This week the photography world heads down to the south of France for the opening of Les Rencontres d’Arles. Now in its 48th year, the annual photography festival has built a strong reputation for presenting the best lens-based art and documentary photography. Viewing the whole festival provides a comprehensive overview of current trends but, with 250 artists being exhibited across 25 sites, it’s a mission for even the most dedicated photography fans to take everything in.
There are exhibitions by big names like Annie Leibovitz, Masahisa Fukase, Joel Meyerowitz, Michael Wolf, and even Audrey Tautou, but the festival is also adept at providing a platform for emerging talent and previously-overlooked artists, fast tracking their reputations in the process. Here are 8 of the best lesser-known artists that are worth shouting about.
Philippe Dudouit has been studying the socio-political evolution of the Sahelo-Saharan zone in Africa since 2008. A burgeoning abduction industry has turned the area into a no go zone for foreigners and putting a stranglehold over the local economy. Dudouit reflects on this landscape and the new relationships the historically nomadic inhabitants of the region are forming with the territory – impacted by terrorists, human traffickers, drug and weapon smugglers, as well as the growing international interest in securing oil, gold and uranium mining rights.
Under the Sun, a project by Dune Varela, focuses on highly symbolic and mystical sites such as caves and ancient temples. Endlessly photographed, these places have entered our collective consciousness yet at the same time their meaning has arguably been eroded. However, Varela does not treat the photographic representation of these places as sacred. Instead she actively destroys them further by shooting the prints with a gun; the bullet holes tearing through the photographic paper, turning a flat image into a three dimensional sculpture.
Pernot’s portraits of members of a Romani family living in Arles were taken over a period of twenty years. The photographs – presented alongside archival documents, passport photos taken at the nearby train station and photos taken by the family – affectionately chart life on the periphery of mainstream society amidst the passing of time.
“In their company, I lived an experience which surpasses the experience of photography. At their side, I witnessed the birth of a child for the first time. I also attended the wake of someone that I had seen grow up,” says Pernot. “[The exhibition] recounts the story that we wrote together, face to face, then side to side.” In doing so, Pernot has created the ultimate family album
Shamefully under appreciated in his lifetime, the work of Swiss maverick Karlheinz Weinberger is finally given the attention it deserves in the exhibition Swiss Rebels. Politically engaged and self taught, Weinberger began taking photographs for the gay journal Der Kreis under the pseudonym Jim and went on to document society’s outcasts including a gang of outsiders in 1950s Zurich known as Halbstarke. His photographs celebrate their external signs of revolt –customised denim, belts, buckles and zipper flies – inspired by American icons such as Elvis Presley and James Dean.
Mathieu Asselin’s powerful photographic investigation into how the chemical corporation Monsanto has contaminated large swathes of land in the USA reveals the effect this has had on humans and wildlife. Monsanto has been accused of misinformation campaigns and the persecution of institutions and individuals – including scientists, farmers and activists – that dare to disclose their actions. Asselin has meticulously brought to the surface the corporation’s apparent disregard for the planet in the name of profit; a pressing topic as the company assertively develops and promotes GMO products.
Presented as part of an exhibition celebrating the work of the Blank Paper collective from Madrid, The Castle by Federico Clavarino is a sublime meditation on the historical events and ideas on which Europe was built, from Ancient Greece to World War Two. Conceptually challenging and beautifully executed, Clavarino’s black and white photography is a masterclass in the sublime. The project – whether viewed in this exhibition or as a photobook of the same name – is endlessly satisfying.
The Territorio exhibition features different perspectives on Colombian landscapes and culture. Leslie Moquin research led her to the music scene in Barranquilla, an industrial city along the Caribbean coast. There, every weekend, in the popular districts of La Manga, Nueva Colombia or Las Nieves, a subculture revolves around Champeta, a mix of African and Caribbean music.
Juan Pablo Echeverri
Echeverri’s self-portraits are impossible to miss in Arles this summer, plastered across a number of buildings in the city including the train station. Both playful and critical of popular culture, Echeverri transforms himself into a number of superheroes, including Wonder Woman, Superman and the Incredible Hulk, challenging the sexuality and gender stereotypes surrounding these characters.