Athens, October 20, 2011. A demonstrator fleeing tear gas. Image © Aris Messinis / AFP.
Visa Pour l'Image, the world's largest photojournalism festival, is coming back to Perpignan for its 24th edition. Its director, Jean-François Leroy, speaks with Olivier Laurent about this year's programme and the state of the market
In less than two months, thousands of photojournalists will converge on Perpignan for the 24th edition of Visa Pour l'Image. Olivier Laurent speaks with festival director Jean-François Leroy about the future of photojournalism, photojournalists past and present, and drawing inspiration from photography.
Olivier Laurent: Let's start with the exhibitions. What's the overall theme of this year's festival?
Jean-François Leroy: As always, there's no actual theme. For this edition, we're following this year's news agenda, which wasn't as heavy as last year's. But even without Fukushima and the start of the Arab Spring, we still had the withdrawal of US troops in Iraq, Gaddafi's fall and Syria, which started as an uprising and is now a mass grave for journalists and civilians. And let's not forget the Sudan, Nigeria and Mexico. There's a lot happening, unfortunately. On the other hand, and to add something a bit more amusing, we have the French elections.
Olivier Laurent: There's also the global financial crisis. Will you show something about Greece?
Jean-François Leroy: Yes, one of our exhibitions is about Greece, and we'll have more during the evening screenings. Last week, I saw some great work on Occupy Wall Street and the Indignants. These are very visual stories. The issue with the Greek debt crisis – or even with what's going on in Spain and Italy – is that it's difficult to show it with images. And, at Visa, images come first.
Olivier Laurent: But if you look at what's being done in the US with, for example, Facing Change with Anthony Suau, they've been able to illustrate the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis…
Jean-François Leroy: I'm very aware of that. I've met with Anthony, and we agreed we would do something big on Facing Change to coincide with the festival's 25th anniversary next year. We'll show Brenda Ann Kenneally, Anthony Suau, Stanley Greene, Jon Lowenstein, David Burnett, etc. Unfortunately, there is no European equivalent to Facing Change.
In the US, they had the support of the Library of Congress, a famous camera manufacturer, and they also received various donations. It's something we don't have in Europe. Also, there's the issue of bringing people together. I don't know if in Europe we have someone as spirited as Anthony Suau. I'm not saying we don't have talented photographers – on the contrary. But I don't think we have someone who can bring together all these talents. In any case, we at Visa are really interested in this issue and we'll be following it closely.
Olivier Laurent: Looking at the programme, you've selected a few exhibitions from Africa. One is about AIDS, another about war, one on pollution, and another about racism in South Africa. Isn't there anything else to see in Africa?
Jean-François Leroy: As Pierre Lazareff of France Soir used to say, 'A dog who bites an old woman isn't interesting, but an old woman who bites a dog, that's news.' If you look at the definition of journalism, it isn't about reporting what's good. Yet I'm still trying to balance it all. For example, last year Pascal Maitre received a FNAC grant, which he used for a hopeful project about Somalia. He shows us how, in a few weeks or months, the Al Shabab militants had been kicked out of Mogadishu thanks to the Kenyan and Ethiopian armies. This is news!
There's one image that seems trivial at first; it shows vessels, most coming from Turkey, bringing minibuses, TVs and computers. All of these used to be forbidden in that country. You can now find stores opening up in Mogadishu, and you can see women dancing in the streets, and musicians. Life is coming back to that town. That's news – it's full of hope. But really, who's interested in Africa today? When was the last time you saw a real project about Zimbabwe or South Africa? For a couple of years, everyone was focusing on the World Cup in South Africa, but nothing has changed. Soweto still has ghettos, and Johannesburg remains one of the world's most dangerous cities. So I don't mind people talking about hope. But today, when people talk to me about Africa, no cheerful images come to mind.
Olivier Laurent: You're showing Robin Hammond's Condemned, which looks at mental institutions in Africa...
Jean-François Leroy: Robin spent 25 days in a Zimbabwe prison. When he was freed, he came to see me in Paris and we selected images we would show for Condemned. He also showed me some of his work in Zimbabwe, but I'll wait until he has a final edit before making a decision about that project.
Olivier Laurent: What interested you in Condemned?
Jean-François Leroy: It's his angle. He's looking at psychiatric institutions in African countries at war. It's pessimistic, but I think it's important to know about these issues. Some hospitals have been shut down or abandoned, and their patients tied to trees. No one pays attention to Africa – except for Robin Hammond, and Stephanie Sinclair, who focuses on little girls forced into marriage in Ethiopia, but also in Indonesia, India and Pakistan. There's also Bénédicte Kursen and her work in Nigeria. We don't really talk about Nigeria, and yet there were elections there, as well as ethnic and religious infighting. When was the last time Nigeria made the headlines? So, of course, when Bénédicte sends me her work, I have to show it.
Visa Pour l'Image has become a shelter for unpublished photographers. Robin Hammond hasn't really been published before. The same goes for Martina Bacigalupo. Stephanie Sinclair was published in National Geographic, but when you look at the power of her images, it's just not enough. Everyone should be concerned about this issue. Two years ago, when we showed her work about US Mormons, we asked her why she had chosen that topic. She told us it was because they were also marrying little girls. We're talking about the US here.
Our goal is to show images we don't really see anymore – and we're not going to stop today.
Olivier Laurent: You also have two exhibitions about the Arctic…
Jean-François Leroy: That was pure coincidence. Justin Jin and Erika Larsen showed me two very different projects about that region. Justin looks at the oil industry, while Erika presented a very ethnographic survey of the Saami – the [indigenous] moose hunters. It's an amazing project – something I had never seen before. Erika is a young American woman who moved there and became a maid and au pair for a couple of years. She learned the language so she could speak with the hunters and become part of the community. This is what I call dedication. Justin shows people who we never talk about. Their living conditions are really rough – they have to deal with alcoholism and poverty, and freezing temperatures. That's their lives and they can't escape.
Two years ago, I showed four or five projects that dealt with religion. My goal was to show that wherever you go, you'll find extremist militants. They are not confined to Islam. There are some Catholic extremists that are just as dangerous as Islamic extremists. When we showed Stanley Greene's Fallujah alongside Eric Baudelaire's diptych on the Iraq war, we were looking to create a dialogue between the two. And the same goes with Justin's and Erika's projects.
Olivier Laurent: You're also showing portraits of former Guantanamo prisoners, despite the fact that you have the reputation of hating portraits…
Jean-François Leroy: The question is, does the sum of these individual stories create a collective history? Here, that's the case. Mathias Braschler and Monika Fischer have photographed 16 people who were detained in Guantanamo and have since been released. Obviously, they weren't really dangerous, otherwise they would still be behind bars. Both photographers spent a lot of time getting access to these former prisoners, who now live in Egypt, Yemen or Saudi Arabia. These people have spent between three and eight years in prison. These are really classic portraits, but they're interesting.
When you look at this man with his neck brace and his scars (pictured), and when you listen to him talk about being tortured for six years, you realise there's a dialogue between this classical portrait and history, and it brings you back to four years ago when we chose, for our portrait, Brennan Linsley's image of Guantanamo's director replacing Bush's portrait with Obama's.
Visa Pour l'Image is a story in constant evolution. When I'm asked why we're not showing anything about homeless people this year, my answer is that I just can't show something around that theme every year. I've shown the work of Marie-Paule Nègre, Andrea Star Reese and Brenda Ann Kenneally in previous years. We're telling an overall story that spans several years. And this year, Braschler and Fischer's work is in continuity with Brennan Linsley's image.
