Les Rencontres d’Arles, the world’s premier multi-venue photography festival returns to the southern French town for the 54th time this summer.
The myriad of forward-thinking exhibitions includes Wim Wenders’ collection of polaroids, captured during the filming of the 1977 thriller ‘The American Friend’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 54th Rencontres d’Arles runs from July 3 – September 24, 2023.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit their website.
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