A largely self-taught photographer who learned through experience in the field, Depardon belongs to a generation of French photographers reluctant to overinterpret their subjects. In the long run, the photographer could only be absolutely sure of his or her own identity, which is why several of Depardon's publications are autobiographical. His wide range has enabled him to approach with equal talent news, sports, war photography, in-depth reportage, and advertising. His current interests are film-making and numerous photographic projects.
Born in Villefranche-sur Saône, Depardon knew early on that he wanted to escape his destiny as a farmer's son: photography was to be his way out. He took his first pictures on the farm when he was twelve with a secondhand Rolleiflex bought with his savings. In 1956 he worked for six months assisting the local photographer-optician and learned photography through a correspondence course.
In the 1960s Depardon covered the Algerian War and fulfilled his military service as a photographer for the Ministry of Defense's newspapers. He developed a profound love for the Middle East and the desert, which would be recurrent themes in his later work. In 1967 an important encounter with colleague Gilles Caron led to the founding of Gamma. They were assigned to the most troubled parts of the world: Africa, Vietnam and Cambodia.
In 1969 Depardon made his first film on Jan Pallach and has since directed sixteen films. In 1971 he was imprisoned in Chad with his colleagues Caron, Michel Honorin and Robert Pledge. Following the disappearance in Vietnam of his best friend Caron, Depardon turned away from photojournalism for two years then returned to coverage of world events in 1971. In 1973 he became Gamma's director. That same year, he came to international attention for his contribution on a special report on Chile completed with two other Gamma photographers, Chas Gerretsen and David Burnett, with whom he shared the prestigious Robert Capa Gold Medal.
From 1975 to 1977 Depardon traveled in Chad and received a Pulitzer Prize in 1977. The next year he left Gamma to become a Magnum associate, then a full member in 1979, when he also received a George Sadoul Prize for his film Numéro Zéro.
Depardon has gone on to shoot numerous documentary films then went on to fiction with Empty Quarters (1984). As a photographer he also participated in the national project D.A.T.A.R. to document urban and rural landscape in France. In the 1990s, Depardon went back to his parents' farm to photograph rural landscapes in color, then in 1996 published a black-and-white road journal, In Africa, a personal but unsentimental account of his thirty-year journey through that continent.
Depardon, who has exhibited internationally, has received numerous awards including the César Award for Best Documentary and a nomination for an Academy Award.
Gilles Caron, Reporter, 1978
Correspondance newyorkaise, 1981
Le désert américain, 1983
San Clemente, 1984
Les Fiancées de Saigon, 1986
Raymond Depardon: Correspondence, 1986
Rimini-Cinéma: Raymond Depardon, 1988
Depardon Cinéma, 1993
Return to Vietnam, 1994
La Ferme du Garet, 1995
En Afrique, 1996
La Porte des Larmes, 1996
Depardon Voyages. Photographs by Raymond Depardon. 1999
Photo Poche 81: Raymond Depardon. 1999
Desert - Fondation Cartier. Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporaine - Paris. 2000