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Les Rencontres Arles Photography

July 9, 2010

Love Letter to Mick Jagger

“Heavy Duty & Razor Sharp” is the headline on the map they hand out when you buy your (very expensive) ticket to 60 photography exhibits at the 2010 Arles Photography Festival. This is a big festival that takes over much of the little city. The festival is strong on quantity. But the majority of the exhibition spaces, which were ancient churches, abandoned industrial areas, etc., are more interesting than the exhibitions themselves. The Mick Jagger show, for instance, is neither Heavy Duty, nor Razor Sharp. The venue is vastly more beautiful than Mick.

Augusto Ferrari Exhibition in Saint-Trophime

Argentinian artist Augusto Ferrari gets tabletop treatment in a beautiful cloister. His son Leon (below) is the Guest of Honor at this year’s festival. Leon’s retrospective integrates and transcends the spaciousness of Eglise Saint-Anne.

Just a few samples from Leon Ferrari's retrospective.

As one example of all that Leon Ferrari creates, he inscribed Jorge Luis Borges’ poetry onto the appropriated photos (above) with braille written across the represented flesh. His radical reconstructions illustrate how fresh a visionary can be. Leon had one of the few great exhibitions in the Arles “Heavy Duty & Razor Sharp” festival.

Entrance to the Collection of Marin Karmitz

One of my favorite shows was the Marin Karmitz Collection at the Eglise des Freres Precheurs. Cinematographer Karmitz collects artists in depth. The Christian Boltanski installation below was a perfect marriage of concept and environment.

Installation (detail) by Christian Boltanski

Karmitz’ collection also includes Michael Ackerman and Christer Stromholm.

Work by Christer Stromholm

Accordian book by Michael Ackerman

Michael Ackerman is a personal favorite because his photography feels totally candid, totally visceral and totally risky. See his work on the Agence Vu site.

A film about the creation of Nicephore Niepce's 1827 photograph.

So out of the 60 plus photography exhibitions on view in Arles, I saw about 8 that were great. The Nicephore Niepce Museum was well represented with an installation that we hadn’t seen when we visited the museum a couple of weeks ago. This show really conjures up the ghost of Niepce while quoting from Roland Barthes’ final work of criticism, Camera Lucida.

Rue Robert Doisneau

There wasn’t a Robert Doisneau show in Arles this year, but he did have a street named after him. It’s not as wonderful as the street named after Eugene Atget in Paris.

Rue Eugene Atget, Paris

Tomorrow I return to Arles with my class. I’ll do a duexieme partie post on the Arles festival later in the week.

Today’s parting shot is of the room in Aix that I visit daily.

Bathroom installation by Tommy Elder

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