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Les rencontres de la Photographie

Every summer since 1970, over the course of more than sixty exhibitions at various of the city’s exceptional heritage sites, the Rencontres d’Arles has been a major influence in disseminating the best of world photography. It sees itself as the melting pot of contemporary creation. Thanks to a programming policy that almost entirely favours unpublished works, the Rencontres has become the benchmark international photography festival. The exhibitions are often produced in partnership with French or foreign museums and institutions.

The roll-call of photographers ‘discovered’ at the Rencontres is impressive. Its role as a springboard for artists is strengthened by the presence of many foreign professionals during opening week. The way exhibitions are set up at Arles involves elaborate stage design. Some historical buildings (12th century chapels and 19th century industrial spaces) are open to the public only during the festival period. For its depth and reach the programme draws on the points of view of numerous specialists – around twenty each year – from different fields. Sometimes part of the programming is entrusted to an artist, examples including Martin Parr in 2004, Raymond Depardon in 2006, Arles-born couturier Christian Lacroix in 2008 and Nan Goldin in 2009.

This year, complementing many historical shows—Helen Levitt, Variétés, Photo/Brut, Germaine Krull and so on—the Rencontres d’Arles offering four new sequences corresponding to the program’s themes: My Body Is a Weapon, On the Edge, Inhabiting and Building the Image. They shed light on a world in upheaval where the image often plays a key role as witness or actor.

From communist Czechoslovakia and Germany to post-Franco Spain, photographers recorded a counter-culture where staging one’s everyday life was an act of resistance against the established order and an alternative to dominant models. Existing, resisting, photographing: the body is also a weapon.