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Celebrating Photography with Les Rencontres d’Arles Special
Celebrating photography with Les Rencontres d'Arles... Photographs have been important to us since they were first ‘invented’. They are more than just images captured on a surface, they are precious memories that we are able to relive again and again. They are unexpected moments captured, that remind us of the magic and randomness of life.
This month, we are showcasing a myriad of photographic talents, ranging from controversial and sexy right through to documentary and commercial styles. To celebrate this photographic month, we are starring Erwin Olaf , Rene and Radka, Kate Barry and many more talented artists.
Indulge in this colourful and impactful visual treat !
They are powerful weapons in showing the world a truth, both beautiful and horrific. A glimpse at a photograph brings up a feeling that we associate with an image - and that feeling is no longer in transient passing, it is now immortal – at least until that image one day withers away.
“I tend to think of the act of photographing, generally speaking, as an adventure. My favourite thing is to go where I’ve never been.”
― Diane Arbus
Les Rencontres d'Arles
Photographs have changed both our world - and our lives - and the importance of photography cannot be emphasised enough – nor can the importance of those who bring us the images. They are both artists and warriors, adventurers, as Diane Arbus stated, and dreamers.
Photographs are life.
“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” ― Susan Sontag
If you think the historical and stunningly quaint Provençal town of Arles on the Rhône river in the south of France, with its winding streets, stone squares and colourful houses look familiar, like they are straight out of a painting, you’d be right because Arles indeed features strongly in Vincent Van Gogh’s iconic and world famous art. But Arles is also host to one of the world’s most incredible annual photography events, Les Recontres d'Arles (the Encounters of Arles).
It’s fair to say that Les Recontres d'Arles is to photography what Cannes is to cinema, and marks Arles out as the international capital of photography with the whole town turning into a veritable open air photo gallery. For over four decades, Arles has become one of the greatest celebrations of this artistic medium, featuring the finest in the world of photography; work, venues, events, talks, people, and the overall celebration of photography.
“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.”
― Ansel Adams
The festival actually had its birth back in 1968 when acclaimed French photographer Lucien Clergue, a giant in creative circles and one of Picasso’s longest standing friends, teamed up with his friend the writer Michel Tournier (winner of Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française) and historian Jean-Maurice Rouquette to create Les Rencontres d’Arles. Clergue’s own work was featured at the event many times from 1971–1973, 1975, 1979, 1982–1986, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 2000, 2003, 2007. And considering Clergue’s photographs have been exhibited in over 100 solo exhibitions worldwide, with noted exhibitions such as 1961, Museum of Modern Art New York, his presence at Les Rencontres d’Arles was a huge mark of credibility and honour.
Today, the photo event sees the whole town of Arles willingly swallowed up by all things photographic; churches, cafés to restaurants and even a lovely train station (and in some cases even private homes) all become part of the magic as makeshift galleries and open welcomes to witness whatever the festival has to offer.
This year the Recontres d'Arles runs from 1st Jul to 22nd Sep 2013 and attendees are estimated at over 84,000 and include art collectors, curators, gallery owners, artists, publishers, photographers, photographic fans and tourists from all over the planet. All will be checking out the often unpublished creative work of over 200 international artists from over 40 countries. And Arles has hosted some of the most important names in modern photography here.
“A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth. ”
― Richard Avedon
Past exhibitions have included work by Willy Ronis, Nan Goldin, David Armstrong, Richard Avedon, Martin Parr, Peter Lindbergh, Baader Meinhof, David La Chapelle, Pierre and Gilles, Josef Sudek, Robert Doisneau, Cecil Beaton, Bruce Weber, Magnum in China, David Hockney, Collection Graham Nash, Annie Leibovitz, Bruce Davidson, William Klein, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Brassaï, Chris Marker... and if that doesn’t have photographic fans already salivating, nothing will.
The theme of this year’s festival is ‘Arles in Black’, focussing on black and white photography which is enjoying something of a renaissance after decades awash with colour.
