Arles simply had to be the core of these 39th Rencontres, at the city’s beating heart, in the Archbishop’s Palace. My inside knowledge is too scant to helpfully retrace the strands of history that make this city an heir to Talbot, Niepce and company. Nor could I be some ideal VCR and ‘rewind’ the film of this idyll, which must keep its mysteries. I simply wanted to amass the city’s personal and local, if not intimate, booty, the varyingly vivid remains and testimonies of the cloth woven by others, the better to make it mine. This exhibition holds up a mirror to the city and each of its residents; it is a window on the past but also a lorgnette trained on the present – and on me as well. It is a banquet to be shared, modest and glorious, humble and lavish. For there is much more to the charms of Arles than this perpetual to-and-fro proximity, at once rustic and regal, which might feel a tad too Parisian and strictly for the in-crowd. I had to work my way back from these first impressions, from the family, press and studio photos; had to echo the activities and industries, now often defunct, which employed and fed our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents; and had to observe, fatalistically, that absolutely nothing remains of all the noise, ardour and sweat. Thanks to Alice Martin, Françoise Riss and the team, I have seen unearthed or resuscitated unknown images and others I was unsure about, while some will survive only in my memory – the post daguerreo - types signed by Marcheteau and photos by Max Erher and others, which might never resurface.
It is also important to remember the faces and complexion of the city, battered by the bombs of April ’44. All things considered, it seemed appropriate to publish a summerlong diary-album of Arles – the pomp and circumstance, the splendour and decadence – in parallel with that of a couture house which was, and to a limited extent still is, a kind of outlet, a counter on which I have enjoyed condensing and giving shape to my jumbled memories.
I wanted to juxtapose these frail incunabula and anonymous traces with the icons standing like signposts at the crossroads on my emotional map of photography. These led to the compilations of the paper-hungry couture house – which is not iconoclastic but iconophagous – where the data of time and space, of elsewhere and yesteryear, meld into intricate, disorderly strata, the better to signify the here and now and tomorrow. The workplace polaroids of Jérôme Puch, director of communications at Maison Christian Lacroix, find a natural place in the heterodox and composite collages that give rise to the collections. Accumulated, their beauty-within-beauty is dizzying. Other items demanded inclusion: Alain-Charles Beau’s testimony of fifteen years’ fittings and backstage bustle, of panache acutely captured – like in his shots of novilleros, novice bullfighters between two worlds and two lives, the draught horses parading before the corrida, and the sol y sombra light. Likewise Katerina Jebb’s ‘gisantes’ (recumbent funerary figures), which are actually more like totems, for they are quite vertical; these were captured during the recent show at the Decorative Arts Museum in Paris, where I recounted my ‘fashion stories’. Add a few shipwrecked big-name portraits from the past twenty years and you will have a sense of this kaleidoscope, this puzzle, this mosaic, which – from Nègre to now, via every collage and scrapbook avatar – tries to tell how I am still pursuing Daudet’s ‘lady from Arles’ – forever absent yet omnipresent.
Christian Lacroix, artistic director
Exhibition curator : Françoise Riss.
Coordination : Pascale Giffard assisted by the Rencontres d’Arles team.
Arles photographers being shown at the Palais de l’Archevêché: Dominique Roman, the Raybaud Collection, Tourel, Chateauneuf, Marcheteau, Vignal, Carle Naudot, Barral senior and junior, three generations of the George family: Frédéric, Joseph and René, Lucien Clergue, Bernard Martin, Charles Farine, Boby Bourdet, André Garimond, Mathieu Pernot.
