Perpignan 2006

Last Night

By Jim Colburn Sunday, September 10th, 2006

Last night was the last night. Of the 18th Visa Pour L’Image at least.

Since I wanted to take my wife out for a nice meal I skipped the slide show at Campo Santo and found a great little place called Osmoses on the Rue des Cardeurs. Calling this a rue is probably over doing at but maybe the French don’t have a word for tiny-little-passage-way-connecting-two-slightly-bigger-passage-ways.

They don’t let space go to waste in Perpignan. Got a street that’s eight feet wide or so? One with very little traffic? Need some extra table space on a summer night? Voila. The street is now the main dining room.

Visa is not only something for photographers. It’s also very much a community event for the citizens of Perpignan. They can apply for and get tickets to see the evening’s slide shows at Campo Santo but a few short blocks away at the Place Gambetta the city and Visa set up a public viewing area with wide projections screens, decent sound and a live feed of the event.
It makes for a pleasant evening to sit in the square to watch the show,
sit in a near-bye restaurant and pretend to watch the show,
or just hang out at the peripheries and catch a few minutes as you happen by.

The big event on Saturday night is the party sponsored by Canon and held at the Convent des Minimes. Oh how the nuns of yesterday would be shocked by the flow of free champagne in the outer courtyard or the throb of music coming from the courtyard inside.
I spent most of my time at the party/rave wandering around shooting video so my plan for the moment is something along the lines of “Photographers Gone Wild”. But rest assured that
whatever happens in Perpignan, stays in Perpignan.

Tonight’s “Midnight At The Café De La Poste” photo features:
not much. Everyone has headed over to the Convent for the party. It’s free. The drinks are free. What do you think we are, stupid?

Award Night For Todd

By Jim Colburn Saturday, September 9th, 2006

Last night was a good one if your name was Todd or if you knew someone at AFP, Corbis or Getty.
If your name was Todd Heisler you approached the VIP entrance
with family and friends like M/M J.P.Pappis (Polaris), your lovely wife and your ever-so-supportive boss (Rocky Mountain News DOP Janet Reeves).
You sat down to watch the evening’s show, listen to some music that you haven’t heard before and wait until that Academy Award moment when “the winner is”… turned out to be you.
Then it’s a short jog to the stage to meet jury president (and former London Sunday Times Picture Editor) Michael Rand, get your 2006 Visa D’Or award in the Magazine category, and then back to your seat.

As he is a newspaper staffer it may seem a bit odd that Todd won in the mag category but since the Rocky Mountain News’ European circulation is probably in the single digits (there have to be five or six people that leave a copy in the seat-back pocket of flights from Denver to Frankfurt) it was through the efforts of Todd’s agents at Polaris that his work was seen all over the world. So now Todd is an award-winning magazine photographer as well as an award-winning magazine photographer and I’m sure that his wife still has to bug him to take out the garbage on pick-up day.

If you know someone, or know someone that knows someone, at Agence France Presse or Getty Images you can go to the Panoramique bar, high (seventh floor) atop the Palais des Congres in Perpignan to suck down some wine and eat some nice food. The view is to die for and the scene like something out of a European movie.
You’ll meet charming people like AFP’s Sue Williams
and people like this man. His name is Manoocher Degahati and he’s in the process of setting up an editorially independent photo agency ( for the United Nations’ Humanitarian Affairs Office. It’s based in Nairobi, Kenya and he’ll be hiring freelancers around the world. Bug him, not me.

Corbis’ party, hosted by Guy Cooper, their “Gloabal Director of Photography” (that’s what the card says… A mistake? I don’t think so), was a lower key event. It was held after the Campo Santo show at a wonderful Moroccan restaurant. The rose was excellent and the lemon chicken with couscous divine.
The table with the greatest potential and the noisiest output was the one over in the corner were Michael Brown, Chris Maluszynski, Carlos Cazalalis, Marvi Lacar, Ben Lowy and Ryan Pyle insisted on wearing hats and making toasts to non-existent gods. A hoot.

The week’s best pick-up line so far?
It’s partly visual so bear with me. You extend your index finger as does the object of your desire. You touch finger-tip to finger-tip. You look into their eyes and say, with all due humility, “This is the finger that pushed the shutter that took the picture that shook the world”.,.

Tonight’s “Midnight At The Café De La Poste” photo features

Radhika Chalasani, Robin Maddock, Michael Grieve and Alix Fazzina. Robin and Michael thought that the “terrorist chic” thing would help them meet women and it looks like they were right.

Q&A, Q&A, Q&A, Q&A

By Jim Colburn Friday, September 8th, 2006

Q: Do Audi dealers in France make their customers pass an Asshole Test before handing over the keys to a new A4?
A: There’s nothing on Audi’s web site that says this is company policy, but seeing Audis scream by at unnecessary speeds while weaving in and out of traffic seems to suggest that this is, at least, unofficial Audi policy.

