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Photojournalism reigns in Perpignan

Photojournalism reigns in Perpignan
 
Damon Winter / The New York Times Magazine. Visa d’Or News 20

Visa pour l’image is THE annual photojournalism festival par excellence: a meeting of photographers, agencies and buyers. And while times are hard for the profession, with agencies closing down, cuts in assignments and a print press in crisis, the festival continues to thrive..

 

We live in an image-obsessed world. Photos and videos are on every street corner, even our mobile phones. What’s more they’re being sent faster and faster, leaving the viewer with little time to step back and reflect. The Visa pour l’image festival “runs counter to this trend” says its founder and director Jean-Francois Leroy. 

The public can stroll around the 27 (free) exhibitions of some of the best work produced by photographers from around the world in pictoresque medieval venues like churches and convents. 

And get to grips with the past year’s actuality on a huge screen at the (free) open air evening screenings.

Photojournalism reigns in Perpignon
09/09/10 2010-39 RDV PHOTOJOURNALISM FESTIVAL 09/09/2010 Listen

From the devastation in Haiti, to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the screenings also show in-depth photoreports of stories that didn’t make the headlines: ecological disaster in Madagascar, the plight of young boys in adult prisons in Sierre Leone. In each case, it’s about showing the bigger picture.

“Magazine owners think people are not interested in photos. Perpignan wants to show people are not stupid and want to understand the world in which we are living” says Leroy.

And judging by the numbers, they do. The screenings are packed, with some 2,600 people attending each evening, a further 2,000 watching the retransmissions.

And while times are hard for photographers, with agencies closing down and freelance commissions in freefall, Leroy is encouraged by the quantity and quality of up and coming new talent.

“Among the 27 exhibitions, you have 7 first exhibitions. There’s such a diversity of talents” he says.

Among them Athit Perawongmetha, a young Thai photographer, whose exhibition Dangerous Bangkok shows the full scale of the conflict that rocked his country in April and May this year; Corentin Fohlen, winner of this year’s City of Perpignan Young Reporter’s award for his poignant images of Haïti and Bangkok; and Andrea Reese Star whose exhibition The Urban Cave takes us deep into the world of a group of homeless living in underground tunnels in New York.

Leroy says part of the festival’s role is to encourage such talent, “helping them to find new ways of making money with their work” such as webdocumentaries and working for non-governmental organisations.

But for a generation raised on digital technologies, Leroy says there’s a worrying tendency to to overuse software like Photoshop.

“Photos we received on Haïti, some looked like Dutch paintings. We’ve gone too far, it’s time to put limits.”

Next year the festival will require photographers to send their raw files – the digital equivalent of negatives - along with their photos.

 


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