Day two and we tried to get an early start in to see some more shows, but inevitably spent the morning chatting to various photographers and then stumbled across a midday drinks reception at the collectives area in the Palais de Congres for nibbles and more chitchat on the state of photojournalism today.
Opinions are rather divided on Perpignan in this 20th anniversary year. Some say it should be celebrated for it’s consistent commitment to photojournalism, a yearly gathering of common interests and important issues. On the other hand is the view that the format is tired and uninspiring to new photographers, with many similar stories and photographic styes repeated year after year. Is this the fault of the curators, or the fact that photojournalism is “in crisis”? I am inclined to agree with a certain agency director who told me last night he sees plenty of brilliant photojournalism produced on a daily basis all over the world – but only a fraction is featured here.
One thing which has been noticeable at the evening slideshows is an extreme lack of European and American based stories. Of course it is crucial to highlight events in Asia and Africa but are there not equally important stories to be told in the West? Munem Wasif, the Bangladeshi photographer who has won the Young Reporter’s Award told me he’d like to see more photographers working within their own country, wherever that may be, as they have a unique perspective which can never be replicated by an outsider.
Eventually we made it to the Couvent des Minimes to see a few more exhibitions. Hightlights were Horst Faas’s 50 Years of Photojournalism – devastatingly moving images of Vietnamese villagers caught up in the American bombardements and Nina Berman’s Homeland USA – vividly saturated images of the paranoia sweeping America since 9/11. Bullet proof vests for dogs and citizens playing dead in mock terror attacks.
Onto the evening slideshow, this time we relocated to the public space of Place de la Republique – far more comfortable and sociable than the Campo Santo. Stephan Vanfleteren‘s portraits of Belgian fishermen were beautiful, simple black and white studies, their faces full of intense emotion and world weariness. George Steinmetz’s African Air gave us breathtaking arial views of the continent from above – the desert dunes and shanty towns transformed into abstract geometric patterns.
Watch this space for interviews and soundbites coming soon, and if you’re at Cafe de la Poste tonight feel free to come over and tell me your views. I’m off to mingle a bit more, it’s a hard life!