My friend Peter Gillespie, who lives near Aix, just returned from Arles raving about this year's Rencontres. If you've never experienced this citywide celebration of photography and graphic arts, Peter says this should be the year. He sent me this short update.
As anyone will tell you, summers in Provence are affairs of the heart: a time for day tripping, slow meals under the shade of a plane tree and long lazy evenings with friends. But Provence is also a land with a passion for summer festivals. From late June to late September, hundreds of events are scheduled offering something for everyone: from music (piano, opera, dance, hip hop) to the performing arts (folk dancing, street theater, open air concerts) and an endless run of art exhibits.
In 2009 the buzz has been all about the Picasso-Cezanne exhibit in Aix (May 25 to Sept. 27, at the Musée Granet) and the 40th anniversary of Les Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles. Les Rencontres is a two-month celebration (July 7 to September 13) of photography, with 66 exhibits in venues ranging from the church of St. Anne and the St Trophime cloisters to the SNCF rail yard where Arles, through an urban renewal project, is reinventing itself as a center for publishing and photographic arts.
Among the headline exhibits are major retrospectives of the work of Willy Ronis and the fine arts publisher Robert Delpire (500 photographs and over 150 books and prints), a poetic exhibit by American photographer and poet Duane Michals, an exhibit of the work of Japanese photographer Naoya Hatakeyama and James Allen’s collection of United States post card photos, “Without Sanctuary,” presented as a memory of mob violence and racially motivated lynchings in the Jim Crow South.
Additionally, lovers of photography will be interested in the work of 15 photographers nominated for a “Discovery 2009” prize of 25,000€. The nominated photographers are listed on the festival website: http://www.rencontres-arles.com/
Les Rencontres is much more than an exhibit. It's a citywide celebration and it's almost certainly too much to see in a single day. Whether you're an avid photographer or simply looking for a reason to explore Arles, the Rencontres, with lunch at any number of inexpensive sidewalk cafés either on the Place Voltaire or the Place du Forum, would certainly be worth your while.
Admission is by pass, which may be purchased for the day or for the entire season. All but a few of the exhibits require admission. For ticket pricing and information about on-going special events, contact the Arles Office of Tourism, 04-90-18-41-20 or the Rencontres office: 04-90-96-76-06.
Photo: Hyper 08 by Denis Darzacq (denis.darzacq.revue.com/) His work is on display at Le Capitole until August 30th. The gallery is at #14, blvd. Emile Zola in Arles.