Les Rencontres d'Arles 2014
The 45th Rencontres d'Arles is a pivotal one: the swan song of its director,
The festival has had change forced upon it by the local council, which gave the go-ahead for the construction of a
Against this uncertain backdrop, this year's festival is an intriguing one, if less surprising than we have become used to. Arles has always been a place to take the temperature of contemporary photography, as well as refamiliarise oneself with the traditional. This time around the traditional fares strongly, the must-see show being the Walther Collection: Typology, Taxonomy and Seriality. Here, seminal historical series by the likes of
The unifying factor is the idea of the serial image. Eadweard Muybridge's early movement studies are juxtaposed with a surprising project by Araki titled 101 Works for
This year's Discovery award for emerging photographers answers that question in a singularly unconvincing way. Aside from
At Arles, as elsewhere, vernacular photography from the past (family albums, unusual collections and archives) continues to be popular at a time when social media and the instant transmission of the image is all. A case in point is Pop Photographica: Images and Objects, which is drawn from the quirky collection of
An entirely different America emerges from the collection of dealer and writer WM Hunt, who, among other things, is obsessed with images of groups and crowds. Bathing beauties stand in line, sailors, soldiers and pilots stand to attention, factory and office workers gather en masse outside their workplaces. "Who are these people and who brought them here?" asks Hunt, in his pithy exhibition essay, which lists his love for images of "posses, clubs, teams, graduations, parades, rallies, clans, fraternities, assemblies, ceremonies, choruses and mobs. . ."
The often panoramic photographs range from the Busby Berkeley-esque to the geometrically abstract - people arranged collectively to read as signs or words when photographed from above. The exhibition is an almost overwhelming ode to Americans' need to belong to something, whether a team or a mob. It's a reflex that, as these photographs suggest, may be passing into history.
In collaboration with the conceptual duo Wassinklundgren, one of whom lives in
For the more mainstream photography fan,
A word, too, for Eternal Friendship, an exhibition of propaganda photographs of
Again, though, it is photography's former functions that are at the heart of this exhibition. The archival shot, the found photograph and the vernacular image continue to exert a hold on our imagination at a time when, as the Discovery award selection shows, much contemporary photography has become obsessed with the conceptual process.
The best of Les Rencontres d'Arles 2014 - in pictures
Left: Melanie Bonajo's Thank you for hurting me, I really
needed it. Courtesy of
Right: Handmade curio box made from woven cigarette wrappers inset with family portraits, from
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