What You had to See at Arles by Hannah Watson

Who was a hit at Arles this year?

The buzz of must-see shows at Arles this year could leave any curious spectator dizzy. So many great photographers to meet, editors to schmooze and stunning photos to view! What more could a photo lover desire?

And for those of us who couldn’t make it this year, we have to sort out the rants and reviews to see who made a hit this year. Luckily, The British Journal of Photography has been publishing expert reviews on what shows were worth while. Hannah Watson, the director of TJ Boulting Gallery and Trolly Books, wrote up an entertaining review of her favorite exhibits at Arles.

Watson says her top five were The House of the Ballenesque, by Roger Ballen, The Cow and the Orchid, Vernacular Colombian Photography, curated by Timothy Prus, Iran, Year 38, curated by Newsha Tavakolian, VR Arles Festival, and Tokyo is Yours, Meg Hewitt.  From heavy imagery of the 38 years since the Islamic Revolution in Iran, to the gritty images of Tokyo, to an exhibit of  creepy dolls as an expression of the inner-workings of artist Roger Ballen, Watson brings us the word on what was worth fighting crowds to see.

What You had to See at Arles by Hannah Watson
Roger Ballen
Artist, from the Asylum of the Birds series, 2013

The House of the Ballenesque, Roger Ballen

“This was very talked about in Arles – an old ramshackle house that Ballen has taken over, to express somewhat of what goes on in his mind and informs his photography. Like a giant walk-in sketchbook, it’s part fun-house and part mental asylum, with lots of creepy figures and dolls heads stuck on mismatching bodies. It’s worth seeing because it’s a bit different, though it doesn’t quite feel like the main event – it’s more of a fun sideshow to his practice, but interesting nonetheless. Try to go on a quiet day, or you might get trapped in a small dark room for a bit longer than you might like (which actually could be fun…)”

What You had to See at Arles by Hannah Watson
Two Wrestlers, Bogota, 1956. Silver print. Courtesy of Manuel H.

The Cow and the Orchid, Vernacular Colombian Photography, curated by Timothy Prus

“The cow and the orchid are the two national icons of Colombia, and Timothy Prus, curator of the exhibition and the Archive of Modern Conflict, has been collecting photographs from Colombia for nearly a decade. It’s also an ode to a country but in a different way, there are layers and layers of vernacular imagery from all over the country literally placed on top of each other. As with his previous projects, it’s not a literal view – there are subtle connections and nuances and, by his own admission, there is much still to discover. This is an appreciative exploration of a place through photography and its people, and the affection, humour and curiosity are what binds it together. And there’s a juke box.”

What You had to See at Arles by Hannah Watson
Untitled. Téhéran, 12 février 1979 © Kaveh Kazemi, courtesy of the artist. From the group exhibition Iran, Year 38

Iran, Year 38, curated by Newsha Tavakolian

“One of the larger shows, this is a comprehensive view of work by 66 Iranian photographers artists and filmmakers, made since the revolution of 1979 and curated by Magnum member Newsha Tavakolian with Anahita Ghabaian. The most striking image was of a black-robed woman brandishing a machine gun – her hand obscures her face so at first glance you think she might be veiled, but in fact she is just defiantly blocking the camera’s access. She was one of many who occupied Tehran University a day after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, February 12th, 1979.

This focus on the numbers – 38, 1979, 66 –  is very effective in the context of history when paired with imagery, it makes you question something which you might easily place in a contemporary context and understand something about society’s struggles, assumptions and contradictions. 38 years and still counting.”

What You had to See at Arles by Hannah Watson
From the series Tokyo is Yours @ Meg Hewitt, courtesy of the artist

Tokyo is Yours, Meg Hewitt

“This show by Australian and relative newcomer Meg Hewitt is part of the Voies Off programme, the fringe satellite part of Arles. It’s also the title of her new book, which is already flying off the website. This work is a twisted ode to Tokyo, and even if it is high contrast black-and-white, its not an ode to the Moriyamas and Petersens of this world – it has a more curious, humorous take on things. Meg trained as a painter and started taking photos a few years back. I haven’t been to Tokyo yet but if I do I want to go with her.”


Read the full article at: www.bjp-online.com