Our thanks to: the Bouches-du-Rhône département archives (François Gasnault, Danielle Benazzouz, Laurence Fumey, Olivier Gorse, Florence Santoro, Rémy Stéphanides); Association pour un Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation en Pays d’Arles (Georges Carlevan, Marion Jeux); Association Les Amis du Vieil Arles (Henri Ceresola, Jean-Marie Torramdell, Rémi Venture); National School of Photography, Arles (Patrick and Laetitia Talbot, Camille Gilles); City Hall, Arles (Nicolas Koukas, deputy mayor); Arles Municipal Archives (Sylvie Rebutini, Anne Marie Ayme); City of Arles Heritage Department (Bouzid Sabeg, Odile Caylux, Antoine Lemaire); Arles Media Library (Fabienne Martin); Musée des Alpilles (Evelyne Duret, Virginie Olier); Museon Arlaten (Dominique Serena, Ghislaine Vallée); Palais du Roure, Avignon (Sabine Barnicau); Images en Manuvre (Arnaud Bizalion); La Vie du Rail (Christian Fonnet); Papeteries Etienne (Caroline Couratier); Parc de Camargue (Roberta Fausti, Chantal Mebrek); Usine Solvay (Viviane English); La Provence, and Sylvie Aries; Mireille and Wally Bourdet; Michel and Claire de Causans; France Clergue; Frédéric and Chantal Dervieux; Olivier Duplan; Solange and Valérie Farine; René Garagnon; René George; Danièle Gounin; Michèle Gil; Liliane Louis; Nicole and Jean-Pierre Lopez; Micheline, Dominique and Françoise Martin; Elisabeth and Raymond Maurin; Pascale Molland; Guy Morin; Laurence Nicolas; Patrice Quilici; Bruno Redares; Lionel Roux; Jean-Charles Signoret; Jean-Marc Steiner; Jean Terrus; Yo Vicente; Myriam Yonnet; and all the Arlesians contributing to the ‘Weddings’ exhibition.
‘The piazza of Saint Trophime, beneath the windows and balconies of the Archbishop’s Palace, has always been the stage for every hope and sorrow, as in the mystery plays of the Middle Ages. Weddings and funerals. As a child amid the bystanders, like Harold in Harold and Maud, but with a greater penchant for happiness, I collected in my mind all the fiancées adorned in white of varying opulence, and from memory cut out their outlines to make for myself a theatrical procession that is not so far from my chosen profession. In memory of all those borrowed ceremonies, I wanted the people of Arles to be present in the programme through these unique images – often the only photo, along with one of the children, to be prominently displayed in homes around the world. These shots of the ‘best day of their life’ – delicately framed, and mixing every generation and rank – will cover the specially reddened walls of what used to be the Archbishop’s precious office.‘
PREMIÈRES "RENCONTRES" ENTRE ARLES ET LA PHOTO
‘I have always thought and often said that Arles has a special relationship with light and its ‘style’: exultant and radical in turn, but always rich. So it seemed appropriate to begin here by showing the first pictures prompted by the city and surrounding area: to show the ‘incunabula’ – well, almost – of Arles’ first ‘rencontres’ with photography through the ‘enlightened’ eye of brilliant amateurs and pioneers who first captured its settings and characters, its works and days.’
LES PLUS INÉDITS DES PORTRAITS D'ARLES
‘War, occupation, liberation: when I was born, six years after 8th May 1945, those five years were still close and palpable, but were stagnating beneath the seal of unspokenness, which still exists. And they were even more of an obsession for a child who devoured dreadful tales and for a desperately lonely teenager. I had to dig out, as if from beneath the rubble of the bombs that nearly annihilated the city, the surrealistic, dramatic and empathetic remains of that weird time between the Armistice and the Deliverance, moving through the ruins to update this most unusual portrait of Arles.‘
UNE LUCARNE SUR LES TRENTE GLORIEUSES
‘Like everywhere else, the grey years were followed by two or three Tatiesque decades when Arles offered a faintly blissful spectacle, whiling away an existence that was peaceful and picturesque at last, and playing host to the greats of this world as seen through the lens of Bernard Martin or Charles Farine. These shots, displayed in the windows of photographic studios and local newspapers, gave me a pre-television glimpse of ‘les trente glorieuses’, the thirty glorious post-war years, with their quirks and whimsicality.’
‘When the heat grows slightly suffocating in the railway workshops, I think of what our grandparents endured, working there in the din. And of the resonances of those factories, now mostly gone, which day and night set each district’s tempo with their blasts of hot breath and their sirens. I needed to find these accounts of yesterday and yesteryear, and of more recent times too, which tell of the suffering and hopes of these bygone or tenacious industries; and share another side of Arles, far removed from folklore.’ Christian Lacroix
‘Every millimetre of every black-and-white grain in every single one of Lucien Clergue’s pictures is for me an Arles-flavoured ‘madeleine’, as much as the pores of my skin. Doubtless because he was my first photographic go-between – as if he had already illustrated the depths of my memory with the living mythologies which, from La Roquette to Trinquetaille, have been ours since time immemorial; with the reflections – modern, trivial, sublime – of the ancient theogonies.’