When a long-running institution changes leadership or direction, a (nostalgic) look back often serves as a final act of remembrance and a springboard towards transition and a fresh start. After over a dozen years of direction under François Hebel, Les Rencontres d'Arles de la Photographie is at just such a moment of wanting to gaze back while needing to step forward. Unwilling to allow nostalgia to dominate, Arles has tried to split the difference: this year's edition is built around the theme "Parade."
The concept of a parade seems to capture this year's edition perfectly. Based on the list of exhibitions, curators, and work being featured, there seems no other word that could encompass the variety and breadth of work being shown at this year's festival. From first-timers (in Arles) like Vik Muniz and Patrick Swirc to Arles staples such as Raymond Depardon, Christian Lacroix, Martin Parr, to a broad retrospective of award winners from the Prix Pictet, the festival this year, like any good parade, tries to pack in a little bit of everything.
Of course, any parade runs the risk of disorganization and a lack of focus. This year's edition certainly teeters on the edge of that. Instead of a laser-focused, tightly curated review of the past, the program offers a big, open-armed party. A tight program would have been welcome, offering the chance to reflect and elucidate, but there are certainly worse ways to go out than with the wild pleasure of a last hurrah.
If nothing else, Arles always brings together a delightfully broad cross-section of the photographic community in one beautiful place. We look forward to seeing some of you there, and for those who can't make it, enjoy our highlights of the festival above.
Editor's Note: The opening week of this year's festival will run from July 7 to July 13. Exhibitions will continue until September 21.