Perpignan 2007

Post Perpignan post

By Beverly Spicer Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

It’s been a couple of weeks now since we returned from Visa Pour L’Image in Perpignan. As is inevitable after events such as this, the process of assimilating all that we saw goes on and on. Vivid vignettes remain, memories of conversations with people we met persist, I can still taste the food, smell the air, see the exhibits, remember the night presentations, and most importantly, am still gripped by the images from this year’s sampling of the best, most powerful work in photojournalism. This process brings the past, present and perhaps even the future into focus. There is something deeply moving about seeing daunting images of war and conflict hung in the still silence of a cathedral that once housed cloistered priests and nuns. The beveled glass windows of the Eglise des Dominicains, for instance, allows a sharp beam of light that illuminates the interior in an artistic statement all its own. Coupled with the images on display, the effect created an atmosphere of ghostliness and ghastliness that rendered us speechless for a while. The memories for me burned deep, and likely I’ll never forget them. The whole festival was like that, really.
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The Eglise des Dominicains was just one of several of Perpignan’s religious structures that were converted to massive exhibition halls for the display of photographs, some in very large format. This particular cathedral included exhibits of Magnum’s Dennis Stock, Palestinian photographer Raed Bawayah, Veronique de Viguerie, winner of Canon Prize for Best Female Photojournalist, and Hady Sy, whose X-ray images of weapons juxtaposed against the cathedral walls as we entered made a profound statement that I’ve yet to articulate.
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As I mentioned before, there were many interviews of those who exhibited in Perpignan, and our editor/publisher Dirck Halstead gave several about his retrospective in the large hall of the Ancienne Universite on Rue de Musee.
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You can see Dirck’s interview as well as those of Jean Francois Leroy (Director of Visa Pour L’Image) and photojournalists Stephane Lagoutte, Raed Bawayah, Angnes Dherbeys, Yannis Kontos, Eric Hadj, Mikhael Subotsky, Jordi Vidal, and Hady Sy by going to this site: http://www.3declic.com . When you get to the home page of 3declic, choose “Le Magazine,” and there click on the red and white logo that says “VISA – pour/l’image.” This produces an index to the individual interviews, which you can watch at your leisure.

Just because the week at Perpignan is over doesn’t mean the experience is over. It’s like a love affair. It goes on.

Body at home, Mind in Perpignan

By Beverly Spicer Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

A grueling 30-hour ordeal brought me back to Texas, and my major complaint was that it was way too soon to leave France, Perpignan, and the festival. It took a few days to get truly oriented, to find our way around the paths in the Centre de Ville and the streets of Perpignan and surrounding area, so it was a shame for it to be over just as it seemed it had truly begun. I stayed in a nearby town which is really out in the countryside called Espira de l’Agly at the B&B of a British couple named Kevin and Maggie Kennedy.
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Kevin was a gourmet chef in London before he retired and says he wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world but France. Since they have a steady stream of intriguing international visitors, returning nightly from the festival brought on a whole new hour or two of festivities out in their courtyard. They even have a big old sweet dog, so it is very homey there. Look at these two who met at the Mas de Las Guilles, I’m sure one of the friendliest bed and breakfast places around.
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I made a post earlier in this blog from the internet cafe in town, but at the time was unable to upload any photos. Check out the blog “Saturday,” 3rd down in the line-up, which now has a some images from the night presentions attached.

Using the computer anywhere in town was easy enough on battery power, but free air connections were impossible to find. In addition to the non-working one in the PAMS, there was one on the 7th floor of the Palais Congres. Everyone meets outside the castle at the Cafe de la Cite in the evenings, and one evening while others were getting pleasantly schnockered, I was typing away on the blog and wanting air. Here’s a photo from Dirck Halstead, recording that event. On the left is Joan Gramatte who was with our entourage the whole time. She has a fantastic and most bizarre sense of humor and we regularly exploded into uncontrollable laughter. I noticed the French loved to see us laughing, and we didn’t even have to try not to disappoint.
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It is now Tuesday, September 11, which is an awful thought in itself, but on a more immediate level, jet lag is causing me to sign off until later. More to follow.

Finally online again, and some images

By Beverly Spicer Monday, September 10th, 2007

Here are a few photos from days past. I will spare you too much commentary, grateful to be somewhere that I can uplink these to the blog, which I could not do in the internet cafe. Reminder: one must have satellite link. It is not good enough to depend upon the kindness of strange air connections, which are woefully fickle. We take working electricity for granted. I have made a redecision on that: we should take nothing for granted.

So, for some images:
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Courtyard of the Hotel PAMS where photographers meet and portfolios are reviewed
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Portfolio Reviews
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Eugenia Debini of Prospekt Fotografi, Italy
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TV journalist Georg Schmitt and photojournalist Vera Perrone
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Dirck Halstead being interviewed by Julien Pfyffer of Paris Match
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Joan Gramatte listens to Dirck’s interview outside his booksigning.

