Edition 2015

Alex Majoli and Paolo Pellegrin


A photographer is in a way a painter of light and shadows. Sometimes, however, a photographer might play with shadows to bring them to life and show us hidden sides of reality. This is the theme that is instrumented throughout this exhibition, with the Congo, my homeland, as its main character, that I revisit thanks to Paolo Pellegrin and Alex Majoli. Theirs was not an easy task. Should they view the Congo from above, or to mix and blend into the scenery and the people, bringing them to a real life, and allowing them to express themselves in the oblivion of any camera lens? The ability of the photographers to not “overdo it”, made me feel a foreigner in my own land, revealing another Congo that I was not expecting. In doing this, they managed to avoid the commonest of mistakes that occur when westerners lay their eyes on Africa, focusing on anthropological reporting and exotic travel tales.
Alex Majoli and Paolo Pellegrin confirm that true photography, in essence, is that which restores an autonomous existence or a specific meaning to what might seems to us distant or devoid of interest. True photography manages to deal with modesty without lapsing into self-censorship. This delicate balance is what one perceives in this work. I can imagine the wonderings of the photographers, their quest for the perfect image, their conversations with the people to gain their trust. I can also imagine that all along the duration of this project, they became full time “Congolese”, living amongst the people, sharing with them their joys and sorrows, crossing swollen rivers, mingling with crowds of excited children, travelling along the banks of the tributaries, or observing the endurance of the river workers. The result does not disappoint : emotion is present, it is often poignant when confronted by the images of certain empty and sinister buildings, or of decrepit vehicles abandoned on the side of the road, or again of a tree trunk sawed through by a determined man...

Alain Mabanckou, writer

With support from Cherry Tree Arts Initiatives.

Photographs: Alex Majoli and Paolo Pellegrin, Cherry Tree Arts Initiatives, 2014.

Executive Production : Jonathan Roquemore for CTAI and the artists.

Technical direction : Marco Zanella.

Publication: Congo. Photographs by Alex Majoli and Paolo Pellegrin, Cherry Tree Arts Initiatives/Aperture, 2015.

Documents : Studio Linda, Brazzaville.

The artists wish to thank Stefania Bosso, Giorgio Salimeni, Alessio Cupelli, Alessandro Zoboli, Valentina Sestrieri, Sveva Taverna, Luca Vianello, Bartolo Piccione (Koiné).

  • 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