Q: Will my little Fluffy enjoy the news and music on the CATRADIO station?
A: Only if she understands the Catalan language. It’s spoken by many in Perpignan as this is a part of Catalonia, (which stretches down the coast to Barcelona).

Q: What is it with French anyway? It’s like they have a different word for everything….
A: Drink your pastis and shut up.

Q: What is that gorgeous little camera over there? I haven’t seen anything like it before.
A: That’s a cell phone. It has a built in 3 megapixel camera and can hold the images on SD cards. Some times it even works as a phone.

Q: A two parter. Who got a standing ovation on Thursday night at the slide show and who has the biggest cojones in town?
A: Same answer for both questions. Russian photographer Igor Kostin. He was the first photographer on the scene the day of the disaster at Chernobyl and has been going back for years to document the clean up and the aftermaths of the spread of radiation. Stunning work.

Q: Does everyone use email these days?
A: Former Life Magazine editor John Morris does (center, above) but David Douglas Duncan does not. Apple has set up twelve machines so that people can check their email and I’d like to thenk the Apple folks for being so helpful, but last year’s open WiFi system at the Palais du Congres was a much better idea. Everyone has a laptop, all we need is a signal.

Q: Can I get someone to look at my work while I’m at Perpignan?
A: Stand in line at the Magnum booth and you could get your portfolio reviewed by people like David Alan Harvey (above) or Paul Fusco. There are ediors all over town. Your job is to figure out which of the thousands of people here is an editor. Hint: Bring two portfolios. Show the B&W version to the European agencies and the Color one to anyone else.

Q: How is Horst Faas doing these days?
A: Rollin’ with the homies by the looks of things. He makes Marianne Fulton smile.

Q: Who would be the least interested in my three-year project on the effects of soil erosion on the people of the steppes of Western China?
A: Probably the folks at the Splash News photo agency. But damn it, if you manage to get a picture of Mel Gibson doing something untoward or a Katie Curic dress malfunction I’m sure they’d be REAL glad to talk to you about it.

Q: What annoyed Elliot Erwitt when he saw the exhibits?
A: That would probably be Eric Baudelaire’s war photos set in Iraq. Very big and very sharp, but since it was taken in Los Angeles on a film set using actors it ain’t really a war photo. Mr. Erwitt called it a fake picture and didn’t appreciate the fact that it was on display in the same place as the work of Henri Huet, Stanley Greene and… Elliot Erwitt.

Q: Why does Erwitt take so many pictures of dogs?
A: They don’t ask for prints.

Tonight’s “Midnight at the Café de La Poste” features
The gang from Rome, (L to R) Anna Savini, Cristina Vatielli, Polletto, Annalisa D’Angelo and Diego Orlando

Bits And Pieces (It’s All Bits And Pieces)

By Jim Colburn Thursday, September 7th, 2006

It’s not easy running a major international photojournalism festival…

I managed to spend an hour or so “backstage” at last night’s slide show at Campo Santo with Jean-Francois LeRoy as he prepped for the evening’s presentation of photographs. He and his crew write and practice intros and patter, greet important guests, smoke a few cigarettes and drink a lot of coffee. Somehow, I don’t know how, it all comes together at Visa each night. Sort of like The Daily Show but with fewer laughs.


One of the nicest things about the Internet, aside from The Digital Journalist, is the rise of the virtual community. I’ve been a member of a web site discussion group for BMW motorcycles ( and sports photographers ( Upon arriving in Perpignan I found out about another group called Lights Stalkers ( It’s an interesting site with lots of chats, lots of questions and answers and a whole bunch of information. Since a few people from the Light Stalkers community were coming to Visa Pour L’Image it was suggested that people get together for a drink on Wednesday night.

The Light Stalker group photo

The group had people from the US, France, Sweden, Spain, Germany, other European countries and places as far away as China. We all met outside the Municipal Theater in the Place de la Résistance at 7:00 (19h00) to shake hands, put faces to names and say things like, “You’re taller/shorter than I imagined,” or “You’re a man/woman?”

One Light Stalker turned out to be Digital Railroad ( CEO Evan Nisselson. Evan’s a nice guy but out of his freaking mind, as he uttered that most dangerous of phrases when in the midst of a group of 40 or so photographers, “The drinks are on me for the next hour”. The bar loved him. We love him. We had a drink or six.

Evan (c) and two of his happy employees

Medicines du Monde (the people behind Doctors without Borders) have an exhibit in a tent outside the main hall that in interesting in many ways. On the one hand it’s a presentation masterpiece, a “darkroom” with photos on the wall and in developing trays. One thing, though. It is a dark room. In order to see pictures you need light. Unless you’re willing to spend 15 minutes inside to get your eyes adjusted to the low light level it can be a bit hard to see some of the work.

