Paribartana Mohanty

Exhibition Les Rencontres d’Arles 2024

© Paribartana Mohanty

Les Rencontres d’Arles, the world’s most prestigious multi-venue photography festival, returns to the southern French town for its 55th edition this summer.

─── by Josh Bright, June 3, 2024
  • The 2024 program gives pride of place to one of the most important photographers of the last century, Mary Ellen Mark. The American photographer spent much of her remarkable five-decade-long career capturing those on society’s peripheries with honesty, sensitivity and compassion.

    Color portrait photography by Mary Ellen Mark. Indian woman with beads in her mouth
    Mary Ellen Mark. Rekha with beads in her mouth, Falkland Road, Mumbai, India, 1978. Courtesy of The Mary Ellen Mark Foundation / Howard Greenberg Gallery.

    From sex workers in Mumbai, to patients at an Oregon mental institution, and teenagers living on the streets of Seattle – which culminated in the acclaimed book STREETWISE – she captured the personalities of those she photographed, emphasizing their humanity to engender empathy and amity within the viewer.

    Black & white photo of a car driving through snow
    Jean-Claude Gautrand. Paris – Pajol-Riquet crossroad, 1957. Courtesy of the artist.

    Co-organized by the C/O Berlin Foundation and the Mary Ellen Mark Foundation, ‘Encounters,’ the first major global retrospective of Mark’s work, will take up the entire first floor of the Espace Van Gogh. This exhibition showcases her remarkable oeuvre, which continues to influence, inspire, and spark conversation nearly a decade after her passing.

    Photo of a beach in France.
    Untitled. Julia Gat. 2024

    Other Les Rencontres d’Arles 2024 highlights include ‘Journey to the Center’ by Cristina De Middel, where the Spanish photographer draws inspiration from the Neo-romantic literature of iconic French writer Jules Gabriel Verne to tell the complex story of migration from southern Mexico to Felicity, a small town in California, challenging simplified and reductive media narratives.

    Black & white street photography by Lee Friedlander
    Courtesy of Lee Friedlander / Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco and Luhring Augustine, New York City.

    In the words of Patrick de Carolis, Mayor of Arles and President of the Agglomération Arles Crau Camargue Montagnette, the program will once again turn Arles into a mirror of the world, ‘capturing the often-painful pulse of a planet that destroys as much as it gives birth to women, men, and hope’.

    Portait photography by Alassan Diawara. Mother and daughter
    Alassan Diawara. Untitled, 2023. Courtesy of the artist / ADAGP, Paris

    One particular part of the world under the spotlight at this year’s event is Japan, a nation with a rich photographic heritage. ‘I’m So Happy You Are Here,’ organized by Aperture, highlights the importance of Japanese women photographers over the last 70 years. 

    Photo of a woman in a lake looking out over mountains by Cristina De Middel
    Cristina De Middel. An Obstacle in the Way. Courtesy of the artist/Magnum Photos.

    ‘Reflection – 11/03/11 Japanese Photographers Facing the Cataclysm’ presents images captured in response to the events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following the tsunami and earthquake in 2011. Captured in the immediate aftermath and during subsequent visits over the years, these images document the ongoing effects of devastation, contamination, and the process of reconstruction and rehabilitation, while shedding light on Japan’s historical past and the contemporary social structures that have led to issues of disparity and discrimination endured by the people in the disaster-affected region.

    Photo of a protest in Hong Kong by Thaddé Comar
    Thaddé Comar. 'How Was Your Dream'. Courtesy of the artist.

    Meanwhile, Uraguchi Kusukazu’s stunning depictions of ‘Ama’ female divers who have been exploring the depths of Japan’s coastal waters (without oxygen) for 2000 years, will also be on display, featuring many unseen images from his archives.

    Black & white photo of underwater female diver in Japan by Uraguchi Kusukazu
    Uraguchi Kusukazu. Underwater, 1965. Courtesy of Uraguchi Nozomu
    Faded black & white photo of a Japanese carpenter by Suzuki Mayumi
    Suzuki Mayumi. Ship carpenter #09, #14, #19, Restored after damage from the tsunami in 2011.

    The unique light of Arles has long attracted great artists, with Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent Van Gogh just some of the names who found inspiration in the Provencal city. This legacy continues this year with the exhibition ‘Finir en Beauté’ by French artist Sophie Calle, who rediscovered the unique light and shadow of the underground Roman Cryptoporticus site when it was occupied by Juliette Agnel’s exhibition during last year’s Les Rencontres d’Arles and decided to propose her project for this year’s festival.

    Color landscape photography by Laurent Montaron. River surrounded by trees and grass
    Laurent Montaron. Le Caÿstre, 2024. Courtesy of the artist.

    Alongside the exhibitions, Les Rencontres d’Arles offers a diverse program of talks, screenings, workshops, and portfolio reviews, providing photographers with opportunities to have their work assessed by leading industry experts.

    The Arles Books Fair, organized by France PhotoBook, returns to the heart of the festival from July 2-6 at the École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie and the Collège Saint-Charles, featuring around 50 publishers and a program of meetings with photographers and authors.

    Les Rencontres d’Arles 2024

    The 55th Rencontres d’Arles runs from July 1 – September 29, 2024.

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

    All images © their respective owners