The Arles Photography Festival

Christian Lacroix and his photographer guests in the south of France.

Photography Incoming
Grégoire Alexandre

Last week, the town of Arles in the south of France played host to the annual Recontres d'Arles Photographie (Arles Photography Festival), and 2008's guest curator had a special signifiance festival for the festival as it was none other than Christian Lacroix who is originally from Arles himself.

"In responding to François Hébel and François Barré's invitation to guest-curate the Rencontres d'Arles," said Lacroix, "there could be no escaping the temptation to curate my own impressions," and although there was a section of the exhibition devoted to the subject of "Photographing Clothes", Lacroix was keen not to create a "fashionista" festival and asked us to look beyond the poses and fabrics.

Lacroix proved the diversity of his tastes with the selection of guests he invited to exhibit at Arles; I asked three of them, Gregoire Alexandre, Charles Freger and Jean-Christian Bourcart, about their work.

Grégoire Alexandre was born in 1972 in Rouen and now lives and works in Paris. He has been published in various magazines about fashion, design and music. Lacroix discovered Alexandre's work at the Hyères Festival and asked Alexandre to photograph his exhibition at the Decorative Arts Museum in Paris and also to shoot the Lacroix for La Redoute campaign.

What's better, analogue or digital?
It depends. but I'm mostly into digital now.
 
What's your favourite piece of clothing?
For the last few months, a kind of patchwork Marc Jacobs jumper.
 
What's the world coming to?
Constant chaos.
  
How would you describe your work?
Leaning towards abstraction, playful and always questioning the eye.
 
Why photography?
Because it's reality based.
 
How do you feel about being chosen by Christian Lacroix to exhibit at the Rencontres D'Arles Photographie?
Lucky, surprised, proud and happy to come back to a place where I lived for three years as a student.
 
What do you think of the Rencontres D'Arles Photographie as an event in general?
Firstly, it's very pleasant, sunny, friendly, and secondly there's often an interesting balance between patrimony and discovery.
 
What other photographers do you admire?
A lot but I've bought the most books from Paul Graham.

You like to involve the photography studio/set in your images – why is that?
It's a way for me to keep one foot in reality, to validate the installations and abstract sets, sometimes to give the idea of the scale and also to initiate some questions about the nature of the photography and its artificiality.

Jean-Christian Bourcart was born in 1960 in Colmar and has lived and worked in New York City since 1997. He is a photo journalist of a different sort, documenting reality with a slight mishap or twist.  His penchant for double exposure and vaseline blurs turns his subjects into something more memorable. 
 
What's better, analogue or digital?
Analogue but I am too lazy to shoot analogue. 
 
What's the name of your hero?
Genghis Kahn.
 
What's so great about your hero?
He conquered an empire five times as big as the Roman Empire in just thirty years. He helmed the origin of the modern world.
  
Why photography?
Because it is a spiritual medium that questions time, space, life and death.
 
What do you think of the Rencontres D'Arles Photographie as an event in general?
I think it has to open up to the multiple usages of photography today, but we are getting there. Plus I love getting the opportunity to drink an apero at a café terrasse with some good friends I don't see very often.
 
What other photographers do you admire?
Diane Arbus, Roger Ballen; but I am more interested by painters, writers or filmmakers than photographers.
 
You seem to like flaws like blurs and double exposure in images – why is that?
I try to show the illusionary nature of reality
 
What do you like depicting; a reality or fantasy?
Your reality could be my fantasy, and vice versa. I don't believe in that kind of dichotomy. I think they are concensuses, concepts that we developed to be able to live together and to cope with the void of the universe.

Charles Fréger was born in 1975 in Bourges. He takes portraits that are purely focused on uniforms of various social groups: sportspeople, students and the military, pointing out the differences and similarities that uniforms impose on people. 

What's your worst vice?
Hungarian Tokay wine

What's your favourite piece of clothing?
The uniform I wear for my Vis Voluntatis performance. I designed it myself. 
 
What's the name of your hero?
Captain Ahab, from the Moby Dick books.
  
How would you describe your work?
I'm doing so many portraits of people wearing a uniform that once I've had enough, I'll become the manager of an American fast food chain.
 
Why photography?
I wanted to be a painter, but I was not a good painter. Then, I decided to be a photographer.
 
What do you think of the Rencontres D'Arles Photographie as an event in general?
It's a great festival, if there's no mistral wind. If there is, then, run away!
 
What other photographers do you admire?
Here I'm supposed to answer August Sander or then you'll say "And what about August Sander?"
 
You have an obsession with uniforms and the use of formal attire in different career roles – how did that develop?
I started to do some portraits of some people wearing uniform in 1998-99. I found very quickly that I was interested by all these groups (sport club, army, schools), especially the communities where people are deeply involved, in a voluntary and traditional way: Legionnaires in France, Sumo wrestlers in Japan, Chinese Opera, Royal guards... Around the title "Portraits photographiques et uniformes", my work developed very fast with a very systematic and serial aspect: frontal, uniform lights, a strong protocol during the shooting; a kind of conceptual attitude which finally changed step by step into something more hesitant, with a certain desire, a wish to get deeper and deeper into the groups I keep visiting. I like the codes, the language, the particular attitudes of each community and the question of the individual in the group is really fundamental.

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