The first international photography festival, the Rencontres d’Arles takes place until the end of September. Several professionals from Toulouse were there. They give us crushes and disappointments.
Since its creation 53 years ago, with the enthusiastic support of Jean Dieuzaide from Toulousain, the Rencontres d’Arles have taken on spectacular proportions and each summer attract more than 100,000 photography enthusiasts from all over the world. Their challenge, most often in two or three days: to see around forty exhibitions during a city stroll in magnificent places or in the state of wasteland. Many people from Toulouse make the trip, to feed their professional practice or simply their passion.
Artistic director of the Château d’Eau, the former critic Christian Caujolle has been a regular at the Rencontres for more than 40 years. His words are therefore listened to with attention, in his enthusiasms and his disappointments. “I note this year the very great diversity of types of exhibitions, he says. It is therefore difficult to find a guideline even if we make great discoveries there.”
The most important is “A feminist avant-garde” which takes us back to the 1970s with a handful of key artists such as Cindy Sherman, Francesca Woodman or Orlan (whose retrospective at the Musée des Abattoirs in Toulouse is on view until August 28) and a lot of unknown women, who then practiced, in great confidentiality, an acerbic criticism of the patriarchy.
“I didn’t know this Austrian collection at all, admits Christian Caujolle. I find it remarkable, as does the hanging”. Same feeling with Jacques Sierpinski, the artistic director of the Manifesto festival. “This exhibition clearly shows the creative dynamism of the time. And reminds us that today’s feminist struggles find their source in much older struggles.”
The two professionals agree on another historical exhibition dedicated to the Red Cross, whose “editing work” they appreciated, despite, in our opinion, the somewhat embarrassing self-promotional side.
Artistic director of the Map festival (and photographer for the Myop agency), Ulrich Lebeuf found the curation of Paul Graham “hyperintelligent and brilliant”, who selected, under the title “And yet she turns”, 9 young American talents so that they give their vision of the United States of today.
And got carried away for the diverted ethnological work of Julien Lombardi in Mexico. “He uses the codes of traditional photography while moving from documentary to fictional. He is also the witness of a generation that has digested digital and still feeds on film.”
The failure Lee Miller
In terms of heritage, Arles did not play its part with two very disappointing exhibitions, one dedicated to Lee Miller (1907-1977), muse, model then adventurer; the other to an unknown Luxembourger, Romain Urhausen, imprudently compared to masters like Doisneau, Cartier-Bresson or even Otto Steinert… and a hundred cubits below a Dieuzaide! Regarding Lee Miller, Christian Caujolle does not mince his words: “It is neither done nor to be done, whether it is the selection of images or the mediocrity of the prints”. Jacques Sierpinski agrees: “The life of this woman was extraordinary. Nothing remains of it here; everything is presented in bulk. It really made me angry.”
Another failure, the exhibition devoted to the dance of Babette Mangolte. La Française has accompanied the greatest American choreographers but her shots are banal and repetitive. And totally overwhelmed by the majesty of the place, namely the Sainte-Anne church.
Fortunately, there are still many reasons for satisfaction, whether family portraits by the American Rahim Fortune, India seen by Mitch Epstein, the misty East surveyed by Klavdij Sluban, “forest” installations ( news) by Noémie Goudal.
Not to mention the formidable retrospective devoted to James Barnor, a Ghanaian photographer who lived in the Swinging London of the Sixties and whose dazzling work is finally revealed. It was time: the portrait painter is 94 years old.
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