by Henry Shaftoe

September 1 -16  sees Perpignan flooded with professional and amateur photographers from the four corners of the globe, for the prestigious “VISA Pour l’Image” festival.

VISA Pour l’Image
PACO: A DRUG STORY, BRASIL, MARCH 2010. Paco, a new and highly-addictive drug, is sweeping through the ghettos and shanty towns of South America. This exhibition follows the cocaine-based drug from las cocinas (the kithens), the production laboratories, through the hands of the traffickers and into the lives of its victims, who are mostly teenagers. © Valerio Bispuri

Huge exhibitions are mounted in the Couvent des Minimes, Chapelle des Dominicaines and adjacent buildings in the old town. And it’s all free!

In the evenings there are projections of the best photos of  the year, at Campo Santo, adjacent to the cathedral – a powerful open air spectacle which is so popular you have to queue for at least an hour beforehand to be sure of a (free) seat.

If that was not enough for photography lovers, there is a simultaneous “Off” (fringe) series of exhibitions in various shops and cafes dotted around the centre of Perpignan.

VISA Pour l’Image
Elephants have always been threatened by the greed of humans but recently, several of Africa’s most ferocious terrorist organisations have turned to the illegal ivory trade as a source of funding. This report documents the violence subjected onto these majestic creatures and reveals the wider ramifications within local communities.
© Brent Stirton/ Getty Images

But remember that this is primarily a festival of photo-journalism, so don’t expect pictures of frolicking fluffy kittens or harbours in the sunset. Many of the images are taken by brave (or voyeuristic?) photographers in theatres of war or other disaster areas, so some of the images, although superb, can be harrowing.

Full details are available a week or two beforehand, from the Perpignan Tourist Information Office, adjacent to Place Arago, or on the web. But if you just arrive in the centre Perpignan between the 1 and 16 September you will come across photos everywhere – last year they were draped above the canal alongside Quai Vauban and striking images were pasted on many available walls:

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