Sunday, 31 August 2014

Warehouses, surrealism and selfies

After a tasty lunch we visit a few more monochromatic displays and then continuing to follow the purple moose, head to the more industrial area of town. We enter the part housing a series of dilapidated warehouses, there's a whole chunk of the exhibits we can tick off here. Even as we enter the first space the sunlight pouring through the ornate fretwork is casting intriguing designs on the floor.

Many of the exhibits consists of collections and some seem laboured, and repetitive. There's a curious group of Dutch photographers recording everything from trees reflected in car bonnets, old prams, geraniums and even performance art where someone tries to get himself in other's photographs, in a local newspaper, for example.

The largest space was given to a Spanish surreal photographer Chema Madoz. I have seen his photos previously but seeing the entire exhibition was very compelling and I was determined to find out more about his work. There are tables of photography books for purchasing running down the middle of the warehouse space but a coffee table book on Madoz might have to be an Amazon purchase when back home.

We're starting to get a little photoed out by now but still new rooms reveal themselves so warrant investigation.

By the door there is an old fashioned photo booth and we decided our final act here should be to commemorate our visit with a black and white souvenir. I'm not a fan of self portraits but am persuaded to strike a pose. It's nice to see the original photo booths rather than the ones constructed around a rigged up to a Canon Mark II at pretty much every party/social gathering these days.

Outside we encounter more of the distinctive street art, an abundance of the hearts and crosses and the ever watchful eyes. As they are closing for the evening we managed to squeeze in one more exhibit, mainly full of cardboard buildings. And yes I was compelled to briefly interact a little more than other visitors to one of the pieces!







Street, art and street art

We start our day of meandering around the eclectic works in Parade photography festival by heading for Arles' main square. At every turn there's street art to admire and give colour to the higgledy piggledy alleyways. There's the first hat purchase en route and then our first port of call is a beautiful civic building.

One of the most unique elements is that the exhibits are housed in a enormous variety of spaces from ornate classical buildings resplendent in stained glass, friezes, chandeliers and vaulted ceilings to vast abandoned, warehouses. The first one is full of group photographs, from the mundane, the quirky and the very odd. They are much more compelling than they may sound.

Then we examine the works by a couple who've won a BMW competition for artists in residence. Most of their work is finding often kitsch images online and combining them with other found images. Perhaps a little contrived and again maybe not displaying the skills of a photographer perhaps rather photoshop and unearthing Internet curiosities.

David Bailey's popular offerings are more what you'd expect from such an exhibition and are hung in a minimalist white vaulted room. It's a popular exhibit with plenty of people stroking their chins in front of each picture.



Saturday, 30 August 2014

Happy holidays!

I've been really looking forward to this photography holiday, my first trip with Happy Camera and actually Happy Camera's inaugural holiday. I liked the fact that we were due to gain much inspiration from a huge festival of photography and then explore the region taking our own photos.

For the long Eurostar journey to Avignon, to get our creative juices flowing we were lent a random book to read, absorb and distill en route. My muse was the Johnny Stiletto book "shots from the hip". Definitely some food for thought for when we're exploring the markets etcetera in the days to come.

On arrival we checked into our beautiful hotel, retired to a street café for much needed refreshment, and started planning our visit. We laid out the maps accompanying the festival across our little round table, and were determined to get some of the exhibitions out of the way. We didn't have too many choices as it was later in the day, but across the road was the somewhat controversial Martin Parr exhibition, plus a few others so that seems the place to start.

The exhibits are spread over several floors of blackened rooms and you are each armed with torches to explore, amongst other things, Martin Parr's curated collection of propaganda photobooks. I have to admit the novelty of the flashlight does seem to encourage a more singular immersion as your torch reveals the next piece in the collection. I suppose the issue with Martin's exhibit is that it can't really be called his photography, but more photos of his personal collection.

After a feast for our eyes, our thoughts turn to our first French feast. We meander around the centre of Arles and identify some likely candidates but they look full and eventually plump for the obviously touristy la café de Nuit. The café was immortalised by Van Gogh in his painting Terrasse de café la nuit sur la place du Forum à Arles. I don't think we'll remember the food in particular, though my daube of beef isn't too bad but we do have the welcome distraction of Jasper, a dalmatian puppy who seems a feature of the café.

Finding such an obliging dog makes me immediate want to channel Elliot Erwitt. He is the perfect subject for my first foray into black and white photography on this trip, l suspect there will be many more to follow.