Jean Mohr, 93, Photographer Who Found Heart Amid Bleakness, Dies

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Jean Mohr, 93, Photographer Who Found Heart Amid Bleakness, Dies


Jean Mohr, a Swiss photographer who brought a humanist’s eye to refugee camps, the Palestinian territories and places of distress all over the world, died on Saturday in Geneva. He was 93.

Martin Dahinden, the Swiss ambassador to the United States, confirmed his death on Twitter. Swiss news reports said the cause was cancer.

One picture in that exhibition showed a displaced-persons dormitory in Cyprus — no people, but evidence of human habitation everywhere. Another consisted of a single aging face, one that reflected the effects of hardship but also retained dignity.

Mr. Mohr explained why he thought the people in such situations welcomed him and his camera.

“They invited me not because my approach was more gentle, but because people could identify with it,” he said. “You can’t identify with a corpse, but you can identify with someone at a well drawing water to take to a camp a few kilometers away.”

Hans Adolf Mohr was born on Sept. 13, 1925, in Geneva. His parents had emigrated from Germany in 1919 and were dismayed by the rise of Hitler; from an early age their son rejected his Germanic origins and used the name Jean.

He received a degree in economics and social sciences at the University of Geneva and briefly worked in advertising. Then he moved to the Middle East and spent two years working with Palestinian refugees on behalf of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

He studied art in Paris before, at age 30, discovering photography. Thereafter he worked taking photographs for international organizations all over the world.

Not all his pictures were of war zones and refugee camps; he documented a rehabilitation hospital in Laos, dissident artists in Moscow, a tour of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Whatever the subject, the label “humanist” was invariably attached to him and his pictures; he had the ability to infuse an image with heart and respect.

In 1956 Mr. Mohr married Simone Turrettini. She survives him. His other survivors include two sons, Michel and Patrick, and several grandchildren.

Mr. Mohr’s “War From the Victims’ Perspective,” which focused on images from the Palestinian territories, Cyprus and Africa, was seen in more than 20 countries. Some of its 60 pictures were of children, smiling and playing amid desolation.

“The children in these photos are miraculous,” Mr. Mohr said in the video made for the exhibition. “Little is enough for them to switch into playing a game. I had no problem showing them in difficult situations, because where there is the laughter of children, there is always hope.”



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