Saturday

By Beverly Spicer Saturday, September 8th, 2007

I am reduced to using small internet cafe near the PAMS as for over 24 hours no one has been able to get online there. So I am using a French keyboard on a borrowed computer and the letters are arranged differently, which takes a little learning. For instance, if I were to write something simple, it would appear thusly: < ùThe 2Auick brozn fox ju,ped over the lqwy dog:<ù That, my friends translates: "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog."

So much for those sorts of grumblings, now I turn to the festival. We find ourselves in the last full day of the premier week, and many will be returning to their various homebases tomorrow, including me. I am certain I will have more to say once this 'feast' is digested. I love festivals such as this because so much goes on later in the psyche that happens in retrospect of the experience. For a long time, to which photographer Gilles Peress can attest, I have yearned for instant understanding. When I first expressed that notion to him in 1983, the internet was not something I could comprehend that awaited us in the future. But it is here, and so our relay of information and images is lightning fast, giving us a shot at the immediate grasping of a situation. This festival is so much about that. Here, as on the internet, one gets the full load of what is unfolding in the world that we otherwise could not know from the handful of newspapers or publications available at the corner newsstand. It is mind boggling.

All day long and every evening we absorb still exhibitions and slide presentations of the most prominent of photographers working all over the world. We are also getting a good dose of the finest archivally significant work of the most revered documentary photographers ever to work in photojournalism. This work defines our history and portends thing to come as the never-ending drama unfolds around us.

Here in Perpignan, we sit placidly in an ampitheater enjoying beautiful images accompanied by exciting music, and the whole experience belies the real subject, which is the otherwise-black box in which we find enormous suffering, decay, horrific abuse of human rights and war, war, war.
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It is not as if this is anything new, but what is perhaps new is that any one of us at home on a personal computer can with the click of a mouse view as many of these images we are seeing and more, the difference being that here in Perpignan for this special week we do it in the presence of those who actually produced the images.
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There is something surreal about knowing that the photographer sitting in the row just in front or behind was last week photographing this or that horrendous event in Iraq or Afghanistan or the Sudan, or any of the other numerous hot spots around the world. But now, here we are in Perpignan.
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This same person now enjoys a glass of wine, an abundance of meats, fruits, cheeses and fancy desserts on these balmy evenings in beautiful France where we are safe, sound, and replete. Again, mind boggling, if one really thinks about it.
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So for now, I sign off. Read more about the festival here: http://www.visapourlimage.org

-30-

Getty party, Friday afternoon

By Beverly Spicer Friday, September 7th, 2007

We’re at the party this very moment. After being VERBOTEN to enter because we didn’t have the right little cards in our hands, Dirck went up to the 7th floor of the Palais Congres to beg our admittance. A few minutes later, the river begins to flow again and we are swept in a tide up to the embrace and smorgasbord of Getty, but not before trying an elevator on the 1st floor to the 7th, which got us nowhere but to back to the 1st. We then went to the 2nd floor for the elevator to the 7th, but instead went to the 3rd, then the 4th, then the Zero floor, then back to the 2nd so the attendant could push the right button for us. Everything is exclusive in France, even the elevator rides.

So, here we are. I found an electrical outlet behind the banquet table, but the electricity doesn’t work although the internet does! I have about 11% power left, so this is going to be very short and maybe sweet. Dirck just delivered his photo card to me shouting, “Breaking News, Breaking News, Breaking News!” I think the breaking news is a photo. Here it is.
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Samantha Appleton of Agencie Noor, Tyler Hicks and Michelle McNally of the New York Times, Jonathan Wells of Sipa Press and Spencer Platt, winner of the 2006 World Press Photo award schmooz around the sumptious Getty spread. Photo by Dirck Halstead
Tyler Hicks and Spencer Wells, photo by Joan Gramatte
Spencer Platt and Jonathan Wells, photo by Joan Gramatte

Wednesday and Thursday’s notes

By Beverly Spicer Friday, September 7th, 2007

With jet lag at bay and most of our technological solutions solved or at least comprehended, we started another day. The wireless connection in the PAMS is fickle beyond belief. It works like a hotline to the satellite one minute, and then the next we wait another 3, 5 or 30 minutes for a page to load. Sometimes, we just have to abandon the effort altogether and try again later. This makes for time constraints that are completely out of control, but it also is a perfect metaphor for the French culture, which is full of fits and starts. I’m thinking this is what creates the marvelous emotional quality to everything here. One minute CE MARCHE BIEN, the next minute, VERBOTEN. The result? — My theory for the time being is we are freed from certainty and/or a linear quality to time and circumstances. I’m finding the key solution to everything is to just relax and go with the flow.

