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Arles: Paulien Oltheten is the 2018 New Discovery

Square, La Défense, 2017. From the series La Défense, The Venturing Gaze © Paulien Oltheten, courtesy of the artist and gallery Les Filles du Calvaire

The Dutch photographer impressed judges such as Cristina De Middel and Nathalie Herschdoerfer with a project from Paris' financial district which adds fiction and poetry to everyday life

Paulien Oltheten has won the Arles New Discovery Award with her series La Défense, le regard qui s’essaye. Rencontres d’Arles will now buy €15,000 of her work, and add it to the festival collection.

La Défense, le regard qui s’essaye encompasses a video essay, a photo series, and a collection of objects, and was shot mainly in the La Défense financial district in Paris. Recording people going about their everyday lives, the series creates imaginary links between them, adding a fictional element to a documentary project, and a layer of poetry to the otherwise unremarkable. Born in 1982 in Nijmegen, Netherlands, Oltheten studied at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, and is now based in Amsterdam and Paris.

Oltheten was selected from the ten photographers who made it into the Arles New Discovery Award exhibition this year – Sinzo Aanza, Monica Alcazar-Duarte, Christto & Andrew, Anne Golas, Chandan Gomes, Thomas Hauser, Anton Roland Laub, Ali MobasserFeng LiAurore Valade, and Wiktoria Wojciechowska. The jury this year was headed up by the art critic and curator Mouna Kekouar, and included: Nathalie Herschdoerfer, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Le Locle, Switzerland; Cristina De Middel, photographer; and Julie Jones, from the photography department at the Centre Pompidou.

Visual Thought (senior advisor), Puteaux, 2017. From the series La Défense, The Venturing Gaze © Paulien Oltheten, courtesy of the artist and gallery Les Filles du Calvaire

The Public Prize, which is worth €5000, went to Polish photographer Wiktoria Wojciechowska for her series Sparks. This series also won the Madame Figaro Photography Prize, which is awarded to a female photographer whose work was shown at the festival, and which comes with a €10,000 award plus a commission from Madame Figaro, a supplement which comes with the Saturday edition of Le Figaro newspaper.

Sparks, which was first featured on bjp-online in 2016, was shot in the Ukraine and shows some of the people caught up in the still ongoing conflict in the country. “These guys are people like my friends, some of them were DJs, then suddenly they were going to the front line, and afterwards they were not the same,” Wojciechowska told BJP. “In the younger people especially it was really visible on their faces that something had changed in them.”

From Sparks © Wiktoria Wojciechowska

The jury for the Madame Figaro Photography Prize was chaired by actress Marion Cotillard, and included author Leila Slimani, fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier, and gallerist Kamel Mennour.

The Photo Folio Review Award 2018 went to Kurt Tong, for his series Combing for Ice and Jade, which focuses on Mak Ngan Yuk – a Chinese 87-year-old who performed the comb-up ceremony as a young woman, renouncing sex and marriage to travel and work freely. Tong was selected from a total of 307 photographers, who showed their work to 134 experts, and wins an exhibition at the 2019 Rencontres d’Arles.

The Opening Week at Arles is now over, but the exhibitions will stay open to the public until 23 September www.rencontres-arles.com/en

Liberté, Paris, 2017. From the series La Défense, The Venturing Gaze © Paulien Oltheten, courtesy of the artist and gallery Les Filles du Calvaire

Seating arrangement 1, La Défense 2017. From the series La Défense, The Venturing Gaze © Paulien Oltheten, courtesy of the artist and gallery Les Filles du Calvaire