Edition 2006



“A wonderful discovery. Straight off his pictures of North Korea are chilling, terrifying. It’s not often that a photographer has given us this kind of vision of a totalitarian state, with the sheer disproportion showing through most of all in the scenes of everyday life. It makes you wonder just how far an photographer can go in his search for truth. An artist and a journalist don’t necessarily see things the same way. In my opinion the Rencontres exist to show this kind of unique, astonishing work. And this is a new kind of photography, a new aesthetics rooted in the digital.”
Raymond Depardon
North Korea: coming out of an all but unknown country closed to Western observers, the pictures taken last year by Philippe Chancel in the course of a series of visits are something out of the ordinary. A certain mistrust is justified: were they dictated by some vigilant guide to the Revolution? Not at all. Free to come and go as he pleased, Chancel offers us here a brief selection of what he saw. The other danger hanging over these images is the Western viewer’s readiness to interpret them in terms both of what (little) he knows about the country and his feelings about the extreme situation created there by communist ideology. But what we see are a city, people, little slices of life - pretty everyday stuff, in fact. At the same time a sense of the uncanny is not easily avoidable: the public spaces, buildings and people seen through Chancel’s lens seem straight out of a dream, for this is a kind of monumental performance in which every aspect of national life forces each man and woman, each bit-part player in this tragedy, to model their existence on precepts which, for us, remain unknown and incomprehensible. Here a weird theatrica-lity, a politicised manneredness show through in every picture. Chancel, however, does not take sides: what he captures, with all the objectivity the situation allows, is his own fascination with the sheer perfection of the staging. As he himself puts it, “All the elements of the composition - the sets, the setting and above all the characters - slot naturally into place as if everything has been rehearsed.” Somewhere between Disneyland and concentration camp, North Korea comes across with a visual ambiguity surely not to be found anywhere else in the world. This is what accounts for the success of images that manage to be captivating at the same time as they bring a detached eye to an exercise in monumental
narcissism. Damien Sausset

Exhibition produced by The Rencontres d’Arles and supported by laboratoire Janvier.

  • Institutional partners

    • République Française
    • Région Provence Alpes Côté d'Azur
    • Département des Bouches du Rhône
    • Arles
    • Le Centre des monuments nationaux est heureux de soutenir les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles en accueillant des expositions dans l’abbaye de Montmajour
  • Main partners

    • Fondation LUMA
    • BMW
    • SNCF
    • Kering
  • Media partners

    • Arte
    • Lci
    • Konbini
    • Le Point
    • Madame Figaro
    • France Culture