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Highlights from Les Rencontres d'Arles 2023


We were honored to attend the opening week of this year’s edition of the Les Rencontres d'Arles festival and celebrate our 15th Anniversary at the Nuit de L'Année screening. Our 15-minute long slideshow included six chapters and 275 international artists chosen from our extensive archive and our 15th Anniversary open call. The video was projected in a loop onto a large screen at the abandoned industrial site of the former Étienne paper mill and was seen by over 1,500 visitors! The images came together to form new narratives through their juxtaposition, reflecting on all that we achieved with our community over the last 15 years. In this article, we will reflect on this celebration and the venues at the festival which feature the work of our community members.

Our first highlight, located in Église Sainte-Anne, is the “Søsterskap” exhibition, which includes the work of the artist behind the 2023 Recontres posters, Emma Sarpaniemi. We recently interviewed Sarpaniemi as a part of our Greif Alumni column. This must-see exhibition uncovers the influential role of photographers in Nordic countries throughout generations. It delves into the welfare state from an intersectional feminist perspective, focusing on the social democratic model commonly referred to as 'the Nordic model.' The photographers from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden come together, showcasing their diverse approaches ranging from documentary to conceptual photography. The interplay between photography and the welfare state takes center stage, shaping the photographic landscape of the region. While celebrating the positive aspects of the welfare state, the project also prompts critical inquiry into the tensions between the subjective, collective, and political dimensions inherent in this model. The themes explored include family life, gender roles, labor, ethnicity, and colonialism, alongside the more challenging aspects of the welfare state, such as exclusion and the ecological crisis stemming from continuous economic growth.

© Verdiana Albano, from "surrounded", courtesy of the artist.

Moving on to number nine at the Manuel Riviera-Ortiz Foundation by FOTOHAUS ARLES, we find the exhibition "surrounded" by Verdiana Albano. As an organization dedicated to the exchange of German and French photography, the FOTOHAUS consistently presents outstanding and diverse photo shows under one roof, connected by a beautiful staircase. Curated by Anne-Marie Beckmann, who also curated a Guest Room for us, and supported by the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation, this show focuses on the sprawling Chinese city of Chongqing. Albano's photographs capture the unique interaction between the city's massive dimensions, rapid growth, and the dense fog that often engulfs it. Through the absence of human presence, Albano showcases towering skyscrapers, bridges, roads, and the convergence of the Yangtze River and the Jialing River. These rivers serve as vital trade routes and are believed to contribute to the persistent fog. Albano's lens reveals the extraordinary atmosphere of Chongqing, blending mystical and dystopian qualities in the diffused light. It is worth noting that in 2019, Albano had the opportunity to live and study in Chongqing for six months through a "Strategic Partnerships" grant from the DAAD.

Our next notable exhibition space, number thirteen at Église des Frères Prêcheurs, also housed in a church, presents "One In Three Women" by our community member Nieves Mingueza. Nominated by Peckham 24 and curated by Tanvi Mishra, Mingueza challenges the notion of evidence in gender-based crimes and urges a reevaluation of how we perceive women's accounts. Through image manipulation and the incorporation of texts from UN reports, Mingueza sheds light on the hidden nature of these crimes, occurring in private spaces or evading traditional measures of evidence. Drawing from the statistic that one in three women experiences gender-based violence, Mingueza shifts our focus to the oppressive environments that control their lives. She highlights patriarchal landscapes and the systemic structures enabling violence, emphasizing the collective experience. Mingueza's thought-provoking approach exposes the limitations of photography as evidence and prompts us to reassess the interpretation of family archives. The collection of images operates within the tension between the visible and invisible, justice and consequence, challenging our understanding of these complex issues.

Additionally, many of our community members presented their publications and signed copies for fans at this year’s festival. Hannah Hughs, one of our fifty Issue 15 guest editors presented “Mirror Image” at the Book Fair with Jane & Jeremy and Tipi bookshop. Prarthna Singh, another one of our Issue 15 guest editors presented “Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh” at Double Dummy Studio. Our FUTURES photography talents Peter Pflügler and Monika Orpik joined the Book Fair with their respective publications “Now is not the right Time” and “Stepping Out Into This Almost Empty Road”. Jonathan Llense, who joined our community when he was selected for Guest Room: Shoair Mavlian, presented two of his publications at singings; “Uncertain Life & Sure Death”, and “Tahiti”. François Jonquet, who has had an Artist Feature with us, brought his new book “Forage” to the table.

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After a week of exploring and discovering the best talent in contemporary photography, it was time for a bit of relaxation. On Saturday night we headed to Nuit de L'Année and joined the rest of the festival goers for a night of food, art, music, dancing, and good vibes. Our 15th Anniversary screening was well received, with many of our community members attending in person to see their work. We were delighted to meet so many of them and help them make new connections in the photography community. We’re hoping to see you again at next year’s festival!