The Medicines Du Monde exhibit

Shameless Plug of the Day:

The Digital Journalist’s Dirck Halstead taking part in a symposium about the Subject of a photo becoming an Object

His proclamation that “in ten years all photographers will be shooting video” caused a stir in the audience. In an equivalent meeting in the 15th Century Dirck would have been dragged outside and burned at the stake.

Today’s edition of “Midnight At The Café De La Poste”


features Scott Mc Kiernan From Zuma Press celebrating Hazel Thompson’s being awarded this year’s CARE International Award For Humanitarian Reportage for her work on children in prison in the Philippines.

By Jim Colburn Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

When you’re at Visa Pour L’Image the natural tendency is to stay up ‘til all hours of the night drinking, chatting and schmoozing. This tends to have little or no effect on those involved, as the company is generally excellent and the waiters at the Café De La Poste reasonably quick, if not terribly cheery.

The early mornings, however, will beat the crap out of you, so it’s best to sleep until Noon. Doing so will cause you to miss some excellent symposia and discussion so the choice is up to you.

Gallery space at the Eglise des Dominicains

Yesterday was my day for making the rounds of the main exhibition spaces, in particular the big shows at a former convent and a former chapel. The majestic space of the Eglise des Dominicains is home to the shows of Elliot Erwitt, Stanley Greene and Henri Huet.

I’m lead to wonder why Huet’s stuff from Vietnam hasn’t been as prominently displayed for the last thirty years or so. Damn shame but I suppose the phrase, “better late than never” fits the situation.

Part of the Erwitt show

Erwitt’s pictures are wonderful and tied in to the publication of a new book called “Personal Best.” It’s a huge retrospective, and by huge I mean both photographically and physically. The thing is on sale for a little under 100 Euros (around $130) and feels like it weighs upwards of 25 pounds. My only fear in buying it is that it’ll probably put me over the allowable baggage weight limit for the flight home but sacrifices may have to be made so I’ll probably have to leave the new toaster-oven (the sale at the Carrefour hypermarket was REALLY good) in Europe.

The shows at the Couvent des Minimes were on a smaller, more intimate scale as the space there is broken up into various rooms, with one or two photographers per room.

The Joe Rosenthal Gallery

In a great tribute, considering his recent passing, one of the galleries is named after AP photographer Joe Rosenthal and that’s where Contact Press is showing off 30 years of work. In a display that will soon be impossible to re-create they show very large contact sheets (large like 6 ft by 8 ft large) and then some of the pictures from each. I can see a day not too far away when the idea of a “contact sheet” will be a curiosity used to describe something completely different. Sort of like today when you tell someone to “dial” your phone number even though the telephone dial has all but disappeared.

Visa seems to be a great place for small agencies to make contacts. A lot of young (and not so young) Europeans band together in photo co-ops or “collectives” in order to get things rolling.

Prospekt Photo rep Eva Zamboni

One such group is Prospekt Photo ( in Milan, Italy. They have a talented bunch of shooters that have already won some awards for their work. There’s even a whole room devoted to small collectives at the Palais Des Congress (the local exhibition and trade show center). Upstairs there’s Corbis, Reuters, the AP and Getty, downstairs there’s Luna, Pixsil, Transit and Odessa. Good luck to you, small agencies.

Tuesday night’s show at Campo Santo

Oil seemed to be the big idea at last night’s Campo Santo show. Oil on the ground. Oil in the rivers. Oil burning in big, black plumes of smoke. Generally not the view that an Exxon or a BP would like you to see. I seem to be getting vibe that nothing has happened in the last year that was really very nice. Death and destruction abound. Hatred leaps out at you from all corners. China is not only heading for the scrap heap it actually IS a scrap heap and everyone in the developing world carries an AK-47.

An Apple rep helping set up the Todd Heisler slide show

Back to my “early morning” thing I did manage to drag myself down to hear Todd Heisler (Rocky Mountain News) give a talk about his award winning piece on Marine dead being returned to the US and the effects that it had on their families. There were a few, let’s call them French people, who seemed to have a little difficulty understanding the American concept of an objective press (or at least America’s valiant attempts towards the idea of an objective press). They kept asking about Todd’s political agenda while doing his story and they seemed to be off-put that Todd didn’t have one. Just a great story about people.

Today’s edition of “Midnight At The Café De La Poste”


Features those fun-loving boys from Sweden’s Kontinent agency ( They are (L to R) Casper Hedberg, “The Chauffer”, Fredrik Alm, Anders Hanson, TTreje Lindblom and Magnus Laupa.

Q: Just what is this, “Midnight At The Café De La Poste,” nonsense?
A: Since that where everyone goes at the end of the day and since that’s where more talked is talked and more business done that at any other place I’m going to attempt (as long as my health holds up) to take a group photo between Midnight and Midnight Plus Ten Seconds every night that people are there. It’s the end of one day and the beginning of another.