I spent a good deal of time plugged in but verboten at the mother ship, our energy matrix, the juicy pig who provides our lifeforce on our computers. Batteries don’t last long enough to wait things out, and the hot spots work right where the outlet is. While waiting for the next “GO,” I met several fascinating photogaphers who, like everyone here, enjoy sitting around and chatting. Ahmet Polat and Sol Neelman, who had just met and instantly bonded, decided to sit down with me for a chat as I waited for the internet to start working again.
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Ahmet lives in Turkey and Sol in Portland, yet you would have thought they were brothers. We began immediately talking about how festivals like this have a magical quality to them that dissolves differences between people from all over the world. Things happen that one could never fashion by design, but instead just what “should,” does happen. It’s something about letting go of deadlines and rules, and then somehow one runs into exactly the person you needed to talk to or wanted to see, or you wind up at exactly the right place at the right time. Most photographers seem to have this natural ability, maybe more it is a basic instinct, but what was interesting about our conversation was how these two articulated the phenomenon. Ahmet, on the right, after only a few sentences, looked at me with his wide, dark, soulful eyes and said, “Well, then, we don’t need to talk very much, do we?” I realized how true that is and shot back, “RIGHT!”

People have a way of appearing and disappearing just as quickly, and suddenly we couldn’t find Dirck. Joan Gramatte and I were at headquarters at Hotel PAMS looking for him when we encountered an exuberant Jean-Francois Leroy, the director of the festival, as he returned from the lunch he hosted at Mas Chabry. He had obviously enjoyed the lunch as much as Dirck, and suggested that the Digital Journalist himself might be somewhere grabbing a little siesta after the feast.
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Later in the afternoon I ran into Ahmed and Sol again as they appeared at the entrance to a gathering hosted by National Geographic at the Eglise. They found themselves on the outside looking in, and we joked with our heads to the bars about being in prison, or, out of prison. I immediately thought of the wonderful film, The King of Hearts. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth the trouble.
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Every year National Geographic hosts a party at the beautiful Bistrot de Saint Jean in a courtyard next to the cathedral on Rue Cite Bartissol.
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Sequestered inside were photographers, editors, publishers, reps of every variety. The last time we saw David Douglas Duncan was in Austin, Texas, where he presented a story about his lost dog and along with his controversial book from a roll of candid shots of the elusive Henri Cartier Bresson one afternoon when they were together. But now, he appeared at the National Geographic event with his beautiful wife, and they were the toast of the party. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them, and they kindly tolerated much to-do and snapping of photos from every angle by those so inclined. Even at an event such as this, one thinks about the nature in privacy, invasion of privacy, and just plain wearing someone out. They were extremely gracious.
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Dennis Stock of Magnum sat to the side near the entrance and received a steady stream of photographers and others involved in the industry. We had a lot of fun hearing the happy story of how Stock and his wife, author Susan Richards met and got together, proving it’s never too late.
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Before the evening presentations we once again roved the streets looking for sustenance, and ran into Horst Faas, who seems to manage the streets of Perpignan in his wheelchair as well as the rest of us do on our feet. It warmed our hearts to realize the amount of stamina, determination, and perseverance Horst possesses, an example for us all.
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Just around the corner we found our restaurant, settled in for what we now see as a brief repast of an hour and a half for yet another wonderful meal.
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We watched the evening’s presentations from the overflow area set up in a courtyard near the Eglise Saint Jean. Music, images, the profundity of the work returned us to a somber mood as we contemplated the difference between lolling around in the Catelonian area of France while so much suffering is occurring around the world.
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Dejeuner au campagne avec les photographes

By Beverly Spicer Friday, September 7th, 2007

dejeuner-au-campagne.jpgVisa Pour L’Image Director Jean Francois Leroy hosted a classic French country luncheon at the exclusive Mas Chabry Restaurant near Perpignan for the twenty-nine photojournalists exhibiting at the festival. Wine flowed like blood in the French Revolution and homemade fois gras was served with barbequed lamb and couscous, followed by mousse au chocolat and French framboise, all prepared by Chef Jean-Michel Sarrobert.
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David Gutenfelder of AP, Magnum’s Jane Evelyn Atwood, Carolyn Cole of the LA Times and NYT photographer Tyler Hicks gathered around the buffet spread.

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Jane Evelyn Atwood, Jean-Francois Leroy, Magnum photographer Dennis Stock, author Susan Richards, and Paul Fusco of Magnum for a little apres dejeuner tete a tete.

The photographers reverted to newsgatherers as they watched le chat du maison being chased into a tree by le chien du maison.
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LA Times photographer Carolyn Cole turned her attention from food to breaking news.
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Carolyn told us, “I’m not typically a wildlife photographer, but who can resist a cat stuck in a tree? We tried to rescue her, but she didn’t want to come down, and instead stayed up there for the whole lunch.” It sounds like the cat knew what she was doing, however, because a little later she attracted wildlife heavy Paul Nicklen from National Geographic.

All photographs by Dirck Halstead.


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