“We continue to behave like the actors of the world of photography when actually, we are only its ghosts!” Amazing sentence. Francois Lochon told it to me at breakfast in Arles two days ago and it is so true.
For the old dinosaurs that know this festival for decades, it was once again quite a choc. More then 250 exhibitions, lectures, workshops, book signings, projections and other events. The first thing I saw when I arrived was the Arlatan, the mythical hotel of ‘les Rencontres’. Its meeting room: ‘Salle Lemagny’, named after the godfather of the National Library who ruled there for 35 years and always reminded me of my grandmother’s dining room, has been replaced by a stunning structure of orange and green porcelain.
Everything was in this vein: The codes have changed, the behaviors and the approaches too. “Photography has never had a better year, photographers a worst one” read the headline of the French newspaper ‘Liberation’ last week. Sad but obvious conclusion. “Photography is the media of the 21stcentury” declared Sam Stourdze at the opening of the festival, it is true: Photography has eaten everything. It has become the verb, the image and the communication. Today, everyone is a photographer. Photography doesn’t need professionals, it needs artists and plasticians. It is actually the only place to survive and make money.
The ultimate proof of this mind-blowing change: the death of the French PHOTO magazine. No one talked about it, no one even knew! PHOTO was my baby just like it was the one of Roger Thérond, Walter Carone, Eric Colmet-Daâge, Nicole Lucas, Michel Decron, Annick Mouly, Regine and finally Agnès Gregoire. It was the magazine that helped discover photography since it was with others the instrument of its fashion in the seventies. We showed everything, welcomed everything and 50 years later it died in general and complete indifference. What a lesson: a miserable death and a vibrant Arles festival: actors or ghosts?