The international photojournalism festival in Perpignan is back in full swing after a 2020 edition truncated by the pandemic. Visitors have once again taken over the exhibition spaces, and the photographers are also there to give tours, lectures and interviews. The projections of the best visual stories in outdoor screening are also back.
Obviously, some foreign photographers could not make the trip because of the sanitary measures still in force. But Perpignan vibrates again to the rhythm of the news and the upheavals of the world. The Armenian nightmare, with the precious work of Stéphane Agoudjian, the popular uprising in Burma covered by a photographer who remained anonymous for his safety, the double punishment of refugees during the health crisis by the Myop agency… All these photojournalists remind us through the strength of their images that the virus has not stopped conflicts, displacement of populations or natural disasters.
Tribute to Danish Siddiqui
The reunion would have been ideal if this edition had not been mourned by a tragedy. Danish Siddiqui was happy to travel to Perpignan and present his work on the health crisis in India. The Indian photojournalist was killed last July in Afghanistan while covering the Taliban offensive. His photos in India on display show his total commitment to his profession as a visual reporter. “A news photo is about capturing the moment to tell a story. But it must also respect the subject,” he said of his photos taken in New Delhi to document the Covid epidemic, an “invisible enemy”.
Éric Bouvet: 40 years surveying the world
Respecting the dignity of photographed people is the line of conduct applied by Eric Bouvet throughout his career. The 60-year-old photographer exhibits a selection of the best images he shot for new organizations during the last 40 years. From Afghanistan, covered since the early 1980s with the Gamma agency, to the “Yellow Vests” movement, Éric Bouvet has traveled the world to cover the major events of our recent history. His pictures of Kabul are terribly topical, for instance, that of a woman in a burqa alone in the middle of the ruins, taken in 2001.
There is a strange impression that history is repeating itself, that the images are similar, 20 years later. Bouvet’s photos of Somalia and Chechnya plunge us into the unfathomable. A terrible vision of famine: a mother tries to breastfeed her newborn, but whose chest has only skin left. Sometimes, horror will prevent Eric Bouvet from pressing the shutter release. “Censorship as a banner, the lens at half-mast. However, he still continues today to bear witness, “in the service of the strict documentation of humanity.”
Syria: a decade of war
For 10 years, they too have tirelessly covered the agony of their country. Sixteen Syrian photographers are honored by Agence France Presse (AFP) in a major retrospective that looks back on this decade of war in Syria. Young Syrians who had never touched a camera before the beginning of the conflict. It remains perhaps the most striking image, that of Aeref Watad, of this child leaning on a pile of rusty shells, his eyes filled with anger and suffering. It was taken in Idlib Province in March 2021.
A shaky republican ideal
There are series that hold the attention, that make people react. This one is one of them. Let’s underline the wonderful eye of Guillaume Herbaut. His work on the French Fifth Republic, “La Ve”, is a portrait full of irony and mischief of a country that is wavering, affected by the economic crisis, the “Yellow Vests” movements, the terrorist threat and a trembling republican ideal. Can institutions provide solutions to the crises that France is going through? That is the question his work asks. A photo shows a senator, slumped in his seat, snoozing during a question session with the government, provides an answer. A tasty detail: a photo of De Gaulle covers the back of this senator’s cell phone. The poor general would never recover.
Gun bless America!
Considering the reaction of the spectators in the exhibition room, the work of the Italian Gabriele Galimberti does not leave indifferent either. He had already done it by photographing the children of the world surrounded by their toys. He is doing it again for National Geographic, but this time with gun enthusiasts in the United States. Gabriele Galimberti knows the country well. This work is based on a statistic: there are more guns owned by individuals than inhabitants in the United States. However, her acquaintances do not have any guns in their homes. “But then, who owns all these guns? Through social networks, gun shops, shooting clubs, he manages to find those Americans who have more than 50 guns in their homes. “The Ameriguns” is a series with a mind-blowing mise-en-scene.
Alone, in couple, in family, of all ages, these citizens firmly attached to the second amendment of the American Constitution, pose proudly in the middle of insane collections of guns (from the key gun to the flamethrower), arranged geometrically. A delirious, not to say frightening, portrait of the gun culture in the land of excess. Perhaps we’d rather end with another face of America: David Burnett’s touching portraits of sports seniors. Field hockey players of 95 years old who force the respect. Wrinkles but above all smiles. A beautiful human story and a note of hope in a world that often doesn’t go round.
On Saturday, September 4, the traditional professional week ended with the Visa award ceremony. This was a first at Visa pour l’Image: the festival awarded the News Visa d’Or to a photographer who remained anonymous for security reasons, for his work on the “spring revolution” in Burma. “When I learned that a coup had just taken place in Burma on February 1, it was obvious to call on him, he is probably the best photographer in the country,” said Mikko Takkunen, photo editor for Asia at The New York Times, who has worked with the Burmese photographer for years. “Keeping a photographer anonymous is not a decision we take lightly, and it is always linked to the safety of our collaborators, which is our priority.”
During this 33rd edition, the festival also wished to pay tribute to the famous Franco-Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, by awarding him the Figaro Magazine‘s Honorary Visa d’Or. “It is a great pleasure and honor,” said the photographer, now 77 years old. A prize that rewards a career spent documenting the condition of the poorest and the degradation of their environment.
Par Michaël Naulin
Michaël Naulin is a journalist based in Paris. He is above all passionate about photography and more particularly photojournalism.
Festival Visa pour l’image de Perpignan, open every day until September 12, then September 18-19 and 25-26, 2021. Free admission.