Starting this weekend and lasting through September 15, the world’s largest festival of international photojournalism — Visa pour l’Image — returns to the medieval city of Perpignan in southern France.
Photojournalists, editors, photo agency representatives, curators and photography students, plus industry experts and journalists, will converge to enjoy a packed couple of days of exhibitions, discussions, screenings and awards during the festival’s “professional week.” Meetings spill over from more formalized indoor portfolio reviews and talks to networking among the cobbled stones of the ancient city, with Le Grand Café de la Poste, a local bistro and brasserie, being the base of operations from which just about all things emanate.
In its 31st year there is a list of powerful exhibitions and inspiring talks in different locations around the city. This week on PDN Photo of the Day we’ll delve a little deeper into one or two of the photographers and their work – so check back! Overall, though, here are a few highlights of this year’s festival:
The nightly screenings (September 2 through September 7) are arguably the highlight of the festival. Take a jacket and head to Campo Santo at 9.30pm. Get there early if you want good seats. This year the screenings will be shown simultaneously at the Théâtre de l’Archipel.
The shows cover a range of events from the previous year and you’ll travel from Yemen to Libya to Algeria and Iraq, Syria and Venezuela to the US Border region, to name but a few places. You’ll hear stories of migration and climate change, economic upheaval and revolution. For some dizzying perspective keep a look out for Johnny Miller’s take on a divided South Africa on the evening of September 4. On September 6, for some breathtaking beauty amongst some of the grimness let Franck Seguin introduce you to a man who walks under water. Take a stroll with him…
The nightly screenings also announce the winners of several yearly grants and awards – amongst them stellar work by Anush Babajanyan of VII photo agency who won 2019’s Canon Female Photojournalist Award in recognition of her contribution to photojournalism and Thomas Morel-Fort, winner of the 2019 Camille Lepage award for his work on Filipino domestic workers.
In addition to the nightly screenings exhibitions in some of Perpignan’s oldest buildings will introduce viewers to the French yellow jackets, the crisis in Yemen, wildlife tourism, reproductive rights, the pollution of Lake Victoria and the fall of the Caliphate. Most of the photographers will have a personal walkabout of their exhibitions – highly recommended. (Schedules are available at Perpignan’s Palais des Congrès.)
I’m looking especially forward to Cyril Abad’s images of the eccentricities of America’s religious communities (“In God We Trust”) and Ed Jones body of work, “The Koreas – Across the Peninsula,” snapshots of life from both sides of the Korean peninsula which, despite their shared history, have been separated for more than 70 years. (Both exhibitions are at the Couvent des Minimes. Admission is free of charge, 10am to 8pm, August 31 through September 15)
For those wanting to take some of the photography home there are books to be bought and signed by some of the photographers at La librairie éphémère, the official festival bookstore on Friday, September 6 from 3pm – 7pm. Among the photographers signing books will be Ivor Pickett (End of the Caliphate, Steidl), Lisette Poole (La Paloma Y la Ley, Red Hook Editions), Lynsey Addario (Of love & War, Penguin Press), Sebastian Meyer (Under Every Yard of Sky, Red Hook Editions), Michel Setboun (Iran, revolution, Les Arènes) and Louie Palu (Asbestos, Yoffy Press).
The above is just a smattering of what will make up a very full week. I asked Olivier Laurent, photo editor at the Washington Post and a longtime Perpignan devotee (he’s been coming to the festival for over a decade) why he returned year after year and he said: “There are a lot of photo festivals… and while I love getting a sense of what’s new in all forms of photography at many of these, Visa pour l’Image offers, for me, the rare opportunity to feel the pulse of news photography in that one place…”
If last year is anything to go by (there were over 3000 professional photographers from more than 61 countries in the small town) the pulse of Perpignan is most definitely going to beating at a rapid rate come this week.
— Samantha Reinders