Friday, September 17, 2010

Arles Recontres

A thick fog had settled over the valley on this morning. All the photo students were leaving on a field trip at 9:00, but we managed to run around the village and snap a few photos of the village before then.

Bonnieux through the fog
We photo students were on our way to the Arles Recontres, an international photo festival with exhibitions spread all across the city of Arles (it was, incidentally, the last weekend of the show—it had been going on all summer). Arles is a large city with quite a bit of Roman architecture, including the amphitheater in which bullfights are held during the summer (I’m told they do kill them here, if you’re curious).

Amphitheater at Arles
After we got our tickets as a group, we were all free to spread around the city as we wished. My group visited an exhibition on polaroids before eating in a café in the square that contained the Café de Nuit of Van Gogh fame (Cafe Terrace at Night). I had a very good ratatouille crepe and learned that in order to get water with dinner for no charge in France you must specify “un carafe d’eux,” otherwise you get a bottle of Evion for 3.50 Euro.

After lunch, we trekked about 15 minutes to a few more exhibitions at the Parc des Ateliers (which appeared to be a semi-abandoned industrial park—still part of the Recontres). One of the more interesting was called “Shoot! Existential Photography.” This exhibition began with a look at self-portraits created by shooting arcade booths at county fairs in the few decades following World War I. (Instead of shooting at little yellow duckies or something, you would aim at a target and when you hit the target a photo would be taken of you aiming at the target. The resulting print showed you aiming back at yourself. The fact that we use the term “shoot” to mean take a picture and fire a gun is an interesting layer here.)

Poster for Arles Recontres (the pink Rhino
was the mascot of this year's show)
Another interesting section of “Shoot!” showed the work of a photographer who had created images by firing a rifle into a camera obscura (think of a box with film on the back wall), puncturing the front of the box thus letting light in to expose the film. The bullet went clear through the negative and so a bullet hole is visible in the prints. Might have to try this one someday.

View from the Arles amphitheater steps
(Click to see larger image)

There was a lot to take in at the festival—so much I hardly remember half of it. It was a nice quick trip (although I’m not a huge fan of cities). Got back to Lacoste a little before 6p and Rachel had some graphic design work she’d been doing (which is good for the bank account). Planning a big hike for Saturday morning.

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