Les Rencontres de la Photographie 2015 – Arles
Music is not the only art which can have numerous festivals all over the world – visual arts have their own too. And that is the case for photography for which the little city Arles, located in Camargue, Southern France holds a very important event every summer for this particular medium. The rencontres de la photographie (Meetings of Photography) are an internationally known big festival on the art of photography founded in 1970 and which gave the city this status of capital of the photo; besides, the show is linked with the ENSP, the National Superior School of Photography of the city, considered to be the best one in the country.
This year’s edition gathers photographers from all over the world, working on this medium by sometimes relating it to other arts like cinema, music and architecture – “where we don’t expect it”. All the works are unheard of and exhibited all over the city, in countless exhibition places like churches, market buildings, studios or museums. Among the 35 shows in the city, we can find some reinterpretations of some legends of photography like the Americans Stephen Shore and Walker Evans, some new approaches to documentary – especially a very powerful one on the tax havens, or other out of the ordinary exhibits like photos of disc sleeves or works photographers revisited with music by singers and musicians.
The 2015 edition of the festival was the first time I went, and I really haven’t been disappointed. I had heard of it for years before but never got the opportunity to go, and as I decided to finally do so this year, I can definitely say I’ll be back for the 2016 festival.
I did not know well any of the artists that were on show this year, but got to discover many great works and names that I will be more interested in from now on. My favourite exhibition of the Rencontres is certainly the one of Toon Michiels, a Dutch photographer who went chasing the neon signs in the United States in 1970, and who mainly in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada photographed all kind of huge signs that are to be found on the side of the road by day or by night. This results in a large display of the 70s American motels, casinos or gas stations and their insertion in the landscape. Although very simple, I thought the idea was great to take a closer look at these big colourful panels, which may be common in America but are way less so for other cultures and countries. On top of the absolutely wonderful aesthetic of the images, super colourful and well composed, and the beautiful old American cars that are to be seen on some photos, it is funny to notice the tiny details on the panels that reflected the advancement of technology at the time : we often get to see “colour tv” on the signs as if this was extraordinary and of course the word “wifi” was far from already existing.
The 2015 edition of the Rencontres d’Arles seems to be like every year quite a success again, and I would definitely recommend going if you happen to be around until mid-September; otherwise, this popular festival will come back, hopefully better and better, every summer in Camargue.
Les rencontres de la photographie, Arles, is available from the 6th of July to the 20th of September 2015. Find the English website here.