Photographers are investigators. They know their subjects like the backs of their hands…Photographers are explorers. Looking for new territories, they bear witness to the world’s vastness, interrogate history and question the medium. They are neither historians nor sociologists, but artists who construct a visual cosmology out of still or moving images, texts or sounds. They take us along on their stories. Photographers are storytellers.

—Sam Stourdzé, Director of the Rencontres D’Arles


Now in its 47th edition, and second under new director Sam Stourdzé, the program at this year’s Les Rencontres d’Arles further establishes the event at the forefront of the photographic scene. As Stourdzé signals in his opening statement (quoted above), the festival is keen to promote a diverse and heterogeneous understanding of the medium: as investigation, exploration, story-telling, even “visual cosmology.” In other words, snapshot lovers should look elsewhere.

From the very names of the exhibitions in the program, the festival’s forward-looking spirit is evident. “Platforms of the Visible: New Approaches to Documentary Photography” examines photographers who work principally with archives and recontextualization—exhibiting, among others, Laia Abril and Stephanie Solinas. “Rereading Photography in a Different Light” looks at the history of the medium through the lens of re-appropriations, errors or accidents. And “Outside the Frame” showcases photographers working on projects with names like Toiletpaper and the Cardboard Museum—a seemingly stark departure from the classic 35mm of days past. And, as every year since 2002, the festival’s Discovery Award puts a focus on emerging talents from around the world. 10 nominated photographers, hailing from Tokyo, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Los Angeles and every in between, will present bold, cutting-edge work.

Of course, the festival serves many other purposes as well. For one, the program aims to engage the general public by offering more accessible entry points to the non-expert. On that score, the program includes an exhibition titled “Street Photography Revisited,” headlined by such classic names as Garry Winogrand and Sid Grossman (alongside newer street shooters like Eamonn Doyle). The work of legendary Don McCullin will be exhibited as part of a larger theme “After War,” which promises to be both familiar and challenging. And “Singular! Quirky Collections,” a spotlight on free-spirited collectors who gathered everything from amateur photographs of cross-dressers across the 20th century to a photographic history of the Statue of Liberty’s construction.

Finally, lest we forget, the photobook continues to further entrench itself into the heart of the medium. Over 1,000 m² will be dedicated to books, ranging from the Cosmos-Arles book fair, with nearly 100 invited publishers to two book awards: one for a previously published book and another for the production of a new book, with 25,000€ provided in support.

As always, the city of Arles promises to offer a thought-provoking array of exhibitions and programming while bringing together an nspiring cross-section of the photographic community. We hope to see some of you there!

—Alexander Strecker


Editors’ Note: The opening week of this year’s festival will run from July 4 to July 10. Exhibitions will continue until September 25, 2016.

Also, if you are coming to Arles, don’t miss the Voies Off Festival, which for over 20 years has offered an inspiring alternative program focused on a new generation of artists and photographers.

On Thursday evening (July 7), at the always popular outdoor projections, LensCulture will be sharing some of our favorite discoveries from the past year—work from over 60 photographers, all of them winners or finalists from our Street Photography Awards 2015 and the Exposure Awards 2015. Join us for the fun!