years ago that the English entrepreneur Noel Pemberton Billing decided to make a state of the art camera the size of a cigarette packet. Billing was no dreamer; he had his own airline and was the designer of a plane that became the Spitfire. Looking for a partner with the skills and expertise to develop and construct his photographic micro-complication, Billing traveled to the Vallée du Joux and teamed up with JLC. In 1937, the Compass, as the camera was called, was launched - making an immediate sensation with its entirely integrated functions. Unfortunately WWII ruined the market for the camera and it remains today a highly sought after collectors item.

At the launch of their 8-day calibers in 2002, Jaeger-LeCoultre arranged for a group of eight international photographers, working with eight young local photographers, to take a series of images for an exhibition entitled, ‘8 days of the art of interpreting time’.

Rémy Lidereau 'Portraits de Manufacture'

Then in 2005 with reGeneration, Jaeger-LeCoultre, in partnership with one of the worlds leading photographic museums, the Musée de l'Elysée in Lausanne, set out to discover just what the best young photographers are up to at the beginning of the twenty-first century. How much do they respect, build on or reject tradition? Are they busy in the darkroom or on the computer - or both?

I thought myself very fortunate early last year to be invited to the launch of reGeneration; however, the icing on the cake was the invitation to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s manufacture in Le Sentier the following day. There I was able to follow many of the reGeneration photographers. We spent the morning making a very thorough tour of the premises and the afternoon was left free to wander and photograph wherever - and whatever - took the photographer’s eye.

Milo Keller 'Portraits de Manufacture'

I studied the photographers, attempting to catch glimpses of how they saw things, how they composed their shots and the techniques they used. Needless to say, the methods varied as much as the individuals.

Gérald Garbez 'Portraits de Manufacture'

The photographs that the reGeneration team took that day – after much sorting and selection – have now been turned into a book, ‘Portraits de Manufacture’. The wide variety of photographers, subjects, compositions and even through-the-lens- philosophies, give an insight into Jaeger-LeCoultre’s ateliers and people as nothing else could.

Gabor Arion Kudasz 'Portraits de Manufacture'

With 70 images from 17 pairs of eyes, 'Portraits de Manufacture’ highlights the human, technical and artistic richness that is Jaeger-LeCoultre.

Matthias Bruggmann 'Portraits de Manufacture'

If at all possible try to see the reGeneration exhibition if it tours near you: it will be at New York's Aperture Foundation from the 19th April to the 22 June. Perhaps even ask your Jaeger-LeCoultre authorized dealer - very nicely - if you could see (or even have) a copy of ‘Portraits de Manufacture’; it is due to be released around May.

Ian Skellern - March 2006

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