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1 August 2017

Camarguais Western, Rencontres d’Arles 2016

Silent film pioneers shot Westerns in the Camargue before the First World War. This incredible story, which established the Rhône Delta as the setting for many films made throughout the 20th century, began when Buffalo Bill brought his Wild West Show to Paris in 1905. Folco de Baroncelli was in the audience. Amazed, he recognised scenes from novels he had enjoyed as a child. After the show, he went backstage to meet one of the performers, Joë Hamman, a young Frenchman hired because of his acting talent, stunt-riding skills and knowledge about Indians.


The Camargue adventure continued when Baroncelli asked Joë Hamman and director Jean Durand to shoot a series of films. Many featured Saintes-Maries-de-la- Mer, cowhands and cattle from Baroncelli’s farm until the First World War broke out.When peace returned, so did  lm crews. The Camargue loaned them its natural setting, light and people. After Baroncelli, other cattle farmers, cowhands, and stereotypical gypsies got into the act. Shot from the angle of its singularities, the Camargue looks like a wild place where nothing matters more than freedom.


In the 1960s-1970s, Crin-Blanc and Folco rode the ‘back-to-nature’ wave, travelling the world and inviting grown-up children to come live as free as birds between two branches of the Rhône and the sea ‘on an island where children and horses are always pals’, where Johnny’s life began and Ulysse, Fernandel’s horse, ended his among his peers.


The exhibition traces this adventure through photographs, posters, objects and film clips.

Estelle Rouquette


Exhibition curators: Estelle Rouquette and Sam Stourdzé.
Exhibition coproduced by the musée de la Camargue and the Rencontres d’Arles, realised in collaboration with the Palais du Roure, Avignon, and the Association Claude Schwartz.
Publication: Western camarguais, Editions Actes Sud/musée de la Camargue/Rencontres d’Arles, 2016.
Prints, wallpaper and framing by Atelier Sunghee Lee, Arles.
Exhibition venue: Église des Frères Prêcheurs.