July 13th, 2011

Arles Photo Festival Highlights Discovery Award Winners, Mexican Photographers, Multimedia

Photo © Graciele Iturbide, from her exhibition at Rencontres d'Arles

London-based writer Julian Lass filed this report on this year’s Rencontres d’Arles.

The Rencontres d’Arles 2011, the annual photography festival held in the South of France, wrapped up its professional week on Sunday July 10. This year, work by Mexican photographers, an exhibition of artists who use photography in their work and several multimedia and web-based pieces are highlights of the professional week, along with the usual offerings of portfolio reviews, vin rouge and pastis amid the city’s windy streets and outdoor cafes.

This year’s Discovery Award, which comes with a prize of €25,000 ($20,000), was given to South African photographer Mikhael Subotzky and British artist Patrick Waterhouse for their collaborative documentary project Ponte City, a representation of the 54-storey tower block, Ponte City, in Johannesburg, the tallest residential building in Africa. The result is shown in Arles with a giant, backlit Perspex tower, made up of hundreds of pictures of the residents, doors, windows, and televisions. “Working with somebody else has been very new for me,” said 30-year-old Subotzky, a Magnum photographer, “but it’s been very rewarding.” Their work, and all other exhibitions at the Rencontres, are on display through September 18.

The Discovery Award exhibition also showcases the work of 14 other photographers, nominated by four curators and the arts group Le Point du Jour. One of the nominators is Simon Baker, curator of photography at the Tate Modern, London. “Something that Arles is really good for is it allows you to show a piece in depth,” said Baker, whose exhibition at Arles highlights conceptual photographers. “What I wanted to do here was to draw out the relationships between different kinds of documentary practice.”