Chat With John Lennon, Havana

Chat with John Lennon. Havana, july 2003

Jean-Christian Rostagni is “Monsieur Contraste,” the subject and title character of Rodrigo Dorfman's full feature (62’00) documentary film Monsieur Contraste.

He is a Photographer from the South of France who lives in the American South, which seems to confirm that few are the masters of their destiny. He was born and raised in the Rhone valley of France from Parents that had been displaced there by WWII or work, and where coming from the very north and the very south of France. At the age of fifteen he discovered photography while traveling with his mother and step father around the Mediterranean sea with his dad’s camera. He has since then devoted his life to its practice.

Jean-Christian Rostagni's photographs blend the American and French schools of photography in a unique way that exhibits superb technical mastery and a talent for capturing defining moments. Much of his work challenges the status quo and reflects his commitment to social justice.

He attended two schools of photography. The second was in Ansel Adams and Edward Weston’s technical lineage, and took place in Marseille, in the UER of Photography at the Faculté des Sciences Saint Charles. This is where he met his mentor Denis Brihat (one of the world masters of black and white printing and toning). He began his career in the Aix en Provence area where he lived for 12 years, then moved to Paris where he worked for high caliber customers such as British Petroleum and the Société des Eaux de Paris. He had met his wife Trisha, and American woman from Pennsylvania in Aix en Provence in 1985, pursued her across the ocean, and she came to join him in Paris in 1992 before they decided to move to the Triangle (North Carolina) together, in 1993.

There he started a book project with the novelist Clyde Edgerton about the Durham Bulls in Durham Athletic Park, seen as an idealization of minor league baseball. He also collaborated on an essay about the North Carolina State Fair for the southern literary magazine “The Oxford American”. That essay was republished as a serial by the News and Observer of Raleigh in the Fall of 1996 as an illustration of the ongoing fair. One of the Triangle's most celebrated band "The Squirrel Nut Zippers" also used one of his photographs as their main promotion illustration for their second CD "Hot" which ended up turning gold. He exhibited works in the '95 and '97 New Art in the Triangle shows at Duke University Museum of Art, as well as in the 10th year Retrospective show of the Durham Blues Festival. In 2007, he was commissioned by the Nasher Mueum of Art at Duke to create a photograph for the cover of their annual report. A few galleries in the United States have represented him over the years, see here.

As an artist Rostagni has always been driven by the desire to touch a mass audience with photographic works that, at first glance, are understandable, yet with study exhibit intriguing depth and complexity. He is totally devoted to delivering second to none prints, offering the best of the marriage between American and French schools of photography. He operates under a professional concept of "Décilleur Professionnel" (which translates into "somebody who professionally forces people to see what they could not or would not want to see," hence the slogan "Urging the World to See."

IIn Oct 2013, his Excellency Mr. François Delattre, Ambassador of France in Washington, presented Rostagni’s photograph Of, By, For (of the 2009 inauguration of President Obama) to the White House, see full story. On Sept 24, 2015, His Excellency ArchBishop Bernardito Auza, Apostolic Nunzio to the United Nations, presented Rostagni‘s photograph More Art, Less Pope to Pope Francis during his visit in Manhattan. Francis took the piece back with him to the Vatican, see full story. In 2000, Leica camera, displayed his wedding photographs at the Photo Plus show in New York. Leica has now started to publish Rostagni’s most iconic photographs on its blog. His sponsors include NEC displays, Museo, Thinktank photo.

His work and ideas have been published by Le Monde and others. He has appeared on Radio France (French Public National Radio) to talk about America and/or photography. His prints are sought by a small, but growing number of visionary photography collectors. He has been a contributor to Photo techniques magazine for over 10 years. In the summer of 2009, Rostagni taught a course of digital Photography at the Institute for American Universities in Aix en Provence.
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