Description

In 1970, Ian Berry, freshly returned from a gruelling trip across three continents, found himself in the small Paris flat of French singer and pop-culture icon Serge Gainsbourg – which he shared with his partner, the English singer and actress Jane Birkin. The pair shared a relationship often played out in the public eye, through photographs, but also through music – evidenced not least by the duet ‘Je t’aime… moi non plus’, which would be banned in several countries because of its lyrical content. Berry was not well-acquainted with the work of either celebrity, and suspected that he landed the assignment thanks to a sympathetic Magnum staffer — under the impression that the photographer would appreciate an easy-going job given his recent travels. Berry spent the day with the pair – shopping, eating with them, and at one pivotal point finding himself in their room. “I honestly can’t remember how we ended up in the bedroom, but anyway – they just went on with their life as it were and I followed them around shooting…,” recalls Berry, “They were both terrific… Maybe people just were more relaxed back then.” In spite of being a highly popular image, it is something of an anomaly for a photographer who rarely worked with pop culture figures: “It’s really not the sort of image I normally make. I have never been a singer-actor-type photographer. I mean, I’m the guy who got assigned to go and shoot The Beatles in Jamaica and managed to arrive the day after they left. That’s about my score on photographing personalities…”

Ian Berry is veteran photojournalist who has spent his career documenting major social and political events around the globe.

Born in Lancashire, England, Berry moved to South Africa in 1952 and began to teach himself photography. After working as a wedding photographer, he alternated between freelance assignments and staff jobs on newspapers and magazines. In 1960, Berry was in Sharpeville, South Africa when police attacked a peaceful protest, leading to the deaths of 69 people and the wounding of 178 others. As the only photographer there, Berry’s photos were used in court to prove the victims’ innocence.

Invited to join Magnum Photos by co-founder Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1962, Berry spent the following decade on assignments around the world. In the mid-1970s he returned to his home country to begin a series on the English way of life, which would be published as his first book, The English (1978).

The winner of numerous prestigious awards over the course of his career, Berry has documented the injustices of apartheid-era South Africa, famine in Ethiopia, child slavery in Ghana, social transformation in China, and conflicts in Israel, Ireland, Vietnam and the Congo.

“Photography is not an intellectual pursuit. It’s about becoming a hunter – getting yourself into the right place at the right time,” said Berry in 2015. His Sharpeville work is testament to this mindset, but surveying the work completed over his 60-year career proves this just as true for his more candid, personal work as it does for any of the historical events he witnessed.

In 1970, Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg were two years into what would become one of popular culture’s most storied relationships. This image of Berry’s shows the couple that year in their Paris apartment, not long after the release of their scandalous duet “Je t'aime… moi non plus”, which would be banned in several countries because of its lyrical content.

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