Les rencontres d'Arles 200940 years of disruption
Regulars walk around blasé about the whole event, treating it more as a social happening but it's an eye opener for a first timer! Attracting professionals and amateurs and increasingly getting worldwide attention (no longer just the French and the Americans), this year's 40th anniversary of the international photography festival in Arles looks back to the past. It gives an insight into how this event came to life "Rencontres", and also celebrates the photographers that "disrupted" the accepted standards of their time "Ruptures" over the past 40 years.
The festival brings together big photographic names with the unknown and aspiring seeking exposure. Sixty exhibitions, screenings and awards fill the historical structures and former industrial buildings of this usually quiet little town of Arles whose population grows by at least a fifth during the opening week. The clicks of released shutters mingle with the rhythmic sound of crickets just as visitors mix with the Arletans.
You can spend these few days mingling with the locals in the smaller galleries offering most often a glass of Rosé and some tapenade on small toasts or if you're more curious get the chance to have close-up contact with photographic icons during talks and book signings washed down with more sophisticated nibbles and a glass of bubbly, hic!
The guest curator, Nan Goldin returns to this setting this year with her The Ballad of Sexual Dependency whose first French screening was in Arles in 1987. This time around Goldin also curates 13 photographers whose works touch on the same low light but sharp subject matter - drugs, alcohol, love scenes (sex) - though these days nothing that most of us haven't seen before. A contrast with Willy Ronis's retrospective in the gothic St. Anne's church which is easy on the eye and traditional in its time. Both depict social realities but very different on the eyebrow raising scale.
Duane Michels' images are displayed as photo stories and his one-line narratives are thought provoking. He does not leave the image to say a thousand words but handwrites a clue to a line of thought pleasing the crowd it seems with its satire and irony. A photograph of Magritte in the first room is particularly charming and the back room blunt and to the point.
You will find Brian Griffin, known for one of the most important institutional photographic collections in the UK, The Tunnel, in the massive old train yard. His images of the Reykjavik Energy company "The Water People" comprise distorted portraits taken through water. Martin Parr's flashy colourful images exude money and extravagance. Having curated the show a couple of years ago he comes back with his series "Luxury".
There are tributes to the Rencontres founder, Lucien Clergue, the editor and publisher, Robert Delpire, Jean-Claude Lemagny and Roni Horn.
The Discovery Award goes to a photographer who has recently been discovered internationally or who has such potential and is voted by photography professionals during the opening week : to mention a few participating, Sean Lee, with his images of the young transsexual, Shauna (presented by Christian Caujolle), Véronique Ellena's still life (presented by Christian Lacroix)…
What stood out? For those looking for the "disruptive", head for one of Nan's guests - Leigh Ledare - and it will feel as if you are intruding on the intimate exploration of his mother's sexuality. The series of photographs "Without Sanctuary" depicting the brutal lynching of black men, is equally as unexpected, but apt in a time of the first black American president.
The Voies Off alternative fair offers a chance for younger photographers. Joël Tettamanti's scenes of New York city, scale models of Manhatten, and eye catching backlit transparencies concealing light boxes are interesting (where). The list goes so and you'll find a complete programme on www.rencontresdarles.com. So many images to see can get blurry in the heat, so using the plan and the catalogue helps you focus. Running until 13th September the festival expects to attract 60 000 visitors.
Arles, september 2009
Arles 2009, 40 ans de rencontres, 40 ans de ruptures
read more : 40èmes Rencontres Internationales de Photographie d'Arles
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