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50 years ago, photographer Lucien Clergue, writer Michel Tournier and historian Jean-Maurice Rouquette put together the first edition of Les Rencontres d’Arles in the city’s town hall. They had three exhibitions – a group show tracing the history of photography, and solo shows by Gjon Mili and Edward Weston. Now it’s the largest and most prestigious photography festival in the world, and this summer, they celebrate 50 years with 50 exhibitions, looking back on their history and heritage, as well as championing cutting-edge photography and emerging talent.
Running from 01 July till 22 September, the festival is lead by director Sam Stourdzé for the sixth year. Last year, Stourdzé was criticised by a group of eminent photography specialists in an open letter urging him to include more women in the main programme. A year on, it seems they’ve taken the criticism on board. Marina Gadonneix, Germaine Krull, Helen Levitt, Evangelia Kranioti, Libuse Jarcovjakova, Camille Fallet, and Pixy Liao, among many more, appear on the main programme with solo shows; the festival also includes a section titled Replay, which is dedicated to female-led narratives.
Replay includes a group show titled The Unretouched Woman, which combines the work of Eve Arnold, Abigail Heyman and Susan Meiselas, whose photobooks from the 1970s challenged gender bias and celebrated women from across the globe. In the same section is a group exhibition of around 200 vintage prints by Berenice Abbott, Florence Henry, Germaine Krull and more, as well as Tom Wood’s Mothers, Girls, Sisters, which was shot in the suburbs of Liverpool between the early 1970s and late 1990s.