press release

The Spirit of the programme One of the strongest memories of my photographic career involves visiting Arles for the first time in 1986 when a series of my photographs, The Last Resort, was shown during the festival. Coming from a country where, at best, the attitude to photography was one of indifference, it was hugely exciting to be in an environment where photography was central to the agenda and widely celebrated. Not only did I see new and exciting work, but I was able to meet other photographers and curators. The experience was very inspiring and the exhibition launched my international career. Many curators booked the show having seen it first in Arles. In the following years I attended the festival regularly, exhibiting, running workshops, presenting evening projections. Whatever my role, I was always keen to absorb the new work that I knew I would see in Arles. How exciting, then, after 18 years to return to Arles this year knowing that I have been empowered to select the major part of this year’s exhibition programme and evening slide shows. In the years since 1986, travelling around the world, I have collected books, seen a vast number of shows and met and been befriended by many photographers. Much of this work, I believe has been overlooked.

My desire to bring these discoveries to a new audience is at the core of this programme. When people ask what is the theme of this year’s programme I say two things. Firstly, the priority is to bring new contemporary work to the festival. Many of this year’s selected photographers are showing in Europe for the first time or in some cases have been offered their first one person show. Secondly, this is the year that photographers get a big say in how the festival is run. As well as my own role we are celebrating the 35 th anniversary of the festival with a show by Lucien Clergue, the founder of Arles Festival, who of course is a photographer. The Arles awards, which will this year just support and reward the work of new talent, are being nominated and judged by photographers. Of course I have huge respect for curators, especially the more adventurous who promote new work, but I’ve always believed that if you want to know what new work will eventually be regarded as important, photographers make the best judges. One theme emerges from the work of contemporary photographers who are showing this year. Much of the work is conceptual documentary. I regard this is a trend worthy of note. In our chaotic world, when we are bombarded with thousands of images and ideas every day, the need to impose order and catalogue the world seems more valid than ever. I believe the process of singling out one aspect of society, then exploring the subject in some detail is absolutely the correct approach, whether this is documenting a small town meeting in the USA or recording an inventory of land mines. For the first time, this year’s programme also involves images taken or sourced in Arles. Although this international festival draws huge number of visitors, rarely are images from the actual city on display.

The legendary photo dealer, Serge Plantureux, has been given the task of locating images from the everyday life of Arles, while Hans Van der Meer has been commissioned to document local amateur football. There is also a substantial showing of work from Britain, a country with a very strong tradition in documentary work. Two photographers, Tony Ray-Jones and Chris Killip, who produced seminal bodies of work in the last 40 years, are to be re-appraised. Both these sets of images had a profound influence on me as a photographer and paved the way for the revival of British documentary of the 1980’s. There is also work from a selection of contemporary British photographers, where new directions in documentary are demonstrated. No programme of my choosing would be complete without examples of vernacular photography. The family album of Peter Polhuis, a Dutch amateur photographer who documented his own family between 1959 and 1981, are shown alongside an exhibition of photographic trays and Saddam Hussein watches. We show an installation from Nest Magazine from the US. In the days where the use of photography in magazines appears to be in decline it is refreshing to see such innovatory use of photography in a mainstream magazine. One thing I have learnt during the last nine months while putting this programme together is how fragile the finances are for an ambitious festival. The Rencontres are very fortunate because we have many friends, public institutions and private companies that support us. Without the help of Dakota Group, Hewlett-Packard, the Fnac, Dupon laboratory, the British Council and more partners, there is no question we couldn’t make the festival on the scale we are able to present. This year’s programme examines photography’s relationship with society and celebrates the way in which our best photographers can provoke and stimulate. We demonstrate how a new rigour is evident in documentary photography, maintaining this essential genre at the cutting edge. As our world become more congested and homogenised, we need these insights more than ever. Martin Parr Guest Curator

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Rencontres de la Photographie d´Arles 2004
Festival 08.07. - 11.07.
Ausstellungen 08.07. - 10-09.
Gastkurator 2004: Martin Parr

mit AES+F, Maria Antelman, Keith Arnatt, Brigitte Bauer, Frank Breuer, Lucien Clergue, Thibaut Cuisset, Raphael Dallaporta, Martine Franck, Stephen Gill, Katy Grannan, Osamu Kanemura, Rinko Kawauchi, Chris Killip, Ihei Kimura, Oleg Kulik, Zbigniew Libera, György Lorinczy, Taiji Matsue, Hans van der Meer, James Mollison, Félix Nadar, Mathieu Pernot, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Serge Plantureux, Antoine Poidebard, Tony Ray-Jones, Henryk Ross, Paul Shambroom, Chris Shaw, Dayanita Singh, Yvette Troispoux, Kimidou Yoshida, Pawel Zak ...