50 years ago, photographer Lucien Clergue, writer Michel Tournier and historian Jean-Maurice Rouquette put together the first edition of Les Rencontres d’Arles in the city’s town hall. They had three exhibitions – a group show tracing the history of photography, and solo shows by Gjon Mili and Edward Weston. Now it’s the largest and most prestigious photography festival in the world, and this summer, they celebrate 50 years with 50 exhibitions, looking back on their history and heritage, as well as championing cutting-edge photography and emerging talent.
Running from 01 July till 22 September, the festival is lead by director Sam Stourdzé for the sixth year. Last year, Stourdzé was criticised by a group of eminent photography specialists in an open letter urging him to include more women in the main programme. A year on, it seems they’ve taken the criticism on board. Marina Gadonneix, Germaine Krull, Helen Levitt, Evangelia Kranioti, Libuse Jarcovjakova, Camille Fallet, and Pixy Liao, among many more, appear on the main programme with solo shows; the festival also includes a section titled Replay, which is dedicated to female-led narratives.
Replay includes a group show titled The Unretouched Woman, which combines the work of Eve Arnold, Abigail Heyman and Susan Meiselas, whose photobooks from the 1970s challenged gender bias and celebrated women from across the globe. In the same section is a group exhibition of around 200 vintage prints by Berenice Abbott, Florence Henry, Germaine Krull and more, as well as Tom Wood’s Mothers, Girls, Sisters, which was shot in the suburbs of Liverpool between the early 1970s and late 1990s.
To celebrate half a century, the festival has dedicated another section, titled Happy Birthday, to the story of Arles and the role it has played in the lives on photography enthusiasts around the world. A major exhibition from the festival’s archive is accompanied by two new publications, which will sit beside recreation of Edward Weston’s 1970 exhibition at the first Arles. In the same section will be a much-anticipated exhibition of Martin Parr’s photobook collection, which was recently acquired by the Tate with the support of the Luma Foundation.
Arles also looks with group shows such as Corps Impatients, a study into Eastern German photography, and Chronique D’une Vague, which brings together the work of four Movida photographers – one of the most spontaneous Spanish movements that unfolded in Madrid in the late 1980s. Another section looks at the construction of images, showing work by Marjan Teeuwan, Valérie Belin, Yann Pocreau, and The Anonymous Project.
Habiter explores the state of domestic spaces around the world, including in the UK. Home Sweet Home is a group exhibition that spans British homes from the 1970s and beyond, including photography by Martin Parr, Clare Strand, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Anna Fox, Juno Calypso, Peter Kennard, Laura Blight, Gillian Wearing, Iain McKell, and more. Projects by Mario Del Curto and Daphné Bengoa & Leo Fabrizio will also be exhibited.
Science, nature, and territory are the themes explored in On The Edge, a section which includes Marina Gaddoneix’s project on natural disasters, mainly in weather and astrophysics, produced during her residency at the National Centre for Space Studies. An intriguing group exhibition, The Walls of Power examines the idea of territory through looking at walls that have been built within the Europe, featuring work by Olivia Arthur, Sergi Cámara, George Georgiu, Vesselina Nikolaeva and more. Work by Germaine Krull and Mohamed Bourouissa will also be exhibited in this section.
This year Arles has teamed up with Temple for the first time – an independent platform for international artists – for their annual book market. Over sixty publishers and photographers will take part, with numerous workshops on offer – including one hosted by Erik van der Weijde and Dutch magazine McGuffin. The book fair will include all the shortlisted publications for The 2019 Book Awards and for the Luma Rencontres Dummy Book Award, with the winners announced during opening week.
Out of 200 nominations, 10 photographers have been selected for the New Discovery Award, and will all be exhibited in the Emergences section of the festival. The lineup includes Máté Bartha, Steeve Bauras, David de Beyter, Stacy Kranitz, JJ Levine, Meryl Mcmaster, Hanako Murakami, Shinji Nagabe, Laure Tiberghien, and Alys Tomlinson. The winner will be announced during opening week, which will also include a series of free talks and debates featuring photographers from this year’s lineup, plus portfolio reviews with experts from the photography industry, and free exhibition tours by the curators involved.
Tickets for the Rencontres d’Arles can be bought at a reduced rate in advance online, with seven-day opening week badges starting at €48. For more information visit rencontres-arles.com