photography festival in medieval town



Photo festivals arowne suddenly fashionable; many of the world’s leading cities are now clamouring to timetable their events, in a flurry of hyperbole that they hope will attract hordes of snappers – and their armies of fans Arles, however, has been an essential stop on the professional photographers’ itinerary for decades



photography festival in medieval town
; the sleepy French medieval town has hosted photo festivals since 1970 and its annual summer bun fight is still going strong. The town has a long-standing connection with the visual
arts. It was home to Vincent Van Gogh in his nuttiest phase; it was in Arles, of course, that he received visits from the likes of Gauguin and lost not just his mind but his ear as well.
The festival was established in 1970 by the Arles-born photographer Lucien Clergue and his friend Michel Tournier, a writer and philosopher. This year 2,000 professionals, 700 journalists and 4,000 enthusiasts will wander around the 50 to 60 exhibitions during the first week alone. The highlight is the Night of the Year – this year on July 11, when around 25,000 people take to the streets between 10pm and 3am to stroll around the displays. For the rest of the summer, amateurs are encouraged to rub elbows with professionals at exhibitions, workshops and seminars, and over 55,000 visitors are expected to attend. Just don’t get them started on the meaning of their work.
Arles has always been a serious affair. In the 1990s the organising committee resigned because its director decided to hang an exhibition of colour photos – anathema to the purists who would only work in black and white.
The stuffiness of Arles prompted a number of cities such as New York and Madrid to establish rival festivals. The Arles event began to lose all-important sponsorship and its decline appeared terminal until a new director was appointed in 2002. He was François Hébel, the former boss of the Paris-based Magnum agency. In 2004 he invited the British photographer Martin Parr to serve
as guest curator and his involvement was a great success. This year’s collection, some of which can be seen on these pages, has been selected by the flamboyant fashion designer Christian Lacroix. He is from Arles and disingenuously insists that he is anxious to introduce his home town to material that is “humble and anodyne



Tuesday, December 2nd 2008
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