Sami al-Laithi ISN 287, Egyptian. Arrested December 2011, released September 2005. Image © Mathias Braschler and Monika Fisher
Olivier Laurent: Finally, you're presenting a retrospective of Rémi Ochlik's work. Can you tell me more about Rémi?
Jean-François Leroy: I met Rémi in 2004, when he was 20. On 22 February, when Rémi died, I received an email from Jérôme Delay, who wrote: "I know you're sad, but you must be proud because you were the one who introduced us to his work."
It might be pretentious to say this, but, for me, Rémi was Visa Pour l'Image's baby. Mark Grosset of Icart Photo first introduced me to Rémi in March 2004. Rémi was on his way to Haiti. When he came back, he presented his work to me and we made the decision to show it during the festival. That night, I told the audience: "You all say that photojournalism is dead. Here's proof that you're wrong." After that, we stayed in touch, and last year we were able to show images of the Arab Spring. He was kind enough to trust me with my edits.
In 2011, I was shaken by the death of Tim Hetherington, Chris Hondros and Lucas Dolega. But with Rémi it's been difficult. Maybe because he was just 28 when he died, and so talented. Maybe because he was a really nice guy. When he died, I met some of his friends at the 61 in Paris. When I got home, I emailed Jean-Marc Pujol, who is the mayor of Perpignan, and asked him if we could rename the City of Perpignan Young Reporter Award. He agreed. This year, it'll be called the City of Perpignan - Rémi Ochlik Award. As long as this prize exists, we'll remember him.
Now, why am I putting together a retrospective of his work? First of all, the material is here. But also, we want people to know why we chose to rename the Young Reporter Award. We want to tell everyone who he was. I'm going to be straight with you: Visa Pour l'Image is about images, but it's also about family. I'm not going to deny it: Patrick Robert, Alfred Yaghobzadeh, Noël Quidu, Paolo Pellegrin, Stanley Greene, Eugene Richards, Guillaume Herbaut, Samuel Bollendorff, Jérôme Sessini – they all form part of our family. I saw some of them grow up. I've been lucky to build relationships with some of them that go beyond the professional realm.
Olivier Laurent: Last year, you brought most of the festival's activities to the Palais des Congrès...
Jean-François Leroy: That was a success. It made everything a lot more efficient, and everyone thought it was a great idea.
Olivier Laurent: And yet there are still a lot of agencies that refuse to take a stand there…
Jean-François Leroy: True. Corbis, one of the four largest agencies, cancelled its stand. But we have to be realistic. It made sense for them to be there when there were clients with large budgets. Where are these clients today? That's the main question.
Olivier Laurent: But don't you think these agencies have an educational role to play? Each year, more and more young and emerging photographers visit Visa Pour l'Image searching for answers. They want to learn. I don't understand why Magnum Photos, VII Photo and Noor aren't there to help them.
Jean-François Leroy: They will tell you they're not here to see young photographers. I find this revolting. When an agency uses this excuse, I want to tell them to stay home. Photographers such as Rémi Ochlik, Guillaume Herbaut, Robin Hammond and Corentin Fohlen were discovered here. I'm not going to waste my time caring for those agencies. I prefer to use my time to help photographers. I don't understand how agencies such as Noor, Magnum and Corbis can say they don't have money, while agencies such as VU, Cosmos, Sipa, AFP, AP, EPA, Polaris, etc still believe in Visa's importance.
Olivier Laurent: You still have the support of organisations such as Canon, Getty Images, Paris Match, France 24, RFI, National Geographic, Elle and Days Japan. What does this mean for the festival?
Jean-François Leroy: Let's look at them in chronological order. Paris Match: without Roger Thérond's trust, I would never have been able to launch Visa Pour l'Image. He was always supportive, right until the end when he died in June 2001. Paris Match is the only partner that was there at the start and is still with us today.
