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Reportage on the Arles Photography Festival
Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie 2000
La Photographie Traversée. Photography Exchange and Interchange

The 31st Arles Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie proved itself to be a date of great relevance and international importance in the contemporary photography scene, as well as a chance to meet and exchange ideas for photographers and photographic critics alike. This year, as last year, the artistic director of the Rencontres was Gilles Mora, whose choices and proposals reasserted the essentially historical and documentative feel to the occasion. In fact, this year, together with exhibitions of the work of young contemporary photographers, the Festival highlighted the research and artistic careers of several of the masters of photography of the 20th century — Tina Modotti, Robert Heinecken, Herbert Matter, Danish Peter Sekaer and Jakob Tuggener.
As in past Festivals, the structure of the Rencontres offered a rich and varied calendar of events connected with photography during the opening week: evenings addressing particular themes at the Teatro Antico, the projection of short films at one of the town's cinemas, the examination of portfolios, workshops and discussion groups with critics and experts from the field.
The title, La Photographie Traversée. Resonances, croisements, dispararations underlines the importance given to the past by the artistic director, showing a desire to read the present in the light of the exchanges and crossovers which, have influenced photography throughout different artistic eras. The aim is that of showing a certain pluralism of influences and a fruitful mixing of genres which over the years have served to open up the spaces in which photography operates.

The exhibitions dedicated to the research works being carried out by young photographers of different nationalities and backgrounds, often making use of new technologies, are particularly interesting.

Le soleil se lève à l'Est: La situation artistique actuelle en Asie gives us a multifaceted view of the current photographic scene in the far East though the work of 15 young artists from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Thailand, which show how the ancient traditional iconography continue to live alongside the trends and developments that the changes of the last few years have brought. The images of the Thai artists clearly reveal particular inner tensions borne out of the precarious and confused situation which dominates in an island with an uncertain future. Making use of the computer, Chen Chieh Jen marries old images of torture and capital punishment with contemporary elements. Hung Tung Lu uses images from different fields such as plastic robots and golden objects from Bhuddist temples. In these cases the photography offers a noteworthy synthesis of the different aspects of oriental culture. These high quality shots reproduce the situations of visual chaos with which a visitor is faced on arriving at Taipei, Hong Kong or Shanghai.

Using a variety of approaches, the works of eight internationally reknown artists (Deutsch, Lorca de Corcia, Freisager, von Hausswolff, Heimerdinger, Hemmert, Sasse and Selichar) displayed in the exhibition Hybride, describe the fragility inherent in our very existence. As the catalogue La Photographie Trasversée says, "We live in a hybrid world, continually on the verge of transition, in which the oscillating boundries between emotion and reason are as fascinating as the fractures in them....." Guenther Selichar puts the accent on the relationship between "pure", figurative photography and its absolutely abstract use. The images produced by this artist can be interpreted as an interface between the observing eye and the subjects represented. The work of David Deutsch operates on the depths of darkness and the clarity of light, city scenes in which public penetrates private and vice versa. Buildings shot from above with a view on the edge of the surreal leave the spectator in a state of uncertainty and perplexity. In his series Streetworks, Philip-Lorca di Corcia tells of the precariousness of human existence on the line between the individual and the mass; different, often conflicting rhythms which strain to co-exist and which become part of one single, collective, uniform being. Light plays a fundamental role in the images of this photographer; it is the element which picks out particular moods and which is the indicator of particularly difficult and ever more impersonal situations.

Chroniques du dehors et autres hypothèses: in this exhibition, new narrative forms are explored by various young European photographers (Burgin, Durand, Ellena, Faure, Giner, Kearney, Montaron, Mréjen, Wurm), who, in different ways, reflect on the modern world using the most diverse forms of expression available to photography. There are many different subject matters — family life, the world of sport, urban living, love, etc. all developed, however, with a particularly light, fresh touch. Edwin Wurm takes us into an unreal world full of absurd, comic spaces in which stories are told only through the body of the model featured. His One-Minute Sculptures plots the course the artist has followed in order to explore such notions as compression, expansion and ephemerality. The result is a series of mini-narratives, almost movie stills, as intense as they are incongruent. The individuals that inhabit the photos of Frances Kearney are experiencing peaceful and profoundly intimate moments. Often viewed from behind, they seem immersed in thoughts about which we know nothing. It is as if the photo simply reproduced a scene already frozen in time, where everything is suspended, slowed down, giving an ever more surreal atmosphere. The spectator thus finds himself immersed in a state of empathy with the subject portrayed, letting his imagination wander through possible stories beyond the image. In her work on the world of cycling, Véronique Ellena uses photography to construct stories of people and places using what would appear to be traditional methods. Far from being photo-journalism, her work is closer to being a log-book which, through its series of images, gives us the most important moments of a cycle race in a style which shows her passion for it, being coloured with amusing, ironic touches.

A reflection on time, on its incessant passing and on the changes that it entails is the central theme of the work of Nicholas Nixon who presents us with a series of photographs entitled "The Brown Sisters". The four Brown sisters from the youngest to the oldest are photographed once a year producing a fascinating work on identity and the transformation, both physical and not, of faces and bodies.
Elisa Mezzetti