Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Les rencontres D'Arles photographie 2011

I've just got back from the South of France where I spent a day at 'Les rencontres D'Arles photographie 2011' (Arles photography festival). There were 47 exhibitions across the town so we were scratching the surface a bit!

One of the key themes was the future of photography. 'From here on' was an exhibition of work from 36 photographers under the following manifesto:

The curators of the exhibition and also authors of the manifesto are; Clement Cheroux, Joan Fontcuberta, Erik kessels, Martin Parr and Joachim Schmid.

The majority of the exhibits were constructed from 'found' photos from the internet (Google images/maps, Flickr etc.). There were collections of globes, suns, TVs, swimming pools, baseball grounds and so on which I have to say I found rather repetitive as a theme! Is yet another collection of poor quality photos of 'stuff' based around a theme taken off the internet really the future of photography? The need for a considerable number of images also makes them less descerning. Penelope Umbrico's 8,799,661 suns from Flickr is an example. This is a wall of 6x4s of images of the sun from different Flickr sites. I would doubt that these were hand picked in any descerning way (because they weren't that good). They are also someone else's pictures.

My overall impression was that it was more a fascination with the internet than photography. You may say I'm missing the point but I can appreciate what has been done and I am a fan of patterns and collections. Jenny Odell's collections of images from Google satellite images are interesting and visually striking but it's just that it is getting repeditive already - where next? This appears to be an attempt to make photographers relevant in the world of social networking by collecting images that show trends in human nature 'turning old into new and elevating the banal'.

A different take on this was Corrine Vionnet's 'Photo Opportunities' which is a collection of images of famous landmarks culled from the internet and layered over each other giving a painterly result and demonstrating that we all take similar 'photographic trophies' on holiday.

What I enjoyed most......

New York Times Magazine - The venue for this was the church in the main square which lends itself very well to the exhibition. It has a series of alcoves that were used to display different collections of images. Copies of the relevant issues were also on display along with storyboards giving you an idea of how a particular piece was created and developed from an idea to the final copy. My favorite's were Gregory Crewsden's 'Dream House' and portraits by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. 'Dream House' is a series of images of celebrities, their faces fairly expressionless like manikins, in a suburban environment. The surreal situations and lighting are like images from a dream. The Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin portraits included Clint Eastwood in a vale of smoke making him look like a cloud that had come to life. This description doesn't do it justice!

Maya Goded 'Welcome to Lipstick'. This depicts the life of prostitutes in a neighbourhood called Lipstick on the Mexican border. The slide show captures the misery, fear and hopelessness of surviving in this lawless environment. The images show a dark dirty and sinister place that raised the hairs on the back of my neck. The pictures on the website do not do this justice but here's the link - http://mayagoded.com/mg/

Fernando Montiel Klint 'Acts of Faith' and 'Nirvana'. These colourful saturated images were all based around a central character often the main subject of the lighting. The images are strong, complicated unatural images that grabbed my imagination. Because of their complexity there is a delay in the images that made me look at them for a long time, seeing more and more the longer I looked. The photos were large (1.2x1.4m in general) allowing you to see the detail that you can't really see on the website. This made them all the more dramatic to me. His use of colour and light created images that I found myself getting lost in. http://www.fernandomontielklint.com/

Yann Gross 'Horizonville'. I don't know whether it was the images or just the fact that this place even exists that facinated me most! It has to be seen to be believed! America's mid west moved to Switzerland (scary). One side of me says I want to go there and the other side says definately not. http://www.yanngross.com/horizonville.htm

Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse 'Ponte City'.  This documents the changes in Johannesburg through the demise and attempted revitalization of the iconic 54 storey Ponte Tower.  Built in an area that was originally white middle class couples and is now associated with crime, urban decay and an influx of foreign nationals from neighbouring African countries.

Dulce Pinzon 'The real story of superheroes'. This slide show depicts the struggle of Mexican immigrant workers in New York. The city relies on these people working long hours for low pay, their families back in Mexico rely on the money they send home and in turn the Mexican economy is becoming reliant on the money coming in. This worked well as a slide show because first you are shown the image, then the persons name, then their job and finally the amount they send home every week/month. I got the impression that the better the job the less money got sent. Maybe the family was smaller or maybe these people were settling into a New York lifestyle? http://www.dulcepinzon.com/en_projects_superhero.htm

In terms of pesentation there was just about everything. The venue in the old railway yard was facinating in itself to the point where I could have happily wandered round it if it had been empty.  The photos below give a taste of this:

This is a brief taste of the event. Next time I'll spend more time there. I saw so much and missed so much more, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. If we get a Manchester OCA group together I'll bring the (575 page) book along.