Canon: they've been supporting us for 23 years! They help us with the Canon AFJ prize, as well as the Pierre and Alexandra Boulat Association Award. They also help with the exhibitions. This year, they are producing Ilvy Njiokiktjien and Braschler/Fischer's shows. Our contract with Canon comes to an end in 2013, but Mr Masaya Maeda, Canon's managing director, is coming this year to discuss whether we're going to sign a new contract for three, perhaps five, years. This is not just a business partnership, it's a real friendship, especially when you take into account the fact that only World Press Photo and Visa Pour l'Image have Canon's support in Europe. It just goes to show that Canon still believes in photojournalism. Last year, Mr Akada, who's in charge of optics at Canon, sent me an email thanking me. He wrote: "Thanks to Visa Pour l'Image, I've been able to rediscover how important a still image can be, something we almost forgot at Canon in the past few years." I take this as a compliment.
Getty Images still supports us – not as much as in previous years, but still. They chose us to present their Getty Grants, and I've been lucky enough to be on the jury for the past five years. I'm fortunate to have been part of a jury that gave awards to talented photographers such as Jérôme Sessini, Miquel Dewever-Plana, Stanley Greene, Eugene Richards and Brenda Ann Kenneally, among many others. France 24 and RFI have brought us the Web Documentary Award, thanks to Lucas Menget.
Olivier Laurent: Do you also receive public funds?
Jean-François Leroy: We had a meeting with the Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles in Montpellier. We've agreed on terms for a three-year deal; now we just need to sign it.
Olivier Laurent: What did you expect from the new culture minister when you meet her this year?
Jean-François Leroy: The former culture ministers – Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and Frédéric Mitterrand – were sincerely committed to helping photojournalists, and they proved it. But when you look at the French political system, when there's a new minister, there's often a change of focus. With Frédéric Mitterrand, I was part of the commission on photojournalism, while Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres invited me to participate in a series of roundtables on photography. I also worked with their predecessors, Philippe Douste-Blazy and Jacques Toubon.
I have to admit I'm a bit disappointed because, each year, around 40 industry experts meet up to talk about the same 200 issues that are affecting us, and the moment we're ready to make things happen, there's a new minister and we have to start from scratch. For example, for the past 10 years, we've been complaining about the way press cards are issued. According to the current legislation, photographers can only receive a press card if 50 percent of their revenues come from a registered media organisation. So a photographer such as Samuel Bollendorff, who produces web documentaries, can't get his press card. This is pure hypocrisy. The culture ministry says it's not its problem and that we should be talking with the interior ministry. The interior ministry says we need to talk to the finance ministry, and the finance ministry says it's a job for the trade ministry. I have yet to meet someone who got all four together to fix this situation.
Olivier Laurent: Visa Pour l'Image is also synonymous with the Visa d'Or awards and the Getty Grants...
Jean-François Leroy: Indeed, thanks to our many partners we're able to distribute around €150,000 each year. This is the sort of budget that photo editors dream of. The French magazine Images has done a survey of all the photography grants awarded in France each year, and it found that Visa Pour l'Image represented, by itself, 15 percent of the total. It's not a secret that photographers can't make a living from media assignments today. They need to find sources of income. These grants can help. Pascal Maitre, Stanley Greene and Miquel Dewever-Plana would not have been able to produce their latest projects without such grants.
Olivier Laurent: We're seeing an increasing number of photo festivals taking a serious look at photojournalism. For example, VII Photo was at Arles for the first time last year...
Jean-François Leroy: Photojournalism has always been welcomed in Arles. In fact, one of the reasons why we launched Visa Pour l'Image 24 years ago was because we felt Arles was all about Magnum, Magnum and Black Star, with maybe Rapho from time to time. We wanted to show the work of Sipa, Gamma, Sygma, Agence France-Presse and the others. But Arles had Depardon, and last year they showed VII and Tendance Floue.
Olivier Laurent: What about the Bayeux War Reporter Rencontres and the new Photoreporter festival in Saint-Brieuc?