This year special mentions for exhibitions include award-winning Guy Bourdin’s The Dark Room. Bourdin was world famous for his fashion images for such clients as Vogue,Harper’s Bazaar, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel or Versace. In The Dark Room, images were found a cardboard box after his death, containing a hundred brown paper envelopes, in each of which Bourdin had placed a negative and a corresponding black and white print – and finally the public will be able to see these images in Arles. Another exhibition of note is Turner Prize-winning Wolfgang Tillmans’ Neue Welt (New World) with photographs that explore whether the world can be seen ‘anew’ in an era characterised by a deluge of media images. Tillmans travelled around the world with his camer and stayed in each place just long enough to focus on the visible surface . These images are combined with his Silver works – the title of which was inspired by dirt traces and silver salt stains that remain on the paper when a photographs is developed in a machine that has not been completely cleaned.
But it’s not just the famous who are explored here – new photographers are regularly ‘discovered’ at the festival and its role as a springboard for these artists is surpassed by none.
“I used to think that I could never lose anyone if I photographed them enough. In fact, my pictures show me how much I’ve lost.”
― Nan Goldin
You want to attend, but you’re a Les Rencontres d’Arles Festival virgin? Here’s a brief summary:
The opening week extravaganza runs from July 1st to 7th, but the overall festival will run several weeks til well into September, incorporating more than 60 exhibitions as well as a variety of other events.
Opening week involves photography events such as evening screenings, exhibitions, discussions, and book signings amongst so many other goings on, all held in historic parts of the city, some open especially for the occasion. There are open-air evening screenings at the Théâtre Antique in Arles to showcase the work of a particular photographer or photography specialist, accompanied by concerts or performances – a more perfect evening summer is unimaginable. Night of the Year features a promenade exhibition in which photographers from the press, the agencies or photography collectives display their year’s work.
Rencontres d’Arles awards are a powerful way of discovering new talents at the festival. There are now three annual awards presented: the Prix Découverte (‘Discovery Award’), the Prix du Livre d’Auteur (‘Contemporary Book Award’), and the Prix du Livre Historique (‘Historical Book Award’). The awards are given at the end of the first week, during the closing ceremony, with the winner’s work on display throughout the whole festival.
But the festival isn’t just about looking, but about participating – with over forty courses available. At the Photo Folio Review and Gallery, amateur photographers have the chance to have work looked at and critiqued by experts and maybe displayed for the public. Photo workshops are another unique opportunity for photographers at various stages of expertise to attend hands on classes held by the likes of Guy le Querrec, Antoine d’Agata, Martin Parr and Joan Fontcuberta.
Memorable past highlights of the festival include Christian Lacroix’s 2008 fashion show created for the closing night, and a 2006 Patti Smith concert which celebrated the 20th birthday of the Vu Agency – a night people still talk about – so the events going on at Arles enticingly cross many creative boundaries and there’s something for everyone.
Go online here to buy a festival pass that allows admission to all the exhibitions, workshops and lectures. Tickets cost a very reasonable 36 euros and covers the whole time the event, from July 1st to September 22nd.
This year, some of the photographers featured include Guy Bourdin (a festival favourite), Hiroshi Sugimoto, Sergio Larrain, Wolfgang Tillmans, Xavier Barral, Peter Hugo.
“A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people.”
― Annie Leibovitz
The importance of festivals like Les Rencontres d’Arles rise far beyond the exhibits and prizes and business and showcasing of photography. Festivals like this are havens for those of us who believe in the beauty of art, of photography, to not just capture a moment, but to capture the sacredness of life itself.
Photographs are one of the most powerful tools we have at our hands to make a difference and to transcend. When we glance at a photograph, we are transported to another world, another time, another emotion. And how fitting that Arles was the stomping ground of Van Gogh, an artist whose work is famous for its rough beauty and emotional honesty – and how fitting that after years of work and thousands upon thousands of drawings and paintings, it was only when he moved to Arles that his work finally came to life, with the bright and life-affirming colours for which Van Gogh, after years in the dark and unnoticed, finally became world renowned for.
"Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well."
- Vincent Van Gogh
There is creative magic in the air in this beautiful French town, it inspires one to write, to paint and to photograph. Van Gogh felt it – and every visitor to Arles this year will feel it too.
Creative Mapping © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Photography © Copyright: Jack English, Erwin Olaf, Irving Penn, Rene and Radka, Louis Teran ( Iris )