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Arles 2021 – Les Rencontres de la Photographie : Opening of the Ball at the Réattu Museum


The Rencontres de 2021 began with the opening of the ball at the Réattu Museum on June 12, 2021. Traditionally the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d’Arles and Voies Off were at least it was agreed, with the blessing of the City, on a point: the official opening of professional days on the first Monday in July marked the beginning of summer in the capital of photography.

This is no longer the case, all the organizers and producers of this great photographic event, whether they are integrated into one camp or the other, have literally atomized in nebulae which seem to be moving away from each other. It is the Réattu Museum, one of the jewels of the City, which opened the events with the exhibition of 400 photographs by Maestro Graziano Arici and the donation by Sam Stourdzé of his collection of photographs by Dorothea Lange, including some of her cult photographs. A vernissage /opening in accordance with the sanitary rules of the day was organized.

The visits were judiciously spaced from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., in groups finely suited to the gauge. A refreshment (it is already very hot in Arles) was planned – according to the traditions – at the Commanderie across the street. The first guests to leave (around 5.45pm / 6.00pm) from this long discovery were invited to these few drinks. But the latter were inaccessible behind the guarded door while waiting for the presence of the Mayor, his visit obviously planned in the last group of evening tours. As you can see, the sodas remained at the Commanderie for the last descending guard. The bulk of the thirsty troop had invested the place of the Forum to the smile of the “bistrotiers” who are still wondering if they had not found again the Arles of Clergue, Adams, Lartigue et Cie. It is here that we noticed, in the public rumor, a deep antipathy, tinged with a little anger, against the director of the School. She is purely and simply accused of having killed the Off by the native Arlésiens and particularly by those who have always invested themselves in and for the general photographic image of this city. The sentences are not tender to qualify the ineptitude and incompetence of the Administration of the “Parisian lady”, I will spare you the local translations.

The lovers of the Place des Photographes, try in urgency and gracefully, to make up for the absence of Voies Off in the geographical positioning of some exhibitions. It is a work of Titans full of pitfalls that only a professional master know-how can lead with a minimum of hassle. The experience of Arles Contemporain last year had already shown us the many limits of attempting a substitution on short notice. If this year Arles Contemporain is not totally absent, its new approach to the problem looks, for many local opinions, as a fairly expensive drowning for those who try to get on board. It is locally fashionable to specify that the ejection of Nicolas Hauvette, by the president, could not improved  the situation.

The portfolios reviews in all camps increasingly resembles a tall story. Should the dialogues around the work of creators be maintained on an internet screen or behind a plexiglass hygiaphone. Is the exchange really obligatory with a real competent professional (publishers, museum directors, recognized curators, producers of international festivals, certified critics, etc.) or can we be satisfied with a discussion on the “sex of the angels? “with the neighborhood expert (secretary of the municipal association, president of the regional photoclub, iconographer of the municipal archives, specialist in digitized photographic prints). It is still the uncertainty for many especially as the very essence of the meetings has become for most of the protagonists who realize this activity a financial profit. The original interest in works has shifted to credit cards.

The latest surprise is the concession of the legendary Cour de la l’Archevêché to the Parisian Collective Myop. This agency of about twenty members is specialized in photo reportage rather oriented towards social  phenomenon. No one was able to inform me about the project that had been submitted to benefit of this concession which had been eyed by everyone for a few years and even by the RIPs …

The next step, also highly anticipated, the long-awaited inauguration of the Tower by the Luma Foundation, that will take place on June 25 and 26, 2021. The opening of the Foundation’s photographic exhibitions is scheduled for July 4, 2021, the day before the official and usual opening of all the Rencontres d’Arles.

In fact, it seems clearly displayed by all the protagonists that Arles 2021 has already passed and that they are all on a trajectory to take ascendancy for 2022.

Thierry Maindrault

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