50 years anniversary

For exactly 50 years, the Rencontres de la Photographie have been held every summer under the hot sun in Arles.

In the entire town

Initially conceived as a small exhibition staged amongst friends, over time the show has radically evolved, to the extent that it now takes over the entire town.

51 exhibitions

This year the 51 exhibitions showcase the work of 210 international artists, and the photography has broadened its horizons to the point of branching out into other works on paper, in other words drawings – which have a strong presence this year with the exhibition dedicated to Bruno Decharme’s art brut collection, among others – and also a proliferation of moving images, in other words video – see the costume drama by the very cutting-edge American artist Rachel Rose (born in 1988) which looks at the beginnings of capitalism in the countryside, produced by the Luma Foundation in Arles.

Martin Parr

The Rencontres also highlight photography books. The most significant collector in the world in this area is most likely the photographer Martin Parr, who amassed an ensemble of 12,000 works acquired by the Tate Modern in London with the help, once again, of the Luma Foundation.

Parr is also the subject of an exhibition currently showing at the other end of France, at Versailles, and he recently told me about his favourite experience which involves taking photos of the tourists here visiting the château of the various King Louis (1).

Watch the video to find out more .

Sam Stourdzé

The 2019 edition of the Rencontres, under the direction of Sam Stourdzé, is of a high quality yet it maintains absolute eclecticism.

Watch the video to find out more .

Lei Lei

The world of images gathers in Arles. Take the Beijing artist who teaches at Cal Art in Los Angeles, Lei Lei (born in 1985). He’s conceived a video-collage that mixes real and fake archival photos of Chinese love stories in front of Lushan Mountain just after the cultural revolution. A portrait of a nostalgic and sentimental China, which seems to revel in pleasant clichés probably because it was a country emerging from terrible chaos.Watch the video to find out more .

Jonathas de Andrade

Also not to be missed is the very poorly signposted film at the Atelier des Forges made by the Recife-based artist Jonathas de Andrade (born in 1982). Yet it is one of the major works of this edition. It will also be showing in September at the Istanbul Biennial curated by Nicolas Bourriaud. The film shows fisherman alone out in nature, depicted with great beauty, who throw out their nets and end up caressing their prey as though consoling them. The delirium of a man who embraces a large fish with eyes that grow ever glassier. Situated somewhere between sadism and respect for nature, these sequences are hypnotic.



The curator of the exhibition, Hinde Haest from the Photography Museum in Amsterdam, interprets this video as an environmental preoccupation.

Watch the video to find out more .



Mohamed Bourouissa

The Rencontres are also hosting an exhibition in the most unexpected of places. The Franco-Algerian artist Mohamed Bourouissa is the subject of a mini-retrospective on the first floor of a local Monoprix supermarket, a site which he adores. Here he is exhibiting, for example, portraits of shoplifters taken by the owner of a Brooklyn grocery store and traded in exchange for their freedom, which were then displayed in the store. On the power of the image…

Winning ticket

He made a video of those who in French PMU betting shops are known as “ramasseurs” (collectors), men driven by the wild hope of finding winning tickets that have been abandoned by players among those that litter the ground. Next to it he has reproduced the papers on a large scale, and anyone can leave with their own supposed winning ticket. A revisited version of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s stacks.

Helen Levitt

But Arles hasn’t given up on exhibitions that showcase the talent of the “classics” of photography. This year, for once, it is primarily the women who have a voice. Within this category a vast selection of shots are presented by the American artist Helen Levitt (1913-2009). She is unrivalled in her ability to capture, on the fly, the world of the street kids of New York. They yell insults, they brandish their weapons, make threats, climb and pull faces. There’s nothing less fixed than Levitt’s pictorial universe.

Susan Meiselas

In the next generation, that of Susan Meiselas (born in 1948), we can see the series she made in strip clubs in the 1970s. While feminists were denouncing women who sold images of their bodies, Meiselas, for her part, went straight to the heart of the matter. She captures, without pathos, the intimacy, the artifice and also the male fascination with these carnal creatures. It was thanks to this series that the American would eventually join the Magnum Photo Agency and later document, among other things, the war in Nicaragua.

Watch the video to find out more .


She has deservedly been named the winner of the inaugural “Women in Motion Award”, established by Kering for photography at the Rencontres d’Arles, which seeks to highlight the heroines of the discipline.

 Next year

A suggestion to Sam Stourdzé for next year: that opening hours for the exhibitions take global warming into account with the later openings in the evenings.

Until 22 September www.rencontres-arles.com.


(1)  cHateau de Versailles. Until 20 October :

Versailles – Visible / InvisibleDove Allouche, Nan Goldin, Martin Parr, Eric Poitevin, Viviane Sassen



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