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Vive Arles 2021 by Thierry Maindrault


Thanks to Thierry Maindrault, you have been able to follow all summer the photographic survival attempts of Arles, frozen like the whole world by an insane virus. The audience figures have also been formidable. Thank you Thierry, this determination to testify proves that we can overcome anything!

Jean-Jacques Naudet


Vive Arles 2021 • Thierry Maindrault

A summer unlike any other is slowly fading away on the essential meeting point for photographers. Arles, became in half a century this place where all minds and creators, more or less linked to photographic tools, dream of coming, or even exhibiting at least once. Pandemic obliged, too many photographers were not at the rendezvous. The two essential pillars of the organisation (“Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie” and “Voies Off”) having been forced to give up.

Despite all the many problems, there are photographers, galleries, museums, foundations, exhibition centres – whether they are registered for the “In” or for the “Off” – who have maintained a program, either that already planned, or an improvised one in our imposed situation.

The best exhibition is undoubtedly “La Complicité” improvised by the “Fondation Van Gogh Arles“. Roberto Donetta‘s photographs are pure marvels that fly over and predominate this exhibition. Better still, they show that some photographic creations become, over time, true works of Art.

The best performance of this 2020 season is the splendid showing produced by “Voies Off” for unfortunately only two nights in the courtyard of the archdiocese. Around a very original visual installation of eleven screens, Antoine d’Agata offered us  a very noteworthy work, entitled “Virus”. It was superb …

The scenography of a major exhibition must highlight the works and their message. I can’t decide between two ‘ex aequo’. On the one side, the “Collection Lambert d’Avignon” which actively participated for several years in the Rencontres d’Arles and which has maintained its exceptional exhibition “Je refléterai ce que vous êtes …”. And on the other side, the “Fondation Luma Arles” took advantage of the unexpected situation for “It’s Urgent!”. In both cases, the enhancement of the works presented is perfect.

The originality clearly comes back to the double exhibition organised jointly by “La Croisière” and the “Fondation Manuel Rivera Ortiz“, about the wonderful Boris Vian with the authorisation of his co-inheritants. It’s fresh, disrespectful, crazy and still totally present.

With its tenacity and its love of photography, “Galerie Huit” has achieved the feat of simultaneously showing four high-level exhibitions (including the collective of “Open Walls Arles 2020”) and inviting its colleague “Galerie Sit Down” from Paris who offered us research on the nude in studio by Marie Pierre Morel.

The implication goes to “Actes Sud” for its really very interesting “Femmes Photographes” exhibition, despite an almost hidden access to climb down to see the exhibition and the too small lot of works hung. This presentation of works, often unmatched, must come back to Arles in a more accessible place and with a larger number of photographs to be exhibited.

I do not want to forget “La Place des Photographes” which offered several collections during these two months produced by very talented creators. In addition, photographic images in all their aspect are present through an offer of numerous collections of “vintage” or in photographic testimonies of real humanitarian operations.

Hats off to the team of the large “contemporary art” style hall of the “Plaza Arles” hotel, which has maintained its collective exhibition as it did every year. This year, it was improvised with the stored photographic works of the 2017 Contemporary Art exhibition.

For the man of this year 2020, without wavering I selected Etienne Racine. This anthropologist of our modern societies writes his research with his camera. Nothing can thwart his fight for photographic representation. From its huge posters plastered (with the courtesy of the owners) on almost all the walls of the city center to the small rented premises close to the town hall square, Etienne Racine is present. He shows his photographs, he initiates the neophytes, he exchanges without restraint. Many are his presented images, of great quality, to ask us about the life around us.

Despite each others goodwill, such a universal gathering requires real organisational work exclusively devoted to this event. Nothing was perfect, last years, before this pandemic “storm”; but, the two historic structures performed well, each in its own way, for many years. Let us hope that this unwanted intermission, which has nevertheless been photographically occupied all summer, will allow more collaboration (as in many countries) between the two organising entities, in the future, for their come back on center stage. It would be a great pleasure for the exhibitors and especially for the public if a minimum of joint actions could be installed. This is how Arles will be able to remain the undisputed capital of all photographs and the crossroads of photographers.

Long live Arles 2021 !

Thierry Maindrault

créateur photographe • commissaire d’expositions • chroniqueur

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