For 25 years, Christophe Laloi has directed the OFF which became the alternative festival. In September, the OFF will inaugurate its new premises: the old school of photography! He tells us.
If there was one thing I would like to remember from these 24 years surveying the world in search of the beautiful image, the photography that tears the retina until you hit a salutary blindness, the silence finally, the soothing light of the real that comes knocking on our doors, it would be the fatigue of being always standing, whatever the cost, against all odds.
What is more exhausting than to believe that one will be saved by an image, only one, and to look for it relentlessly. The world is plural, life made of scattered pieces that never come together, and yet the need for an attempt to assemble this world, to give it meaning has never left me.
Voies Off is certainly born from my excessive appetites to know the reality of the other, to consider its way of articulating the visual elements, or to let them clash to give meaning to what ultimately constitutes our lives. This road, I walked it in one go, almost without stopping to use my nights, to use my body and my thoughts in the light of the little black box.
1977 was a spectacular year, well before the birth of this Voies Off Festival project in Arles, well before photography. It was the pivotal year when the Sex Pistols and their punk culture exploded in the face of the world. Shouting No future and staging this teenage but visionary revolt, spitting on the bourgeois, the established order, tradition and power, they were to shake the nation across the Channel and create an electroshock, getting close to disrespect towards Her Majesty. It was for me a founding revelation. Since then I have never respected the order, without having previously accepted the merits.
Many years later, when I joined the National School of Photography, I knew I was there to challenge the order of the visible. In many ways, I learned to place, shift, juxtapose or oppose the forms of reality, so “to do something”. The photographic project consists in doing something with the world, telling its story, assembling evidence or causing trouble, evoking life in its rawest or most sensitive. This happy learning period has given me a solid foundation for understanding contemporary creation. I was ready for the big adventure.
Voies Off has taken its first steps in the form of a story of committed photographers who had given themselves the mission, that still is, to report on contemporary photography in all its forms. It should be remembered, in 1996 our generation was a continuation of the major period of the 80s, which saw visual art and its large formats flourish and the entry of this medium into the field of contemporary art. We carried this heritage without wanting to be locked up, and we tried, from the beginning, to open our respective sensibilities to the entire spectrum of creation.
Throughout our history, collective work has never stopped. The missions are professionalised and diversified, so as to integrate communication first and then administration. But the strength of the Festival Voies Off has always been to be able to count on people engaged with photography, at the heart of a human adventure, and ready to fight to reveal to the greatest number the work of a photographer whom we considered essential.
In 25 editions, we have presented more than 2,500 photographers. In this interlacing of images, errors, magnificent discoveries, and some miracles will probably have slipped. I have had the chance to do the job I loved as a free man, and to meet very beautiful people. I have shared with them the passion of the image, and some glasses of good wine. Having never found the economy to produce a catalog worthy of the name, there will be almost nothing left, memories, some posters and a case of hard drives containing our treasures, evenings projections that tell the story of photography.