Gregory Crewdson

Exhibition Les Rencontres d’Arles 2023

© Gregory Crewdson

Les Rencontres d’Arles, the world’s premier multi-venue photography festival returns to the southern French town for the 54th time this summer.

─── by Josh Bright, June 30, 2023
  • The myriad of forward-thinking exhibitions includes Wim Wenders’ collection of polaroids, captured during the filming of the 1977 thriller ‘The American Friend’.

    Polaroid photo of Dennis Hopper in a cowboy hat by Wim Wenders
    Wim Wenders. The American Friend himself. Courtesy of the artist / Wim Wenders Foundation.

    Gregory Crewdson’s ‘Eveningside’ presents a trio of documentary projects that provide insight into Middle America, while a captivating exhibition explores the photographic and film works of Agnès Varda, offering a glimpse into her adopted Southern France.

    Black and white photography portrait of a woman by Saul Leiter
    Saul Leiter. Ana, circa 1950. Courtesy Saul Leiter Foundation.

    This year, the festival revolves around the theme of ‘A State of Consciousness’, delving into how artists capture the profound transformations of our times. Addressing the urgency of the climate emergency, the festival has collaborated with the Cité Anthropocène in Lyon, to explore and assess the ecosystems of the local area, working with scientists, researchers, thinkers, and artists who have embarked on voyages of discovery to take stock of the ecological state and present their findings.

    Photo of trees by Sheng-Wen Lo
    Sheng-Wen Lo. Landscape Number One, Watch Out series, France, 2022. Courtesy of the artist.

    One notable exhibition on the subject, ‘Here Near’, brings together three projects by different artists that dissect the layered threats to the ecology of Arles and its surroundings. Mathieu Asselin, Tanja Engelberts, and Sheng-Wen Lo have conducted site-specific research (initiated during their art residency at The Shelter) examining manufacturing, water systems, transportation, and animal life, revealing how the unfolding geologic epoch known as the Anthropocene is reflected in the local ecosystems.

    Photo of a ritual in Ecuador
    Isadora Romero. Mama Josefina Lema leads a ritual of Kuya Raymi. Imbabura, Ecuador, 2020. Courtesy of the artist. 
    Street photography NYC. A man painting a red W sign by Saul Leiter
    Saul Leiter. Untitled. Courtesy Saul Leiter Foundation.

    Other highlights of the festival include ‘Assemblages’, an exploration of the captivating oeuvre of pioneering American photographer Saul Leiter. ‘Splendor of the Artisan’, by Zofia Kulik, features her experimental and manipulated photography that delves into female identity, and the Magnum Foundation presents ‘Fume, Root, Seed’, an exhibition by Ecuadorean photographer Isadora Romero, which examines the alarming loss of seed varieties worldwide due to the erasure of ancestral memory and Indigenous knowledge.

    Portrait photography of young woman in Accra, Ghana by James Barnor
    James Barnor. An assistant at the Sick-Hagemeyer store in Accra, 1971. Courtesy Florence and Damien Bachelot Collection.

    The excellent program of group exhibitions includes ‘Søsterskap – Contemporary Nordic Photography’. Shining a light on a lesser-known photographic scene, the exhibition brings together work that spans from the post-war era to contemporary times, from photographers based in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden to explore the relationship between the welfare state and feminism.

    Portrait photography of a young girl who has had her haircut by Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir.
    Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir. Haircut, 2021-2023. Courtesy of the artist.
    Black & white photography by Agnès Varda. Water jousters in Sète, France, 1952
    Agnès Varda. Water jousters in Sète, vintage silver print, circa 1952. Courtesy of the Estate of Agnès Varda / Rosalie Varda Collection.

    A series of portraits from The Florence and Damien Bachelot Collection will be on display in Musée Réattu (the first French art museum to explore both the heritage and artistic aspects of photography). The work of iconic French and American photographers like Diane Arbus, Saul Leiter, Robert Doisneau, and Brassaï, along with more contemporary images, will be juxtaposed with the museum’s extensive collection of paintings and sculptures, highlighting the medium’s unique, fascinating history.

    Black & white portrait of young boy by Paul Strand
    Paul Strand. Young boy, silver gelatin print, Gondeville, Charente, France, 1951. Courtesy Florence and Damien Bachelot Collection.

    True to its commitment to supporting emerging artists, the festival presents the exhibition ‘Special Attention’, featuring the works of three students from the École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie, along with the Discovery Award Louis Roederer Foundation at the Église des Frères Prêcheurs, overseen by Indian curator Tanvi Mishra.

    Photography by Dolorès Marat. Cowboy in red cinema
    Dolorès Marat. The cow-boy, cinema, avenue des Gobelins, Paris, 1993. Courtesy of the artist.

    Alongside the exhibitions, Les Rencontres d’Arles offers a diverse program of talks, workshops, and portfolio reviews, wherein photographers have the opportunity to have their portfolios assessed by leading industry experts. Furthermore, the France PhotoBook book fair returns to the heart of the festival, with 50 publishers from across the globe, alongside engaging meetings with photographers and authors, adding another dimension to the vibrant atmosphere of the event.

    Les Rencontres d’Arles 2023 poster

    The 54th Rencontres d’Arles runs from July 3 – September 24, 2023.

    For more information and to purchase tickets, visit their website.

    All images © their respective owners