The Rencontres d'Arles (formerly known as the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d'Arles) is a summer photography festival founded in 1970 by Arles photographer Lucien Clergue, author Michel Tournier and historian Jean-Maurice Rouquette.
The exhibitions, often co-produced with both French and foreign museums and institutions, are given on various heritage sites, suitably stage-designed for the purpose. Some sites (for example, 12th century chapels or 19th century industrial buildings) are open to the public only for the duration of the festival.
Many photographers have been discovered as a result of the Rencontres; a sure sign of the festival’s importance as a springboard for photographic and contemporary creative talent.
Photographers are storytellers. Examples include Laia Abril, who, in the first chapter of her chronicle of misogyny, focuses on abortion; João Pina, who spent over 10 years investigating Operation Condor and the disappearance of 60,000 political prisoners in six South American dictatorships; and Yan Morvan's imposing encyclopaedia of battlefields.
The study of popular culture also offers a huge iconographic repertory—often, anonymous images whose initial purpose was primarily utilitarian: illustrating a magazine, publicising a film or documenting daily life. Today, collectors, artists, historians and institutions are increasingly interested in these low-quality images, this other photography. Examples include director Sébastien Lifshitz and the astonishing pictures of transvestites he collected over a 30-year period (the "Sincerely Queer" exhibition); Thomas Mailaender and Marc Bruckert’s contrasting perspectives on the stupid and nasty archives of "Hara Kiri"; and the history of the Camarguais Western, from Joë Hamman holding up the train between Arles and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (1910) to a galloping, singing Johnny Hallyday in "Pour Moi la Vie Va Commencer" ("D’où Viens-tu Johnny?", 1963). We tell the story with the Musée de la Camargue.
This year, talented photographers and curators showcase an unexpected, surprising, funny, pop Africa at the 47th Rencontres. Aida Muluneh, the artistic director of Addis Foto Fest—the Addis Ababa photo festival—joins the Discovery Award nominating team and defends the work of Sarah Waiswa and Nader Adem. Through works by approximately 10 artists, Azu Nwagbogu, director of the LagosPhoto festival, looks into the Nollywood film studios’ influence on African photography. In Maud Sulter's photomontages, however, African and European cutures collide. Lastly, Richard Minier, Thomas Mondo and Madé Taounza tell us the amazing story of Las Maravillas. The Malian music group becomes a wonderful pretext to revisit the swinging ambiance of 1960s Bamako immortalised by the great Malick Sidibé.
Les Rencontres d'Arles 2016 Website