Visa Pour L’Image (3) – Round up
09 Sep 2008
The combination of stunning location, french food and wine, photographers from all over the world and oppportunities for collaborations springing up at every corner create an energy and atmosphere at Perpignan that is truly unique. Cafe de la Poste, the after hours venue of choice, is heaving until at least 5am, when it shuts for a brief couple of hours before the breakfast rush.
The exhibitions are too numerous to mention each and every one, and I did sometimes find myself walking around them in an image-saturated blur, but two I enjoyed on the last day were Paolo Pellegrin’s “Iraqi Diaspora” and Munem Wasif’s “Bangladesh, standing on the edge”.
Munem had already endeared himself to me when I interviewed him earlier, speaking about the need for more photographers to document their own country, rather than focussing always on the exotic. His pictures give an intimate view into three under-represented groups of people in Bangladesh. The Rohingya refugees from neighbouring Burma, climate refugees driven from their homes after flooding and the people of Puran Dhaka (Old Dhaka) where change occurs slowly and traditions are integral to young and old alike. Munem received the City of Perpignan Young Reporter’s Award.
This year for the nightly slideshow presentations, I gave up the uncomfortable seating of the Campo Santo auditorium in favour of Place de la Republique. The square became packed each night with festival goers and locals alike, armed with picnics and fighting for the spots with the best views of the giant screen. Whether or not these stories are the very best of the year’s photojournalism, the fact that they are communicated to so many in such a powerful way is to be apploauded. Sometimes the music can be slightly inapropriate, even to the point of cheesy (an extemely slowed down version of “Eye of the Tiger” accompaniying a story on elderly boxers caused much hillarity) but generally the delivery is impressive and the sheer quality of the images at that size is a sight to behold.
Highlights included: Noel Quidu ‘s The Shooting of Johnny Mad Dog, a set of film stills and behind the scene footage from a film about child soldiers, shot on location in Monrovia. The actors are unknown and have experienced many of the scenes in which they perform. Quidu’s photographs are powerful. They appear real because we’ve seen simliar before and yet they are disturbingly perfect and cinematic in stlye. A brave and controversial choice. Marcus Bleasdale’s harrowing images concentrated on the extreme poverty and child mortatlity in thie Democratic Republic of Congo and Ernesto Bazan’s Cuba filled with passion and love for the country, but a ended with a cruel poignancy at the last frame as it was revealed he was threatened by the government for teaching “journalism” (he ran photography workshops) and had to leave the country he had adopted as his own.
Friday’s penultimate slideshow saw a round up of the best stories from the past 20 years in celebration of the festival’s birthday. Marie Dorigny (the only woman featured!) shared this dedicated line up with Dario Mitideri, Hans Silvester, Patrick Robert, Phillipe Bleckinsop and two stories from Paul Fusco (Chetchny and Funeral Train) amongst others. Some obvious choices I felt, but all deservingly celebrated. The evening concluded with a montage of Rolling Stones images to a medley of their hits which provided some much needed light relief.
It was a lucky coincidence then, that the organisers had planned this evening on the Friday, because Saturday’s final screening and (more crucially) the closing night party was cancelled, apparently due to electrical problems. Much confusion and disbelief ensued when it became apparent that the final night of free drinks and shoulder rubbing was not to be, but plan b’s were quickly put into action and we ended up watching a spontaneous and typically energetic slideshow presentation put together by Gigi Giannuzzi of Trolley Books.
The anti-climatic ending was a shame but I have no doubt the opportunity for war-weary photographers and wine-loving editors to spend a week in the south of France will ensure the festival continues well into the next 20 years, despite questions around it’s integrity. See you next year?