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Arles 2022 : MEP : The Silent Language


This exhibition of photographic portraits will bring together a large set of around 60 photographs as well as a polyptych of 250 small format photographs, all from the MEP‘s collection.

Bringing together iconic works from the 20th century, the selection mixes genres, geographical locations and temporal spaces. Each author is represented by a selection of several photographs, and each group will be confronted to each other.

Friends, lovers, strangers,… the exhibited photographs reveal a multitude of types of relationships and show that the people photographed are more actively involved in their representation than we tend to think. This exhibition wishes to make heard the voices and the desires which hide in these portraits and to tell what is played between what the photographer takes and what he gives, to his model and to ourselves.

If portrait photography involves the collaboration of the subjects, this manifests itself in various and multiple ways and circumstances. For example, photography historian Steve Edwards emphasizes the importance of the sitter as a co-author in nineteenth-century bourgeois portraiture. However, in contrast to this collaborative model, we have a whole range of so-called documentary photographs, which expose marginalized people or people from non-Western cultures, as involuntary subjects of the photographic lens.

It is up to us, the spectator, and therefore witness to the relationship woven between the photographer and his model, to dissect and understand the informal contract that surfaces in each shot. We are never alone in front of a photograph. The images observed resonate and connect us to their authors and, in the case of the portrait, to the photographed model. In this silent scene, three actors dialogue: the photographer, the subject and the viewer.


Diane Arbus
Harry Callahan
Donigan Cumming
Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Rineke Dijkstra
Nan Goldin
Emmet Gowin
Robert Mapplethorpe
Dolorès Marat
Ralph Eugene Meatyard
Helmut Newton
Martin Parr
Man Ray
Bettina Rheims
Alice Springs
Bertien Van Manen
Henry Wessel


Espace départemental at 2bis rue Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence from July 6 to October 23, 2022

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