Hero Worship

By Jim Colburn Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

If you’re in southern France you can listen to Radio FUN playing a hard-techno re-make of Eddie Murphy’s “Party All The Time” that seemingly goes on for hours. You can turn to Radio Nostalgie for, well, golden oldies or you can try Radio NRJ (pronounced En-Air-Gee… Cute) for current pop.

Or you can wake up late, have a quiet lunch, sit around, soak up a bit of sun, do a little walking.

It’s around 30C (mid-80’s Farenheit) and the sun is shining. Today is going to be my first day for visiting some of the many, many photography exhibits placed around town. The main center for such things is a converted convent called the Couvent des Minimes. It’s a lovely space with lots of wall space for lots of pictures.


Last night was the first of the evening slide shows (or “Soiree de Projection”) at a place called Campo Santo. It’s a square or courtyard that, with the help of a large screen and some bleacher seats, becomes everyone’s extended living room. It’s as though all your relatives have brought all of their photos from all of their vacations and it’s going to take about and hour and a half to sit through them all. The strangest thing is that all those relatives of yours seem to vacation is the bleakest, most depressing places on Earth.

If you’re here from the US you’ll see many pictures and many stories that you just don’t see in American publications. There’s a lot of very strong photography and not a small amount of pretty weak photography. Can someone tell when vingetting became acceptable? It seems that there are a few photogs out there that manage to scrape together the cash for a 20mm lens but then run out of money before buying a lens hood, and so use the old one from a 28mm. Tiny, little and ever-so-annoying triangles of darkness at the corners of each frame is, I believe, not a good thing.

You get to see some of the day’s news photos at Campo Santo, surely a good thing as the “news” becomes something of lesser interest as the week goes by. You get to see some of the best news photos from two months of the previous year (since the last Visa Pour L’Image) and last night’s were from September and October.

You also get to see, and meet, people you’ve thought about meeting for years. In terms of meetings-with-heroes, I’ve shaken hands with Joe Dimaggio and Ted Williams (at the same event), talked amps with Eddie Van Halen, had a drink at the bar with Sean Connery and even been threatened with bodily harm by Sid Vicious, but last night I got to meet two of my personal photographic heroes.


At Campo Santo last night I realized that I was sitting across the aisle from Elliot Erwitt, probably my favorite ever photographer. I introduced myself, shook his hand and thought the night charmed. Sitting back down I heard someone speaking behind me to discover that it was none other than David Douglas Duncan… This is, in hero-worship terms, a two-fer of the highest magnitude. Introduced myself, shook hands, fawned a little and then, to prove that I wasn’t dreaming, managed to cajole the two of them into posing for a photo… :)

Today’s “Midnight At The Café De La Poste” photo:


Jan Garaup (Politiken-Denmark) and Bruno Stevens (Cosmos)

A Perpignan Blog? Sure. Beats Real Work…

By Jim Colburn Monday, September 4th, 2006

perpignanone0007.jpgThanks to a boatlaod of support from Canon Visa Pour L’Image in Perpignan, France is back for another year, its 18th, and the party has already started.

Some of last year’s attendees are back, some new folks have arrived and more will be coming later in the week. Pulitzer Prize winner Todd Heisler is here to give a talk, show some work and have his back patted an awful lot.

There was a small problem at the registration table in that Visa’s computer thought that I was either Dirck Halstead Jr or, perhaps, a recently clone. Two of him were listed in the system, none of me. After explaining that the world is not really ready for two Dirck Halsteads the wonderful and talented ladies of Visa


sorted things out and issued the proper badges, schedules, pamphlets and booklets and the all-important invitation to Sunday evening’s “Welcome Drink” at the Hotel Pams, hosted, as last year, by Visa organizer Jean-Francois LeRoy.

perpignanone0022.jpgTo give you some idea of how important photography is to the French LeRoy was made a member of the Legion of Honor last year, which would sort of be like Robert Redford being given a Presidential Medal of Freedom for starting the Sundance Film Festival. (The Redford thing, by the way, ain’t going to happen…)

One of the more popular people on this first day was NPR’s Neal Jackson who made the mistake, unintentional I’m sure, of telling people that he was looking for photographers and agencies that National Public Radio could use for their ever-expanding web site. By saying this Jackson instantly turned into a large vat of honey and the photographers became flies…

One thing I’m particularly looking forward to is an exhibit of work by my all-time favorite photographer, Elliot Erwitt. While he may not be the only photojournalist in the world with a sense of humor he’s one of the very few that actually shows that sense in many of his photographs. One line from his exhibit statement is, “Making people laugh is one of the highest achievements you can have.” Bravo.

A Film Camera And A Cigarette - Retro Style
A Film Camera And A Cigarette – Retro Style

Tonight? Cafe De La Poste.