Magnum Photos Photographer Profile

Patrick Zachmann 

French, b. 1955 (Member) 

I became a photographer because I have no memory. Photography allows me to reconstruct the family albums I never had, the missing images becoming the engine of my research. My contact sheets are my personal diary. ” 


As a freelance photographer since 1976 and a member of Magnum Photos since 1990, Patrick Zachmann has dedicated himself to long-term works, books and video films, all dealing with the themes of memory, identities and immigration.

In 1982 his work on the Naples police and mafia -the Camorra- led to a collection of cinematographic photographs that became his first book “Madonna!” in 1983, accompanied by a fictional novel inspired by his pictures. From 1982 to 1984, besides a project on highway landscapes supported by the French Ministry of Culture, Patrick Zachmann explored the lives of immigrant teenagers in the north neighbourhoods of Marseille.

Over the course of seven years he explored jewish identities in France ending up with a chapter on his own family. That led to his second book “Enquête d’identité ou Un juif à la recherche de sa memoire” (“Inquest of identity or a Jew searching for his memory”) in 1987.

In 1989, his feature of the events on Tiananmen Square in Beijing was widely published in the international press. In the same year he was awarded the prestigious Prix Niepce for his work.

Over a period of six years, Zachmann pursued an in-depth work on the Chinese diaspora in different parts of the world. This gave rise to the publication of “W. ou l’œil d’un long-nez” (“W. or the eye of a long-nose”) in 1995, which was hailed by critics. The book was accompanied by an exhibition that traveled to ten countries in Asia and Europe, except in China where it was censored.

Between 1996 and 1998, Patrick Zachmann directed the short film “La Mémoire de mon père” (“My father’s memory”), followed by his first feature-length film “Aller-retour: Journal d’un photograph” (“Back and Forth, diary of a photographer”), which deals with the disappearance of traces of memory and of the bodies, especially in Chile, and how photography can interfere in the process of recovering memory.

In 2006, Zachmann started working on a new project in China titled Chinese confusions, for which he was awarded the l’Aide à la Création de la Délégation aux Arts Plastiques (DAP).
He gives lectures and leading Masterclasses at the Paris Art School “Ecole Nationale des Arts Décoratifs”, the Academy of Graphic Design and Photography in Rome, in China and all over the world.

Between 2006 and 2008, Patrick Zachmann worked on a feature film titled “Bar Centre des Autocars”. It is an investigation into the lives of the ten young kids he had met and photographed in Marseille’s poorest suburbs twenty years earlier. In May 2009, the photographer and film maker presented a retrospective on his 25 years’ work concerned with immigration and suburbs in France at La Cité Nationale d’Histoire de l’Immigration (CNHI) in Paris, (“National Museum of Immigration’s History”).

A book, awarded in 2009, came out with the exhibition called “My dearest suburb” (“Ma proche banlieue”).

To mark the twentieth anniversary of the events on Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989, Zachmann made a web-documentary “Generation Tiananmen” in 2009, shown on Le Monde, Der Spiegel and Al Jazeera’s websites.

Patrick Zachmann has been working on a project covering illegal immigration in Europe. He portrayed immigrants on their journeys through Malta, France and Greece. A documentary on the fate of a Somali emigrant has been shown on the France5 website and national channel.

He has been selected as one of the artists assigned for Marseille-Provence 2013 for which he presented an exhibition, including a movie and a book called “Mare Mater” in Marseille at Le Mucem Museum, in 2013 and in Châlons sur Saone at the beginning of 2015.

A book and an exhibition on his work in China, 30 after this original work, called “So long, China” got a strong reaction and the book was published by Xavier Barral. It received the 2016 Nadar Award.