The Digital Journalist
"For those of you who haven't attended this festival of photojournalism and have the opportunity to do so it's highly recommended. It gives you a shot in the arm that renews eroded faith in what we do, and reconfirms that it is worth doing. It's also always comforting to be surrounded by people with the same neuroses and obsessions that you have, for here the asylum really is run by the inmates, and is much better for it."
– Peter Howe
September 2006

by Jean-François Leroy

Coming of age! Eighteen years old. We've finally come of age! In 1989, with our first festival, we never thought that Visa Pour l'Image would grow up to be such a beautiful baby, such a turbulent teenager and now, a young adult, but still passionate, committed and militant. Eighteen years old and we are still fighting for the cause, relentlessly, so that some order and proper ranking are restored to news. We have heard over and over again, every year, that photojournalism is dying, that it has been overtaken by television, and other media. Every year we have had to proclaim the opposite, making the message loud and clear.

As we look behind us, when we think of all the "young" photographers discovered in Perpignan and who are now some of the best professionals out there, we can remain confident in the future. Yes, there is still work to be done. Plenty of work. For as long as French football star Zinedine Zidane's head butt – and please don't ask us to take sides, for or against – is reported in the media ahead of fighting breaking out between Israel and Lebanon, Visa Pour l'Image has a duty to get everyone in the photography business together and review the situation: looking, showing, discovering and gaining recognition for reports which offer an understanding of the world we live in.

So Visa Pour l'Image has come of age! But rest assured, we shall continue our struggle, fighting so that photographers can have their reports presented and published. You can count on us. And while we may have come of age, we certainly have no intention of settling down and behaving ourselves.

© Jean-François Leroy

Jean-François Leroy is a photojournalist and the Director and Founder of the annual 'Visa Pour l'Image' photo festival in Perpignan, France, which he created in 1989. He is also manager of Images-Evidence, through which he works with the Hachette Filipacchi Group. A former photographer for Sipa Press, his work has appeared in various publications. In 1989, Leroy collaborated with Yann Arthus-Bertrand to produce "3 Days in France," a portrait of France 150 years after the invention of photography. He has been a member of the World Press Photo jury.

[Executive Editor Peter Howe has regularly attended Visa Pour l’Image since its inception and has come to appreciate both its mission and founder/director. As he wrote in the Oct. 2002 Digital Journalist:

"One word on Jean-François Leroy. For all of his intolerance of criticism and his often explosive nature, without him there would never have been Visa Pour l'Image, and as importantly there would be no Visas in the future. This festival, which is one of the very few remaining celebrations of photojournalism, is his child, and he’s a very strict father. The drive that everyone sees during the event, and which often contributes to his outbursts, is at least equaled by the intensity of the efforts that precede the opening….Visa [is] a wonderful place to bathe yourself in good photography. So, Jean-François, above it all I salute your vision and hard work, and assure you that I will return for as long as you're continuing to produce that upon which we have come to rely."

For a back-seat view of Visa Pour l'Image, and its driving force, Jean-François Leroy, we steer you in the direction of Peter Howe's previous reports from Perpignan: