On n’a pas tous les jours vingt ans*, Rencontres d’Arles 2009
This is not about nostalgia, regrets, controversy or judgements. Not even about a particular story, significant and still to be written. In piecing together our recollections and asking others for theirs, rummaging through archives, questioning both key players and the public, we simply wanted to remind the world—and ourselves—about the first and still number one international photography event. It was an early summer event for enthusiasts, invented 40 years ago by Lucien Clergue and a handful of photographers and photography lovers who wanted to cut loose from the conventions and diktats of the photography clubs; it attracted major artists, some at the height of their glory and others just starting out.
A festival implies new discoveries, and by titling it ‘Rencontres’—meeting, coming together—the founders were aiming high, especially as this was a period when photography was not yet widely recognised, plagued by infighting, hampered by lack of finance, mocked by a sardonic, demanding audience, all against a backdrop of angry outbursts and clichéd assertions. Despite all this Arles chose to remain a festival for the general public. Approaches have changed, directors, curators and artistic directors have come and gone, and for 40 years the event has maintained its appeal and authority—even if sometimes we had to gamble on success, or lesser failure, for the following year. So here we have photographs, of course; but also souvenir photography, documentary material, projections and films—all devoted to evoking the festival from its epic beginnings to its current scope. This is one way of saying that Arles has been an essential, fun, instructive, rewarding experience—and our way of saying we want to keep it going.
*Sweet Dreams of memory
Exhibition associate curators: Christian Caujolle, Jean-Jacques Naudet, Catherine Philippot and Françoise Riss.
Graphic production : Dominique Roynette.
Coordinators : Eva Gravayat and Anaïs Feyuex.
Prints: Philippe Chapuis / Graphistes Associés, Arles.
With the backing of Epson, the INA (National Audio-visual Institute) and La Provence.
Realization : Valérie Feidherbe, François Girard et Olivier Koechlin.
Audiovisual production Le Tambour Qui Parle.
Exhibition venue: Atelier de Maintenance, Parc des Ateliers, Rencontres d’Arles 2009.