It is the oldest photography festival in the world, founded in 1970 by the photographer Lucien Clergue (anneclergue.com), the historian Jean-Marurice Rouquette and the writer Michel Tournier.
Les Recontres d’Arles (rencontres-arles.com) has always offered new, and often, previously unknown projects. The exhibition has now reached its 45th edition and continues to be one of the most eagerly awaited dates in the world of photography, hosting some 60 exhibitions in the town’s historic venues.
Each time, the festival chooses a theme around which it plans its entire programme, with exhibitions and discussions. This edition is a special one because it is the last to be curated by François Hebel, artistic director of Les Rencontres D’Arles since 2001.
To celebrate this event, the theme chosen is Parade. All the artists who have taken part over the last thirteen years are exhibiting here, as a way of acknowledging Hebel’s work, with friendship and loyalty.
Lucien Clergue, one of the founders of the festival, is presenting a collection of interviews, video films and photographs of all the people who, over the course of his life and his career, have had a fundamental role in his artistic journey.
Also renewing his contribution to Les Recontres D’Arles is Christian Lacroix, who was guest curator of the 2008 edition. The fashion designer is presenting L’Arlesienne, which celebrates the beauty of the women of Arles and of their traditional costumes. The guests also include: Martin Parr, Raymond Depardon, Erik Kessels, Bill Hunt, Joan Fontcuberta and Luce Lebart.
Not only old friends of Les Recontres D’Arles are taking part in the festival, but there is also a section, entitled Originals, which showcases artists who come from the host town, Then there are numerous events like lectures, workshops and discussions on photography which analyze and examine in depth the evolution of the expressive capability of this medium over the years.
Emerging photographers find space to express their creativity, thanks to a special discovery award, Prix Decouverte, where a panel of five experts, each from a different continent, select a winner, who is announced during the final week.
The festival does not even stop at night: at the Thèatre Antique, the Roman amphitheatre of 75 B.C., every night there are photography projections, accompanied by music, meetings with photographers and artistic performances.
Les Rencontres D’Arles is a tradition that is repeated every year, and for more than two months, hundreds of thousands of visitors participate in order to see photographs, meet people, exchange ideas and opinions, and develop artistically. Thus, Arles has become the International capital of photography.