VISA – no credit card required

With Henry Shaftoe

If you happen to be in Perpignan at the end of the summer and notice an unusually large number of people wandering around with large cameras dangling from their torsos, it is because you have stumbled across « Visa Pour L’Image », the world’s largest photo-journalism festival. 


Although primarily aimed at professional photographers, the integral exhibitions (at the Couvent des Minimes, Eglise des Dominicaines and several other venues) are open to the public and are FREE 

Don’t expect to see many pictures of cuddly kittens and glowing sunsets – this is photojournalism in the raw, so all human life (and particularly misery) is on display.

However, there is also the « VISA – Off Festival » in various venues in Perpignan at the same time – a fringe festival which sometimes features more « arty » photography. 

In addition to the displays of large format photos ( of superb quality), there are free evening events at the historic Campo Santo (ancient burial ground, adjacent to the cathedral) were various awards are presented, accompanied by projections onto a huge screen of the winning images (and that is free too, if you can get in – you need to queue well in advance).

campo santo

As you would expect of an international festival, the standard of photography is impressive. But some of the images (particularly of war-torn or famine-ridden areas) can be upsetting and, at times it feels somewhat « voyeuristic » to be looking at beautifully composed images of human suffering. However, there are usually some spectacular images featuring wild-life and nature (often under threat, due to climate change end environmental degradation).

There can be alarmingly amusing images too. For example, last year there was a series of images of people (in the USA) proudly displaying their various gun collections, including a pastor posing with his AK47 machine gun in front of his church – you didn’t know whether to laugh or cry ! 

VISA has a permanent presence in Perpignan in the form of « the International Centre for Photojournalism », at the Couvent des Minimes, where, as well as administrative offices, there are free exhibitions of selected photojournalistic images, all year round. 

This year « VISA pour l’Image » runs from  the 2nd to the 17th of September, with projections in the Campo Santo between 4th-9th September. 


Discover central Perpignan without any of the hassle with a multi-lingual guided visit on the Petit Train Touristique. You can even pick up a copy of the P-O Life magazine while you’re at it! Be sure to say hello from us!

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