Caroline Niémant: Storms and Fashion, Arles day 3
One of the only photographers to be exhibited against the walls of the Ateliers, his body of work – hundreds of photo-booth pictures and snapshots preciously collected over more than a decade – will probably make Les Rencontres’s insurance company sweat. This is the talk of the morning. This is his work, left, before the storm.
A bit depressed after four disappointing exhibitions, which I won’t mention here. (Sorry but I have decided today to only talk about the things I like. “You French are so critical” someone said. Fair enough.) I met with Gregoire Alexandre a photographer selected by Monsieur Lacroix (www.carolelambert.com ) and Pascal Monfort, editor of Yummy, one of my favorite magazines in the world (www.eat-fast.net). I am slowly coming out of my disastrous mood. And of course – a surprise for no one – everything after this looks beautiful to me.
The Palais de l’Archevêché is filled with archive pictures retracing the history of Arles in images. I am particularly moved by the photographs of gypsies (an important community still residing in Arles today), and the wedding pictures gathered from Arlesian families.
Magically, as we step into the cosy wedding room, an actual wedding is calling us from the street.
Daguerreotypes of famous courtesans, smartly presented along with excerpts from their police files, are exhbited here. A genius idea from the curators (Laure Deratte and the Galerie Lumière des Roses).
I was stupid enough to think that an exhibition of photographs that have been published countless times and widely seen all over the world was pointless. The beauty of the actual prints and the magnificence of the Eglise des Frères Précheurs proves me wrong. It almost gives a holistic glow to Mister Lindbergh’s work.
Three hours before the outdoor night event, a menacing sky is shadowing Christian Lacroix ‘s conference. I come across Eva Gravayat, Les Rencontres’s super efficient producer, getting a bit nervous. Tonight the couturier will present a fashion show at the amphitheater.The final and most expected evening of the Festival is actually sold out. Electricity is in the air…
The show should have started already. Rain has been pouring like a pissing cow (a French expression – not sure it translates well in English…) for more than an hour now. No one knows if the show will ever take place. Hundreds of people are packing up in front of the amphitheater.
11 pm? 12 am? 1 am? (I lost track of it all)
The rain stops. Hurrah! Despite the delay and the wet seats, the amphitheater is miraculously full and enthusiastic. Nevertheless, you can still read the previous hours of anxiety on the faces C.Lacroix and the festival’s team.
The awards of Les Rencontres are announced, first the books. As I expected (an easy bet), Pieter Hugo won the Prix Découvertes. Weasels from the audience, prove that I am not the only one to think that this talented photographer is far from being a “discovery”.
The fashion show starts and is a defining moment of my love and hate for Arles. You can tell that most people here have never seen a fashion show before (this afternoon the town was already completely hypnotised by the presence of young models). For my part, my mind is blown away by the spectacle. Not only the garments (an exquisite selection of 40 from CL’s collections) but also the quality of the projection, the backdrop of the catwalk, a brilliant mix of film clips (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Audrey Hepburn’s (sorry I forgot the name) and The Big Lebowsky, among many others) selected by Michel Gaubert, also responsible for a fantastic soundtrack, and CL himself. The audience is hysterical. I have never seen so much excitement in this place. Yes, that’s why I (sometimes) love fashion…
For the second part of the evening, Josef Koudelka’s pictures of the 1968 invasion of Prague paradoxically complete the fashion show with brio. The images take my breath away. Right then, I ask myself, “is there a more efficient photographer in this world?”
The night continues and ends at Cargo Club with the dynamic DJ Oil from Troublemakers (a very famous electronic French band). One-legged Stephane and I are dancing like mad people… a satisfying conclusion to this adventurous trip.