The Rencontres d'Arles (formerly known as the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d'Arles) is a summer photography festival founded in 1970 by Arles photographer Lucien Clergue, author Michel Tournier and historian Jean-Maurice Rouquette.
The Rencontres d'Arles’ policy of programming almost exclusively new work has earned it a world-wide reputation. In 2013, there were 96000 visitors to the festival.
The exhibitions, often co-produced with both French and foreign museums and institutions, are given on various heritage sites, suitably stage-designed for the purpose. Some sites (for example, 12th century chapels or 19th century industrial buildings) are open to the public only for the duration of the festival.
Many photographers have been discovered as a result of the Rencontres; a sure sign of the festival’s importance as a springboard for photographic and contemporary creative talent.
For its depth and reach the programme draws on the points of view of numerous specialists – around twenty each year – from different fields. Sometimes part of the programming is entrusted to an artist, examples including Martin Parr in 2004, Raymond Depardon in 2006, Arles-born couturier Christian Lacroix in 2008 and Nan Goldin in 2009. Every summer since 1970, over the course of more than sixty exhibitions at various of the city’s exceptional heritage sites, the Rencontres d’Arles has been a major influence in disseminating the best of world photography. It sees itself as the melting pot of contemporary creation.
Thanks to a programming policy that almost entirely favours unpublished works, the Rencontres has become the benchmark international photography festival.
The exhibitions are often produced in partnership with French or foreign museums and institutions.
The roll-call of photographers ‘discovered’ at the Rencontres is impressive. Its role as a springboard for artists is strengthened by the presence of many foreign professionals during opening week.
The way exhibitions are set up at Arles involves elaborate stage design. Some historical buildings (12th century chapels and 19th century industrial spaces) are open to the public only during the festival period.
Europe's oldest photography festival puts on a show with a wide variety of photography — some great new discoveries and a tip of the hat to photographers from previous decades. This is the festival's final year under the creative direction of François Hebel.