Jean-François Leroy: Bayeux is taking a different approach. They are more interested in the news element, and photography is just a small part of that. I'm very supportive of Saint-Brieuc. In fact, they asked me to chair their jury, so there's no animosity. The same goes with Look3 and Sète. I'm very impressed by what they do because I believe it takes a lot of courage to launch a new festival today. I don't feel threatened. I'll be at Saint-Brieuc. I was at Look 3 in Charlottesville for the fifth time in a row. I'm also in constant discussions with PhotoMed in Sanary, Images Singulières in Sète, and Peuples et Nature in La Gacilly. Last year, two of Peuples et Nature exhibitions came from Visa.
Olivier Laurent: Each year you seem to have a personal quest. Three years ago, you took on agencies that were lowering their prices, two years ago you were against Photoshop, this year you're going after Hipstamatic and Instagram…
Jean-François Leroy: These are not quests, these are outbursts – outbursts against agencies that are continuing to lower their prices, and against Photoshop. But, I've quickly realised it was impossible to put together a Photoshop-free festival. This year, I'm fed up with these Hipstamatic and Instagram images. When you're shooting a trash bin using Instagram, you end up with a pretty picture, but the photographer has nothing to do with it. I can understand when Karim Ben Khelifa decides to shoot on his iPhone when he's in Yemen, because the situation is too dangerous for him to get his DSLR out. But I believe it's possible to shoot good images with an iPhone without using Hipstamatic and Instagram.
Two or three years ago, we showed a retrospective of David Guttenfelder's work in Afghanistan, which contained some images he shot on 6x6, 24x36 and even with panoramic film. What's interesting is Guttenfelder's eye, not what he's using. With Instagram and Hipstamatic, it's all a gimmick. It's pure laziness. And it's not because you're using this application that you're getting something out of it.
Olivier Laurent: Have you received many projects shot using Hipstamatic?
Jean-François Leroy: I don't even look at them, unless they are from Syria, because I know that, in certain cases, the photographer chose to use this for security reasons. I can understand that a photographer might not want to use a large DSLR in this environment, especially when you take into account what happened to Gilles Jacquier, Rémi Ochlik, Marie Colvin and three Syrian journalists. A phone allows you to bring back images without getting noticed. But when I receive images of the French elections shot on Hipstamatic, I refuse to look at them. I can't imagine photographers such as Paolo Pellegrin, Stanley Greene, Pascal Maitre or Nick Nichols switching to Hipstamatic. They want to stay in control.
Olivier Laurent: In recent months, I've talked to the judges for World Press Photo and the Sony World Photography Awards, among others, and they've been telling me the quality of the edits submitted has been terrible of late. Is it something you've found as well?
Jean-François Leroy: Twenty-five years ago, photographers were working with real partners. I'm talking about picture editors and producers. If you're looking at the work of photographers such as Nick Nichols, Erika Larsen and Pascal Maitre, you can tell right away that they're working with pictures editors at National Geographic. They have a real partner who follows them along the way. They have picture editors who tell them, "You're too far away. You need to get closer."
Now, with digital photography, you get people who take 25 images in three seconds and send in all 25 images without editing them. We're missing this precious interlocutor. In a lot of newsrooms, picture editors are gone. But photographers need them. Arnaud Brunet edited all of Rémi Ochlik's images. Alexandra Boulat was a pitiful editor, she needed Jérôme Delay and Noël Quidy.
Tripoli, 23 August 2011. In the final assault, anti-Gaddafi rebel forces from Djebel Nefoussa and Misrata reached Gaddafi headquarters mid-afternoon, after street fighting, and stole weapons and ammunition. Image © Remi Ochlik / IP3 Press
Olivier Laurent: Can't Visa Pour l'Image help these photographers?
Jean-François Leroy: That's what we're trying to do with Transmission Pour l'Image. I would advise all photographers to work with others. They need to collaborate with someone who can bring an outside point of view to their images. But not everyone understands this.
