An exchange between three creators launched the Rencontres de la photographie in Arles precisely fifty years ago. This brainchild of the historian Jean-Maurice Rouquette, the writer Michel Tournier, and the photographer Lucien Clergue grew to surprising proportions until it became a must-see event in world photography. The exhibition Toute une Histoire [The Whole Story] documents the rise of the festival. We discover archival photographs taken by those involved in the Festival and showing the atmosphere of the early days. There is also news footage originally aired at one o’clock on July 7, 1981: the first live coverage to be shot during the Rencontres d’Arles. We can also read an article penned by Michel Tournier, in which he defends the use of color in photography, still a rarity at the time.
The main attraction of the exhibition is the imposing collection of the Rencontres d’Arles. As soon as we set foot in the Église des Trinitaires we find ourselves face to face with Denis Brihat’s sublime Tulipe noire. A little further down, we encounter Lucien Clergue’s Arlequin, next to the portrait of a magnificent woman taken by Édouard Boubat in Mexico. Photographers such as Martine Franck, Bernard Plossu, and Robert Doisneau are featured alongside Michael Wolf, François Halard, and Mathieu Pernot. It is impossible for such a retrospective to retrace all 1,234 exhibitions mounted since the launch of the Festival, but it offers a selection of some fine traces that these exhibitions left behind.
One wall showcases all the posters created for the Rencontres d’Arles and gives an idea of their incredible diversity: some are sober and classical in design, others explode with color and feature humorous drawings. This diversity reflects the spirit of the Festival which had no fewer than 26 artistic directors over the years!
By Jean-Baptiste Gauvin
Toute une histoire! Arles a 50 ans. La collection des Rencontres
July 1 to September 22, 2019
Église des Trinitaires, Arles