Non Conforme / Uncertified

Probably the most important photography festival in Europe once again leaves an impression.  47 shows arranged in broad thematic segments cover a range of photographic practices, and strongly raises the question of what photography is and who is a photographer in the 21st Century.

The New York Times Magazine exhibitions at venues 13 and 15 are the easiest and most accessible on offer.  Over 30 years of editorial photography is presented by its photo editor Kathy Ryan.  It is remarkable to see works by the likes of Gregory Crudson sit next to Paolo Pellegrin, where war, fashion, joy and pain all blend into perfect layouts and beautiful photography that has elevated the New York Times Magazine to an enviable place.  The displays of personal letters written to such starts as Tilda Swinton and Gwyneth Paltor, and faxes, notes and polaroids reveal the artistic process.  Tear sheets, contact sheets, and covers are laid out in an intelligent and unpretentious way to create a journey through the world of magazine photography.

In venue 22, is the work of a unique collective Tendance Floue, a group of fourteen photographers who offer singularly individual views of the world, yet creating harmonious projects that are impressive and inviting.

Next to this is the Amnesty International with over 50 years of images confirms how much harm humans have inflicted onto each other.  Magnum plays an iconic role in bringing this to our attention.  Many of the images are well known but seeing them together allows a new examination of what conflict/war photography and photojournalism can do at its best.

Mexican photography is one of the broad themes of Arles this year.  At venue 10, Garciela Iturbide images are intensely beautiful and unique.  Images of Seri Indians, Birds on the Highway and works from India are simply outstanding.  Staying with Mexico, in venue 19 are a set of portraits that requires a second viewing to full comprehend the complex, humorous and revealing nature of the content.  This is the upper echelon of Mexican society photographed in homes that have dropped straight out of Hollywood B movies.  Further works that are worth exploring are images of Dulche Pinzon and Enrique Metinides in venue 19.

The Discover Award selection by a handful of curators from around the world sits firmly in venue 21 and is worth a trip for multiple reasons.  It reveals how photography is being used as a tool to create expressive work that breaks boundaries and traditional notions of what is a “photography” subject.  In this, the light boxes of Mikhael Subotzky, road trip images of Yann Gross and sculptural images of Indre Serpytyte are worth spending time with.  They reveal unseen worlds with new techniques and voice.

Finally, the show at venue 20 “From Here On” is a journey that is going to leave you in much doubt about what photography is and who is a photographer.   A manifesto created by curators Martin Parr, Joachim Schmid, Erik Kessels, Clement Cheroux and Joan Fontcuberta offers itself as the face and future of where this art is headed for.  This is armchair photography and Google provides the images. Images are downloaded in an almost anthropological fashion; edited, recreated, retraced and redefined into expressive commentary on modern society.  This found photography is at once frightening and refreshing. Step into it with an open mind…

Finally, don’t forget to have your portrait taken at the JR photo booth and see the magic of your image floating down from photographic heaven…