Photography Festivals are a bit like blogs: now ubiquitous, of wildly varying quality, often highly political, if sometimes irrelevant and currently springing up all over the globe. However, one of the oldest and justly popular is the annual Rencontres d'Arles in the southern French city which this year celebrates its 39th edition, with an official launch tomorrow July 8th at various venues across Arles until mid-September. If I manage to make it across the Channel, perhaps I might manage to understand a little more about fashion photography and where it fits into the canon of 21st century imagery?
This year's guest curator is one of Arles' favourite sons - the fashion historian and couturier Christian Lacroix (b.1951 or 1956 - some confusion between the designer's own website and every other source...). Among his guest exhibitors are many of the usual suspects: Peter Lindbergh, Paolo Roversi and Brit star of the moment, Tim Walker; the latter has his own retrospective at the Design Museum in London until 28 September. On show in Arles for the first time outside the U.S. is a series from 1995 by doyen Richard Avedon (1923-2004). Entitled "In Memory of the Late Mr and Mrs Comfort: a Fable" - the images feature a series of increasingly macabre tableaux of model Nadja Auermann, engaged in an extremely intimate relationship with a skeleton - albeit one which is often fully-clothed - in itself, a puzzling image which continues to disturb long after one has turned the page or moved on.
Cintra Wilson, the "Critical Shopper" recently lambasted Lacroix's latest design confections in the New York Times, calling them "regressive" and suggesting that the designer was "boxing the dusk in the twilight of life" and concluding that he had reached "inevitable self-parody".
Yet only last week, Suzy Menkes in the IHT lauded Lacroix's very latest Paris collection. At a chic birthday lunch in the Netherlands last week, my table companion correctly identified my Wedgewood blue brocade coat as a Lacroix; I didn't trouble him with the detail that it was only from the relatively affordable Bazar diffusion line and that it was at least a decade old....
If you feel like a trip to Provence to consider Lacroix's curatorial eye, check out: http://www.rencontres-arles.com/ARL/C.aspx?VP3=Renderer_VPage&ID=ARLP144