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Arles. Rencontres de la Photographie 2002

by Elisa Mezzetti

This year, the 33rd edition of Rencontres de la Photographie attracted more people and, generally speaking, more enthusiasm than last year – a new artistic director and a new look to the festival itself helped to draw a larger number of people from the sector – photographers, journalists, critics, amateur photographers, as well as the merely curious.
The week from the 6th to the 14th of July offered various inaugurations including several evening ones this year, such as the projections held daily at the Old Theatre (Josef Koudelka Evening, Martin Parr's Postcard, Pixel Press, a Larry Sultan retrospective), seven ¤10,000 prizes awarded, new exhibition spaces opened (Eglise des Frères Precheurs, La boutique, FRET SNCF – ex-railway station), portfolio readings, special occasions on which to meet the artists, showings of art films etc.
Francois Hebel, the new director of the Festival and ex-director of Magnum, maintains a somewhat traditional approach to the event. As a matter of fact, most of the exhibitions present black & white photographs of a rather “classic” nature. One particularly interesting exhibition, spread over a number of venues, is the retrospective exhibition dedicated to the Czechoslovakian artist Josef Koudelka, which tells the story of his entire artistic career from the 1960s right up to his latest work, “Chaos” developed over the last few years. The exhibition is held in an ancient Gothic church in the town centre, which helps to convey a mystical, surreal atmosphere.
The work of the young Iranian Jananne Al-Ani is also very interesting. Here she presents a series of small portraits of women. A highly contemporary approach characterises the work of Larry Sultan: colour photographs shot on the sets of porno films, “normal” apartments rented out for a few days for this purpose. The work of Antonio Biasucci "Vaches" is presented to great effect using the highly intriguing technique of placing his black & white images on the ground with very dark, thick frames: the visitor looks at the exhibition as he walks around inside the installation.
There are two exhibitions held in the evocative setting of the Abbey of Montmajour: Gabriele Basilico with a new work on the architecture of Arles commissioned by the local and regional Councils, as well as five portraits by Rineke Dijkstra of a young man who enrols in the army, and whose face alters considerably over a single year.
Elisa Mezzetti