V I S A P O U R L ‘ I M AG E

The sun has been shining on Perpignan this week as the Festival of VISA pour l’IMAGE gets underway. The town is full of photographers and photojournalists and all the usual venues are full of brilliant photos. Most mornings there are interesting talks at the Palais des Congres and every evening there are screenings in the Campo Santo and, on the 2nd and 4th, in the Place de la Republique.

Hotel Pams bustles with the world’s press (including PO Life) and all the bars, cafés and restaurants are doing a roaring trade.
The Couvent des Minimes at the top of the town in Rue François Rabelais is the place to start a visit. World Prize winners are to be found on the first floor, impressive as ever. On the ground floor, as you enter, is Stephanie Sinclair’s fascinating exhibition of life in the community of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a tale of polygamy, old-fashioned costume and Mormon customs.

In a side room is “Pilgrimage”, brilliant work by Japanese photographer, Kazuyoshi Nomachi. He captures the traditional cultures of remote people living in the world’s hinterlands, recording the renaissance of religion and the practice of age-old religious expression. He became a Muslim and was able to capture dramatic photographs of the 27th day of Ramadan, one of the holiest nights in the Islamic calendar when over a million pilgrims come to Mecca to pray overnight.

Victims of war, authoritarian regimes and natural disasters are sensitively shown in Olivier Laban-Mattei’s exhibition on the first floor entitled “The day Everything Changed”.

On the ground floor William Albert Allard’s collected works from almost 50 years of photographing the world for National Geographic are beautiful. Classic photography. As he says, “The best pictures last because they sing…”

Also on the ground floor is a tribute to William Klein, inspiration of generations of photojournalists.

The winner of the City of Perpignan Young Reporter’s Award 2010, Corentin Fohlen covers the horror of Haiti after the earthquake, showing not only ghastliness but also the courage of the Haitians faced with chaos and destruction. In Bangkok, a David and Goliath of a struggle, he shows the strengths of the Redshirts fighting tanks, helicopters and machineguns of the Thai Army with sling shots and fireworks. Impressive photo-reportage.

The Chapelle of Ste Dominique, a venue of breathtaking beauty, is dominated by Michael Nichol’s ENORMOUS composite picture of the “Mother of the Universe”, a 1500 year old, 300 foot tall redwood and the story of the California Timber Wars between the “tree huggers” and the “tree cutters”.

In the nearby Chapel du Tiers Ordre “the Wisdom of the Human Race”, an inspiring collection of peaceful photographs, is the work of Danielle and Olivier Follmi.

And there are many, many more.

VISA continues till September 12, the exhibitions are free, the atmosphere and excitement is tangible. Jean-François Leroy and his team have, for the 22nd time, put on a show second to none, ensuring that Perpignan maintains its position as the World’s Capital of Photojournalism.

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