Les Rencontres de la Photographie, running from July 4—September 25 in Arles, France, is an occasion for photo lovers to gather and experience an entire city’s dedication to the craft. On its 47th edition, the festival features more than 40 exhibitions, and gives photographers and curators the opportunity to engage in a multi-platform conversation with both local and international visitors.
Arles is animated all summer long with visits, viewings, debates, talks, and more. The city also highlights its year-around commitment to culture—specifically photography—through an involvement in the practice of photography and education in the art of viewing.
The originality of Les Rencontres lies in its diverse locations: visitors can enter churches, museums, gardens, galleries, schools, as well as historical spaces open exclusively for the occasion. The Parc des Ateliers, an old railway repair industrial complex, is where the largest part of the exhibitions are grouped. It is also where the LUMA Foundation will open a new experimental contemporary art center (planned for 2018), which will feature a tower designed by Frank Gehry, and various buildings developed by Selldorf Architects.
Whitewall was on location to share the exhibitions we particularly enjoyed.
1. Don McCullin: Looking Beyong The Edge, at Eglise Sainte Anne
This exhibition reminds visitors of McCullin’s incomparable talent in capturing life, a change from the usual war reportage for which he is mainly recognized. The selection features photographs from his early years in London, and his extended coverage of the day-to-day activities in cities like Liverpool and Bristol in the ‘70s. Both echo the hardship McCullin went through facing poverty while growing up. Capturing striking portraits of the homeless, or innocent moments shared by kids on the streets, McCullin seems to have found an escape to the horror of war coverage, and excels as a photographer of life.
2. William Kentridge: More Sweetly Play The Dance (2015), at Atelier de la Formation
The LUMA Foundation brings us a playful and catchy installation by the South African artist. Running across three walls, eight connected screens immerse visitors in a procession of various silhouettes parading to the beat of a marching band anthem. This is a hypnotizing experience not to miss.
3. Systematically Open?, at Atelier de Mécanique
Curated by Walead Beshty, Elad Lassry, Zanele Muholi, and Collier Schorr, this exhibition focuses on new techniques in contemporary image making. Pushing the boundaries of representation, artists explore new ways of presenting photographs. Muholi’s works are among the most striking, touching upon both personal and artistic representation of lesbian and gay identities in her country of South Africa.
4. Katerina Jebb: Deus Ex Machina, at Musée Réattu
Katerina Jebb’s work around decomposition and recomposition finds a fitting space to fully reach its audience. The location (an old priory that now belongs to the Musée Réattu) makes it a quasi spiritual journey. The museum itself shows an impressive collection with notable pieces by Picasso and more, as well as gorgeous views on the Rhône from various rooms.
5. Augustin Rebetez: Musée Carton, at Magasin Electrique
The young Swiss artist brings his wild creativity to Arles, creating an entirely alternative universe where visitors are invited to step into (figuratively and literally as the exhibition takes form as a “cardboard museum”). His approach to photography and image creation never ceases to bring surprise and delight to the viewer.