Since 1970, the Festival has become a mainstay in the world of photography. Bringing together over 140,000 visitors last year, the Rencontres de la photographie d’Arles is a must-see international cultural event. We have handpicked a selection of works featured in this anniversary edition of the festival.
Fighting oppression: The “impatient bodies” of East-German photography
This year will also see the anniversary of a historical turning point: the fall of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago. What do we know about East German photography of the 1980s? An exhibition looks back on photographers of the Eastern block through the prism of the body: Bodies under the totalitarian yoke; bodies capable of standing up to oppression; bodies that set themselves free… Photographers such as Sibylle Bergemann, York der Knoefel, and Barbara Metselaar Berhold seek human imprints in the repressive, authoritarian machine. The exhibition takes us on a journey across the GDR between 1980 and 1989, where citizens found different ways of countering subjugation.
Beneath a meteor shower: Marina Gadonneix’s Phénomènes
Since 2014, Marina Gadonneix has been installing her camera at the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), in a lab devoted to reconstructions of natural phenomena, such as lightning, hurricanes, avalanches, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, as well as shooting stars, meteorites, and colliding black holes… In her stunning tableaus, the photographer captures what generally eludes the human eye: a sort of miniature theater of the falling sky. She offers above all a reflection on observed reality and reconstructed fiction in a photographic dialog that calls on the limits of the visible.
Children’s little theatre: A look back at Helen Levitt
A retrospective is devoted to the work of the American pioneer of street photography, Helen Levitt (1913–2009). In the 1930s, she walked around low-income neighborhoods of New York, such as East Harlem (“El Barrio”) and the Lower East Side. She captured the life of the city streets and sidewalk humor. She frequently portrayed children hanging around, playing, putting on their little shows. With no fewer than 130 images, many of which are being shown in Arles for the first time, this retrospective is a beautiful tribute paid to a photographer who documented New York youth with unparalleled skill. Levitt immortalized street kids inhabiting their make-believe worlds, playing cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians…
Outside Paris—the Zone
From the mid-nineteenth until the early twentieth century, the outskirts of Paris were referred to as the “Zone.” This term designated a strip of land about 34 kilometers wide occupied by fortifications built around the city in 1844 and populated by the poorest of the poor. Photographers such as Eugene Atget and Germaine Krull have documented this reality: slums at the gates of the City of Lights, piles of scrap metal where children rummaged for trinkets to sell, hovels sitting on top of Parisian rubbish… Comprising numerous photographs of anonymous subjects assembled by the Galerie Lumière des roses, this exhibition shows a little-known facet of Paris and its suburbs.
An avant-garde journal, Variétés
A must-see event in this year’s program of the Rencontres, this exhibition rehabilitates a forgotten magazine that published many renowned photographers: Bérénice Abbott, Germaine Krull, Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy, to name a few… This journal, entitled Variétés, is the brainchild of a Belgian art critic, collector, and gallery owner, Paul-Gustave Van Hecke, who promoted Belgian and international avant-garde art between the wars. His photography collection was close to being destroyed, and it’s a miracle it has survived. The exhibition will feature some 200 vintage prints.
The black sun of cathedrals: Laurence Aëgerter
The photographer has created stunning images based on a 1950s publication, Cathédrales et églises de France. She photographed each image several times, recording the passage of the sun over the façade until the page is overshadowed and rendered invisible. In her series Les Cathédrales hermétiques, Laurence Aërteger continued the project with the interiors of three churches: the Roman cathedral in Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, the Gothic cathedral in Coutances, and the Church of Saint Joan of Arc in Nice. She has produced an elegant play of light and shadow around national monuments in a photographic quest that reinvents camera obscura.
A double anniversary: Clergue & Weston
The first edition of the Festival, in July 1970, devoted an exhibition to the work of Edward Weston. On the 50th anniversary of the Rencontres de la photographie d’Arles, the original exhibition is going to be reconstituted. It will be expanded to include the photographs of Lucien Clergue, a co-founder of the Festival (alongside Michel Tournier and Jean-Maurice Rouquette). This is a great excuse for a twofold celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Festival.
By Jean-Baptiste Gauvin
Les Rencontres de la photographie d'Arles
July 1 - September 22, 2019