OD PICKS | Arles Top 5

Highlights from Rencontres d’Arles Photo Festival, 2023

Founded back in 1970, Rencontres d’Arles Photography Festival is one of the key dates in the European photography calendar. Responsible for catapulting the careers of myriad photographic artists over the years as well as highlighting a clutch of undisputed master artists in career defining shows. Situated a stones throw from the glamour of the French riviera and nestled above the fairytale landscape of the Camargue, there is a special magic to this festival that sets it apart from other photo festivals around the world. It’s not surprising then that it consistently attracts the attentions of the industries leading taste makers, artists and gallerists.

Spread across 40 venues throughout an idyllic old Roman town there is always a lot to see. In fact I always find it a struggle to see it all. Eclectic by their very nature not all of the exhibitions will be your cup of tea, but I guarantee that some will stay with you a long time. The work on display tends to represent the full spectrum of photographic art today. Generally hyper contemporary work but with enough classical approaches woven in to keep everyone happy.

Anyway, here is a long overdue highlight reel from the festivals first week. The next best thing if you won’t be able to make it this year. The festival runs throughout the Summer and wraps up 24 September. So there is still time to see them for yourself.

Tom Page,
Gallery Director, Founder

Diane-Arbus, Luma

Diane Arbus | Constellation

One of the stand out exhibitions this year was this incredible if not slightly disorientating presentation of Diane Arbus prints. Hung on a labyrinth of cob web like structures the exhibition doesn’t have a beginning or an end. But encourages you to find your own way through and to experience her work for yourself. The space itself plays with your sense of scale cleverly using mirrors to amplify the number of works and people. The prints are beautiful objects in their own right but once viewed like this they become a rich tapestry of her work to date. Extraordinary display. Well worth the trip to Arles for.

The exhibition Constellation brings together all of the prints (some still unpublished) from the Selkirk set of 454 images in the form of an immersive installation. In this exhibition, we wanted to present an extra-photographic dimension to these images: to reveal what lies between the pictures; what, like dark matter, keeps all of these photographs in equilibrium and connects them to each other – the spider’s web. The concept of a constellation occurred to us as a structure capable of presenting both the images and the imperceptible architecture underlying all creations: chance, chaos, and exploration.

Discovery Award, 2023 | Moving Definitions

One of the first stops each year is the Arles Discovery award, curated this year by Tanvi Mishra. This show is open to all galleries & institutions to apply on behalf of their artists to pitch a presentation. 10 artists are then selected and displayed in this incredible church venue in the heart of Arles and always surprises you. This year was no different. Challenging viewing & subject matter at times but there were some stand out artists for me. Not least IBRAHIM AHMED (Kuwait / Egypt) and LINA GEOUSHY (Egypt / United Kingdom)’s fascinating dual show that examines two approaches to identity. One through vintage family albums and the other through staged representations of promintant females lost through history.

Moving between fiction and tableaux, visual research and new media, these artists expand beyond the direct interpretations that often define documentary practice. They warp, split and mark the photographic image, inducing meaning onto its surface. Others perform ‒ as an act of assertion and reclamation ‒ animating themselves in the frame to fill in the deficiencies of the historical, canonised photograph.

Dolores Marat | Chromatic Disruption

This exhibition surprised me. The images above by Dolores Marat [b.1944] don’t do the prints justice but I loved the array of cinematic colours and street scenes. Some of them were a little reminiscent of the great Sarah Moon. With blurred and graceful depictions of flowers or human forms. Others were dark or eerie street shots that clearly have had a major impact on a generation of artists.

From four-color direct carbon printing (Fresson process) to pigment printing on artisanal Japanese paper by the SHL workshop in Arles, the materiality of the print lies at the heart of her practice.

Casa Susanna

This fantastic exhibition was another contender for Top Show this year. This presentation brings together a fascinating collection of images taken of an early group of pioneering cross dressers based in USA. Creating a space where they could finally be themselves, Casa Susanna offered regular refuge for a large group of men. And their wives in some cases. Having seen the brilliant BBC Storyville documentary just the day before meant that the characters really leapt off the walls of this show. Such sass on show and raw joy. You can really see what this place meant to these men. They were no longer alone.

As historians, we have tried to strike a balance between historical facts, the ways the individuals in the Casa Susanna circle self-identified, and our contemporary awareness of a spectrum of gender identities. Thus, in our view, this community stands as the first known trans network in the United States.


CAMP | Group Exhibition

For the final show of this highlight reel, I bring you this absorbing and off grid exhibition featuring the work of a special group of Japanese photographers. Celebrating an iconic exhibition and gallery space that inspired and influenced generations of artists. Not officially on the Arles map, this exhibition had to be discovered, I’m so glad I caught it. The exhibition incorporated the original flyers and posters from the initial show pasted across the walls of all three floors and some incredible prints from a formative generation of photographic artists.

This exhibition is a tribute to the 1980s in Japan, and to one of its very first and most major independent photography galleries: IMAGE SHOP CAMP… Starting from the discovery and purchase of the original banner displayed at the opening of CAMP Gallery in 1976, in addition to a collection of flyers from that time and a series of 14 photographs exhibited in 1978, we took an interest in the living members who contributed to the fame of the gallery.

Featured artists | DAIDO MORIYAMA – KEIZO KITAJIMA – SEIJI KURATA Tatsuki Sugimoto – Osamu Takizawa – Susumu Fujita – Koji Onaka Koichi Tokunaga – Ippei Murai – Minoru Kobayashi – Noriko Shibuya Naoki Mori – Masato Koike

Curators | Clément et Nobue Kauter / Le Plac’Art Photo & Alain Sinibaldi / Galerie Sinibaldi Arles

Osamu Takizawa | From Gestation of a dream







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