Born of third generation Madagascan French immigrants, and having grown up in Kenya, much of Bonn’s work is based in sub-Saharan Africa. Childhood friend and colleague of the late war photographer, Dan Eldon, he first picked up a camera at the age of 15, whereupon it became the conduit through which he experienced the world, those early teenage photographic projects laying the foundations for a career that has served as ‘a ticket into a better understanding of the world and human beings.’
Though easier to see in retrospect than at the time, it was this need to understand that drove him first to Montreal University, where he studied International Politics and Economics, and graduating in Photojournalism from to the International Centre of Photography in New York. Armed with a clear-eyed knowledge of how the world works, the means with which to depict it, and with a love for life in its many forms, Bonn would return to Africa – Kenya, Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Somalia - time and again, his photographs appearing in Vanity Fair Magazine, for which is a contributor, and in the likes of the New Yorker, the Guardian and many others.
And not only in traditional magazine based outlets. As his reputation has grown, so his repertoire, the forms and styles with which he creates and communicates. He is the author of three photography books - his monograph Mal d’Afrique: A Journey into New and Old Africa, his upcoming book: Mosquito Coast: from Maputo to Mogadishu and his collaboration with Edward Behr on Peter Beard: Scrapbooks from Africa and Beyond. Silent Lives is a moving photographic essay charting the seemingly invisible life of the black Kenyan servant. He was cameraman on Kyra Thompson’s Emmy nominated documentary Dying to Tell a Story, which examines the life and death of Dan Eldon, and by extension, the war photographer in general. He directed a film version of Scrapbooks from Africa for French TV Channel Canal +, and has directed a clutch of short documentaries for CNN’s Inside Africa. It’s an oeuvre as wide as it is deep, and though spanning decades, and composed of many different parts, taken collectively, its message is always the same: it asks simply that we look well; feel deep; and act accordingly.
Crucially, Bonn’s work - be it photographing a royal wedding in Jodhpur, a Je suis Charlie piece of graffiti, a people devastated by the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army, or a Parisian catwalk model – is informed, moulded and inspired by his relationship with Africa. As well as the place of his childhood, and therefore of all his past dreams, his memories and his forgetting, it is where he has gained and lost everything, the beauty and ugliness of the Africa he has known reflected in a life that has seen the world for what it truly is. Bonn loves this Africa, urgently, thoughtfully, and unflinchingly. It sits in or behind or in front of every photograph he takes, images of unrelenting care, of the human and its environment, of a life demanding immediate change.