Summer starts when Les Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles starts, at least for photographers. I’ve been to Arles the first week of the festival. It’s always a nice moment to meet friends and professionals and to understand, in a way, what’s happening in the European photography and in the world. Infact it’s always interesting to see the masters of photography like Robert Frank, Paul Graham, Raymond Depardon, William Wegman, Renè Burri and others. It’s true, is too easy to say that the works of masters are the best but, as always, I try to find new “emergent” masters. Maybe the new generation like Paolo Verzone, Feng Li, Gregor Sailer or Caimi/Piccini (for this festival edition) could be the new ones?. Anyway, it was fantastic to see the contact sheets of “the Americans” of Robert Frank and his vintage prints. The notes about the first trip of Renè Burri in Egypt, a mix of photos and drawings. The lovely sequences by Paul Graham, the portraits and the editing. The big publishing work by Robert Delpire. Thanks Masters! I think its important to look back in the past to understand and find our way to the future, as a man and a photographer. Let’s start with this summer 2018! Good light!
After traveling a hole day, flying from Berlin to Rome, then from Rome to Marseille and catching a train with one hour delay from Marseille to Arles, I landed directly in the Tambourine bar.
My baggage still on the ground, while drinking some pastis I meet some friends and pinpoint some photographers.
I think it is the end of my day, ready to go to sleep, but I’m wrong. Everybody here is coming from a photo marathon all day long, so they are as tired as me, if not even more. The pastis let the evening be the best moment to refresh our minds.
Arles is a little and romantic town in the south of France and also the perfect scenario for a photography festival, where people meet for that common passion.
The usually hot weather doesn’t stop anyone from going around to the exhibitions, talks and bookshops and sometimes wind helps making them even go to the open air events. Beautiful museums and galleries still are the fresher places to go.
So, the atmosphere is also inviting for any tourist who wish to stay and enjoy the festival whereas for the experts the paradise of opportunities is just beginning.
Starting from the portfolio reviews, the festival offers you many activities including your own body of work as well as you as a photographer person.
It brings you to bump into well-known photographers along the street, in a public speech or at the bar in a much more friendly situation.
This year the festival has given space to many american stories, the first one I saw is „the whiteness of the whale” of Paul Graham exhibit at the église des frères prêcheurs. His photos seem like are „walking” in the church, following the sequences of the images, the observer feels himself in the very streets of the America which are pictured from the photographer.
I was delighted with the photos of the two big names in the Espace Van Gogh: Robert Frank and Raymond Depardon. The space hosts at the wide perspective of Frank’s work, from his very beginning in the youth ‘till his famous project „ The Americans”, is shown at the ground floor. The most interesting thing here to see is the evolution of the artist’s photography during his life and even more attractive are the marked contact sheets. They are in the middle of the room under a glass case, as if they were a piece of art, and they really are.
In the first floor the exhibition continues with the work of Depardon. The room is a little bit smaller than the other one and the photos show historical events and journeys across America. After seeing Robert Frank the impact here is not so strong, but the landscapes bigger prints are extraordinary.
Last but not least, the Paul Fusco show on America, with the brilliant and touching work “Funeral Train”, a tribute to Robert F. Kennedy. His photos portray the americans waving goodbye to the body of J.F.K., in a train which crossed the country just to receive people’s greetings. This moving work of Fusco not only shows how many people believed in a better America but also the delicate and deep construction of a society. A true research of people’s way of life.
It is already 2pm when I decide to eat something and get more energies for my personal photo-marathon. Where to go? The town is obviously full of traps and touristic restaurants. Walking in the streets the sun is hitting, but thanks god, the coming evening brings its wind and everybody feels better. I decide to eat a simple sandwich.
In front of the place where I eat there is the Salle Henri-comte with the exhibition of René Burri. I go see it and get surprised with what I see. I know the works of Burri in Brazil or the famous photo of Che Guevara or his reportages, but I had never seen this photos before. The title is „The imaginary pyramids”, he plays with the real and imagined pyramids during his trip to Egypt and the exhibition shows us a particularly perspective of this journey. It’s like a personal diary with paper pages, drawings and photos, of course. So happy to see such a different project from him.
Checking the program, the exhibition of Robert Delpire catches my attention. At the Caves du Méjan there is a journey through the history of photography. It is a tribute to the creator and director of the Photo Poche. Unmissable.
To refresh my mind, I decide to go to Cosmos, the open air bookshop. Here is where many publishing houses show and sell their books. Different tables stand under a white marquise to protect themselves, but mostly to protect the books, from the sun. That’s the paradise of photographic books, everything you are looking for, you will find it here, from Luigi Ghirri to JH Engstrom, from the less known japanese photographers to the most famous ones.
It’s already 9pm, I was wandering around and a friend of mine passes running and seeing me she says: „what are you doing here? Let’s go to the Théatre Antique there is the Live magazine and it starts at 10pm, run!”. I started to run with her.
The Théatre Antique is a magic place, at that time of the evening, it becomes even more magic. The sky is blue, pink and orange at the same time and everybody is excited to be there, taking their own sit in this magnificent amphitheater. The Live Magazine is a brilliant idea to expose photographic works, it is like a magazine but rather than reading it you look at it. Photographers read their projects on stage while their photos are projected on a big screen in the background and a little band plays a soft song. Nothing better to end the day.
At 12pm I’m ready to go sleep and I leave the theatre with some friends, we all head towards the main square, we pass in front of the Tambourine and… why not, let’s drink the last pastis, the night just begun!
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