Two questions for Didier Quilain, Director of Olympus.
Why do you sponsor the Arles festival?
Around fifteen years ago, I wanted Olympus to get involved in artistic photography in a more creative, cultural way. Our thinking originated in the simple realisation that photography doesn’t exist without photographers and this led us to prioritise support for the artists themselves. Today we sponsor around fifteen photographers, amongst which there are some big names but also young talents (working in collectives or independently). We also support certain institutions, such as Le Jeu de Paume, which we have been involved with since its inception, the Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation and the Nicéphore Niépce Museum. We also wanted to link up with a major cultural photography event and a school. Given our approach and thinking, the Rencontres d’Arles immediately became a priority. I knew François Hébel and we had already been mulling over the idea of doing something with the festival for a few years when we decided to take the crucial step to becoming a partner, just after the sudden departure of HP. We have now been here at Arles alongside François for six years. In parallel and, following the same logic, we also lend our support to the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Photographie in Arles.
What is photography patronage for you?
Olympus has chosen to position itself together with a certain type of photography: artistic and creative work. In any partnership we set up, whether this be with photographers, institutions or events, we emphasise two core values. The first is the duration of our partnerships: we want to establish partnerships over time and create events with a long lifespan. The second is our vision of partnerships: we do not look to bring influence to bear or impose our ideas. If we commit ourselves, we do so with full respect for the choices and work of our partners.
Today, our strength within the partnerships we have set up is as a stakeholder in photography. In contrast to some of the luxury goods or finance organisations that also sponsor art photography, Olympus is a photo brand. We aren’t just here to finance a project in return for brand exposure. We get involved and organise events that are very much part of the festival programme.
Patronage is also a personal commitment. Of course, Olympus is a company and we represent a company brand, but behind the logo nothing would happen without people. Our partnerships emphasise this dimension and create complicity and confidence.