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THE FESTIVAL IN A FEW DATES

1970
Photographer Lucien Clergue, curator Jean-Maurice Rouquette and writer Michel Tournier launch the “Rencontres Photographiques” as part of a multidisciplinary municipal festival in Arles. With Gjon Mili and Edward Weston, American photography makes the first year a truly original event. It relies heavily on the collection that Clergue and Rouquette had started five years earlier to create the Musée Réattu's photography department.

1973
Imogen Cunningham and Judy Dater exhibitions.

1975
Guest of honor Robert Doisneau shares the bill with great international masters Yousuf Karsh, André Kertész and William Eugene Smith.


1977 — 1985
The period of pioneers and friends ends when Lucien Clergue steps down as head of the festival. Several artistic directors follow each other and the event grows at a steady pace.

1977
La Deuxième Génération de la photographie en couleurs [The Second Generation of Color Photography] show features work by William Eggleston, Frank Horvat, Joel Meyerowitz and Stephen Shore, signaling an end to black and white’s supremacy. The photography workshops are developed.

1979
The festival offers Arles school children an “image” workshop for the first time. The Théâtre Antique hosts night projections. Mary Ellen Mark and Manuel Álvarez Bravo shows.

1980
Willy Ronis is guest of honor.

1981
Show by Robert Mapplethorpe.

1982
The École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie d’Arles (ENSP) is created and headed by Alain Desvergnes, who is also director of the festival.

1983
Robert Rauschenberg shares his vision of China; Raymond Depardon presents a preview of his film Les Années déclic.

1985
Exceptional show of work by David Hockney, who designs the festival’s poster.


1986 — 2001
As the festival grows and becomes an institution, photography undergoes tremendous changes.

1986
The former Ateliers SNCF are turned into a 4,000m2 exhibition space. The festival enters a new dimension. A then-unknown Martin Parr and Annie Leibovitz’s glamorous portraits spark a scandal.

1987
The Arlesian audience discovers Nan Goldin's outsiders.

1988
Germaine Krull retrospective. Major show on China with 40 photographers.

1990
Panorama of Berlin and events on the other side of the former Iron Curtain seen by Magnum.

1994
The festival looks back on its 25th anniversary, paying homage to Robert Doisneau and celebrating André Kertész, Jacques Henri Lartigue and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Andres Serrano, Pierre et Gilles and Bogdan Konopka look like UFOs.

1995
Festival-goers who were there from the start criticize artistic director Michel Nuridsany for favoring film and video over photography. Protesters overrun the Théâtre Antique's stage to interrupt the screening of Romain Slocombe’s film Un Monde flottant about Nobuyoshi Araki’s work. The next day, Lucien Clergue and Agnès de Gouvion Saint-Cyr, the festival’s vice-president and director, respectively, resign.

1996
Photographer and visual artist Joan Fontcuberta is appointed artistic director. Ralph Eugene Meatyard retrospective. Joel-Peter Witkin gets unanimous praise. Grete Stern is discovered. Henceforth Actes Sud publishes the catalogue every year.

1997
Christian Caujolle programs the festival.

1999
The United States is guest of honor. Lee Friedlander, who had a large show in 1973, returns with Sonora Desert. Lillian Bassman enchants festival-goers.
The millennium ends with the Rencontres reaching maturity age. It is a time for looking back. “Long live modernity!” the festival exclaims under the direction of Gilles Mora.

2000
Many shows, including those of Sophie Calle, Lucien Clergue and Frederick Sommer and Tina Modotti—the first exhibition curated by Sam Stourdzé for the Rencontres d'Arles—feature the themes of disappearance, effacement and absence. Women, underrepresented since 1973, are back.

2001
Eclecticism, with shows of work by Garry Winogrand, Luc Delahaye and Stéphane Couturier.


2002 — 2014
François Hébel heads the festival between 2002 and 2014. He invites several guest curators: Martin Parr (2004), Raymond Depardon (2006), Christian Lacroix (2008) and Nan Goldin (2009).

2002
François Hébel increases the number of shows from 13 to 45 at 23 venues and extends the festival until September 15, long enough for it to be on the summer festival tourist circuit. Launch of the Discovery Award for young photographers. Work by Josef Koudelka and Martin Parr, two of the Magnum agency’s star photographers, and Lise Sarfati is exhibited. Vernacular photography makes a noteworthy debut with the show designed by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel.

2003
The 12,000m2 SNCF workshops host 17 shows offering a sweeping survey of contemporary photography.

2004
Guest curator Martin Parr increases the number of “conceptual documentary” shows. Launch of "Back to School in Photos", a program for schoolchildren. In 2011, 9 school districts, 330 classes and 10,000 students participated.

2005
The first Night of the Year, a festival for Arles residents. Claudine Maugendre is artistic director between 2005 and 2014.

2008
Christian Lacroix is the guest director. Françoise Huguier and Sabine Weiss show their work.

2009
The program looks back at the outstanding careers of Robert Delpire and Willy Ronis. Guest curator Nan Goldin invites Duane Michals and friends.

2010
Taryn Simon exhibits at the Rencontres. Pannonica de Koenigswarter’s Polaroid jazz musicians series is presented.

2011
Ten years after François Hébel introduced the new format, attendance has risen nearly tenfold (84,000 in 2011). The legendary “Mexican suitcase” is presented, with unpublished photographs by Capa, Chim and Gerda Tarro. Curators Clément Chéroux, Martin Parr, Joan Fontcuberta, Erik Kessels and Joachim Schmidt present From Here On, the first major show of the digital age.

2012
Focus on the 30 years of the École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie d'Arles. Two major solo shows are also on the program: Josef Koudelka and Amos Gitaï.

2014
Last edition headed by François Hébel, who resigns after public officials decide to sell the Parc des Ateliers to the Luma Foundation. New venues must be found.


2015 — 2019
Breaking down barriers is the byword. Photography dialogues with other disciplines, mischievously reasserting that it can pop up where you least expect it. The festival is a culturel incubator. More than ever, it is a must.

2015
Sam Stourdzé becomes head of the festival. Hubert Védrine takes over from Jean-Noël Jeanneney as president. Launch of Cosmos-Arles Books, a photography book show in which over 80 publishers participate. Launch of the Luma Rencontres Dummy Book Award aiming to produce a book project. In China, the first Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival, launched by the Rencontres d’Arles and co-founded by the Three Shadows Photography Art Center. Stephen Shore is guest of honor. Foray into Japanese photography and record sleeves (Total Records).

2016
Grand Arles Express associates the Collection Lambert in Avignon, Carré d’Art in Nîmes and Villa Méditerranée in Marseille with the Rencontres d’Arles for the first time. Launch of the award for best show by a young photographer, the Prix de la Photo Madame Figaro Arles, won by Laia Abril for her work on abortion. New venues in the city center host the festival: Croisière, Maison des Peintres, SNCF Ground Control, Maison des Lices, Monoprix...

2017
The New Discovery Award highlights the galleries' work. From Joel Meyerowitz to Michael Wolf and Iranian photography, the accent is on diversity.

2018
A new attendance record is set: 140,000 visitors.

2019
50th anniversary edition!