7 > 9 July 2009
“When everything called art had become totally rheumatic, photography lit up its myriad candlepower lamp and little by little the sensitive paper absorbed a darkness divided up by everyday objects. It had invented a new, delicate lightning-flash far more potent than all the constellations intended for the pleasure of our eyes”.
Tristan Tzara, 1922.
In forty festivals the Rencontres d’Arles have provided a comprehensive panorama of photography during a particularly rich period in the discipline’s history. It was in the 1960s that the issue of photography as an art in its own right was finally resolved; critics began taking it seriously as an autonomous language; and the world of the visual arts finally admitted it as a contemporary creative medium.
At the same time photography centres, institutions, museums, books and festivals began making an appearance all over the world, giving photographers the chance to meet, compare notes and look at each other’s work. And more and more families and schools of photography began to take shape. Thus – through photojournalism, art photography, documentary, the power of the image and its plastic and visual autonomy – did the medium broke free of the straitjacket of the inconsequential. And out of a host of emerging agendas came the cross-fertilisations, clashes and schisms that made this period a new chapter in the history of art.
Over time these multifarious approaches led to photographers imbuing their work with reflections on memory, time past/time present, objectivity, the nature of the event, fiction, and its boundaries, point of view, politics, private space/public space, identity, the everyday, the intimate. These photographers were from all over the world and Among them were Henri Cartier-Bresson, Raymond Depardon, Gilles Peress, Sebastião Salgado, Martin Parr, William Eggleston, Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, Jeff Wall, Andreas Gursky, Jean-Marc Bustamante, Nobuyoshi Araki, Thomas Struth, Orlan, Sophie Calle, Gilbert & George and countless others.
Meanwhile photography was having to cope with a world in the throes of technological, ideological and conceptual change, a world entering an age of métissage, of colour photography, of the transition from film to the digital and the Internet. Recently the digital tsunami has been raising all sorts of misgivings about the future of the still image, calling for a redefinition of the photographer’s place and role and the status of the medium. Concurrently we are witnessing a shift within photography itself, from still to moving image, from photo to video.
And yet photography endures – today more than ever – as a kind of alternative laboratory where images produced by highly individual ways of seeing tell us of projects, personalities and creative artists all bent on revealing today’s world in their own distinctive way. Contemporary photography is fuelled by those special enterprises that are the wellspring and the underpinning of all creativity.
Stories of Photographers offers us the opportunity to dialogue with some of the medium’s leading creative figures.
Art historian Daniel Arasse has said, ‘I find it absolutely fascinating to be able to speak with an artist. I would love to have talked with Raphael and LeonardoThe historian is a second string – the artist comes first. The benefit of talking with him lies not in correcting the historian’s comments – because the artist can be wrong about his own work – but in helping the historian, or the critic, to maintain a detachment, in the active sense of the word, regarding the artist.’
So let’s grab this chance the Rencontres are offering us for three days of dialogue with some of the photographers who have come to Arles over the last forty years and whose work has enriched and (so necessarily) disrupted the history of photography. It is also the role of a festival to home in on emergent aspects of its discipline, give them real visibility and thus insist on its exploratory mission.
Throughout its existence the Rencontres have offered young photographers the chance to get public exposure. This is why, in association with the National School of Photography and the Jeu de Paume museum in Paris, we are offering carte blanche to photographers who may be inventing today the heritage of tomorrow.
Each morning this year’s colloquium will include two long interviews with photographers whose work has enriched and, in the best sense of the word, upset the history of photography. In collaboration with the National School of Photography in Arles and the Jeu de Paume museum in Paris, the morning will close with a further interview with a photographer whose most recent work represents a contribution to the evolution of the medium.
Tuesday 7 July
With François Barré and François Hébel, respectively President and Director of the Rencontres d’Arles.
Duane Michals, photographer in conversation with Christian Caujolle, journalist, writer and founder of the VU agency and gallery.
Nan Goldin, photographer, guest curator at the 2009 Rencontres in conversation with Christian Caujolle.
Selected by the Rencontres: JR, artist, in conversation with Marc Berrebi, producer of the film Faces.