Now that the cuts and bruises that I got at Visa Pour L'Image are starting to go away, I thought I'd briefly take you through the trip to Perpignan in Aug/Sep. I stayed with my friend Mattias Johansson and his mate Marcus Funke in a swanky new hotel, much closer to the town centre than in previous years, meaning that we managed to walk a lot less and drink a lot more than usual. Bad tings.
Anyway, the streets of Perpignan are beautiful and in previous years my go-to-camera has always been the LX3 but it now sits in the most-boring-camera-ever category and therefore most of these are iPhone pictures using mainly Hipstamatic (Nick Turpin is excused from looking at this post*).
This being my third year, I was determined to actually see ALL the exhibitions on show, something we hadn't managed previously. You'd think in a small town like Perpignan it isn't a big problem, but when you factor in 1) we're on holiday, 2) its south of France and full of restaurants and cafes and 3) phojofatigue** and 4) all the free drinks, etc, it becomes a problem. In theory you can probably see all the exhibitions in one day, but for the above stated reasons, we paced ourselves and tried to make the most of it.
Dedicated photojournalists as we are, we always start the week with a champagne breakfast and this year was no different. I flew straight from London to Perpignan while the rest of the 100 or so Scandinavian PJ's flew to Barcelona and then caught a bus to Perpignan, leaving me to do the shopping for my room mates, below.
When it comes to the exhibitions, the one that really stuck with me was Martina Bacigalupo's 'My Name Is Filda Adoch'. An essay about one woman's daily experiences of life in the Ugandan civil war. Heartbreaking yet tender, not to mention humbling, but what set this work apart from everything else on show was the handwritten captions on the frames, direct quotes from Filda herself, with short succinct sentences about her daily struggle, making an immediate impact and giving a strong voice to the person depicted, something that felt distinctly lacking in almost every other exhibition; the voice of the subject/s.
My second favourite was LA Times Barbara Davidson and her work of Los Angeles residents who have been caught in the crossfire of gang warfare. Again, low key and intimate photography with lots of voices from the people affected by stray bullets.
It comes as no surprise that the two best exhibitions are by female photographers with stories away from breaking news, instead focusing on long-term projects, Davidson spending over four years on hers, initially in her own time, then having to nag her editors to let her continue.
We of course wanted more of the same and, against better reasoning, got up early one morning to see Brian Storm and hear more about the multimedia converts in our business. It wasn't until about 50 minutes of watching slide show after slide show that we realised that we had misread the schedule, today was only a showcase of MediaStorm's work, yesterday was the actual talk. Brian was only in the room to cue up the projects, one after the other. Photojournalism 0 - 1 Alcohol. :(
Also worth a mention was Joceylyn Bain Hogg and his work about the London underworld families who are now slowly fading away, a continuation of his work The Firm from 2001.
Again, we never made it to Campo Santo, the place where they do amazing outdoor screenings, but the screen in the main square; Place de la Republique, where you have the added benefit of eating and drinking at the same time, is just as good. Its even better if you can view it from a rooftop overlooking the square, with some champagne and nibbles. Thank you Christina!
My friend Maciej Dakowicz also had his 'Cardiff After Dark' series shown at the big screen (the day before we arrived) and when we bumped into each other outside Cafe de la Poste where he told me that it had gone down really well. Last week The Daily Mail decided to run a series of the pictures with bad crops (their own, not Maciej's crops), misleading caption information and of course the word 'foreign' in the headline, cue a shit storm. To date there are over 2200 comments from 'outraged' readers, and Maciej apparently saw a spike of more than 500.000 hits in one day on his flickr pages. His work is great, just sad to see the Daily Fail use it for its own scaremongering purposes. Luckily The New York Times and The Guardian took a more measured approach.
All in all a great week but slightly exhausting, luckily we made it to the beach on the last day for some much needed frolicking in the sea. A special thank you to the Scandinavian organisers Christina (SFF), Per (Canon Sweden) and Jamil (Canon Denmark) for pulling out all the stops, especially on the last dinner at L'Arago! :)
* to be fair, Nick was talking about not sending Hipstamatic shots to his in-public mag, his tweet here
** the feeling of deja vu after each new image, and/or succumbing to depression of seeing too much photojournalism in one day.