No hats or light dresses for the opening of the Rencontres d’Arles on Sunday July 4, but oilskins and boots: despite the rain, the photo exhibitions were full for the return of the festival canceled in 2020 due to the crisis sanitary.
On the great Place de la République, in the old center of the city of Bouches-du-Rhône, visitors flocked as soon as the exhibitions opened, around ten o’clock. “There are a little less people than usual in the streets”, notes Alexis Gregorat, at the Rencontres communication, “but there are several factors: the rain, and the fact that for the first time we open on a Sunday and not a Monday. “
At the Sainte-Anne church, many are those who descend from a “bicycle-taxi” borrowed from the station under downpours. From the gray of the street, they land in the colorful universe of the exhibition New Black Vanguard : photos, mostly fashion, of black people taken by blacks, pictures highlighted by ocher, yellow and blue walls.
“I especially liked the diversity of the concept of beauty in this exhibition”, told AFP Francesca Fornara, an Italian, who judges “very important, especially in Trump’s America in which these photos were taken, this concern to make black artists work “.
At the Muséon Arlaten, closed for several years and which reopened for the occasion, a queue was formed for a more classic exhibition around the work of Sabine Weiss, 97 years old. Black and white shots, from the 1950s to today, mostly street scenes, portraits of child beggars or street vendors, alley cats and popular balls.
Clémentine Ponsonnet, 40, who came from Montpellier for a festival that she often attends, comes out enchanted. “It’s interesting to see a lifetime of photographer, I found it more interesting than the exhibition of emerging artists in the Church of the Preachers, a little frustrating.”
Directly opposite, the festival-goers, many of whom themselves carry a camera slung over their shoulder, dive into a completely different universe: that of the Sudanese revolution, photographed and experienced by young artists who mainly disseminated their photos on social networks.
For the first time directed by the German Christoph Wiesner, coming from contemporary art, the festival also explores more experimental forms, such as Pigment changes by visual artist Almudena Romero. In an ecological approach, the artist used plant materials such as watercress to print old negatives of family photos.
The festival also explored new places for this edition of “renewal”, like the Summer Garden, below the ancient theater. Here, the exhibition is free, and its visitors often arrived there by chance.
In front of the human-height prints of Stéphan Gladieu, the public is amused. The French photographer, present to wipe the soaked panels, shot the portrait of dozens of North Koreans, often with their family, at the swimming pool or at the office, playing with the codes of Communist propaganda.
For Paulina Wyskowska, a Polish woman on family vacation in the Camargue, it’s a nice surprise: “We are camping and since it is raining we thought we were going to visit a city, but we weren’t expecting this festival.” These tourists find much in common between the aesthetics of these photos and that “from Communist Poland in the 1970s”. “It’s crazy, it’s like time has stood still”, comments Paulina. The Rencontres d’Arles festival is held from July 4 to September 26.