Olivier Laurent: It seems an increasing number of photojournalists are also trying to make a living from the art market...
Jean-François Leroy: They would like to be part of that market, but to tell you the truth, only three or four are actually making a living from it.
Olivier Laurent: If you look at the overall genre – and I'm thinking about Richard Mosse, Simon Norfolk, Alec Soth, Olivia Arthur, Edward Burtynsky and Guillaume Herbaut among others – would you show their work at Visa Pour l'Image?
Jean-François Leroy: All of them? No. I've shown Simon Norfolk during our evening screenings three or four times, and I might show his work again this year. I love what he does. When you show me Kai Wiedenhöfer's work on Palestine, I have no qualms. As for Guillaume Herbaut, it's been 15 years since he was a conventional Visa Pour l'Image photographer, but we're still showing his work. Just look at his project on Chernobyl: there is a real message behind each image. The message is what interests me. When Simon Norfolk uses a large format camera in Afghanistan, I find this magnificent, because there's a purpose. The same goes for Oliver Coret's Separation Wall. I show work when there's actually something to learn from it. I'm really interested in the information, the message. And if a panoramic image has a strong message, I'll show it.
Olivier Laurent: Let's talk about book publishing. An increasing number of photographers are now self-publishing their books. That was the case for Eugene Richards and War is Personal. Is that common?
Jean-François Leroy: Can you tell me how many books like War is Personal you've seen in the last five years? War is Personal is the result of Getty Images, the University in Austin and Visa Pour l'Image coming together to make it happen. In just 24 hours, we sold 580 copies at the Couvent des Minimes in Perpignan. There were long queues for this amazing book. But beyond this particular book, what does it mean to publish a book, especially if you're only publishing 50 copies?
Olivier Laurent: But is it right that a talented photographer such as Eugene Richards can't get a proper book deal? Today, when you're talking to a book publisher, they tell you, "I love your book. I'll publish it if you give me $15,000."
Jean-François Leroy: Then they're not book publishers! Eugene Richards' book is probably what I'm the most proud of these past three years. It's an important book, and now there are 2,000 people who have it in their libraries. The same goes for Rémi Ochlik's book, which is being financed thanks to Emphas.is. I find this courageous. We'll help them, and we'll make sure people know about it so that 1,500 to 2,000 copies are produced.
But, like many other distribution models, whether it's a book or a web documentary, where's the business plan? The goal is to make money so you can continue working on important projects. If you look at the price tag for Miquel Dewever-Plana's work on Guatemala, which he's producing with Agence VU and Upian, it's huge. And, at the same time, most newspapers in France won't spend more than €3,000 on a web documentary. This is the reality of today's market. So I don't see the point of releasing just 100 copies of a book. It's a great way to show your images, but what do you really get out of it? How are you going to finance your next project?
Olivier Laurent: You've talked a little bit about web documentaries. This year, like last year, you've set up a multimedia space…
Jean-François Leroy: In 1989, we said that Visa Pour l'Image was a tool everyone could use. So, if someone asks me for a space to show a film, I'll tell him, "This room is yours on Friday at 3pm." Ideally, I'd love to have a room with 500 computers for people to look at and immerse themselves in a web documentary, but I don't have the money or even the room to do that. Yet, for the past 24 years, we've been able to do multimedia presentations during our evening screenings.
Olivier Laurent: Financing a web documentary can be difficult, especially outside of France or The Netherlands, where photographers can receive funds from the government.
Jean-François Leroy: Indeed, for several years now, France and The Netherlands have been leading in this field. In France, the Centre National du Cinéma et de l'image Animée is helping photographers raise the necessary funds.
Olivier Laurent: I was talking with Samuel Bollendroff a few months ago about the iPad and the possibility of building a business model from it...
Jean-François Leroy: I get emails every day for new apps. Someone tells me, "Buy 3.11 Project to see images of last year's tsunami. If you want to see Nick Nichols' Lions, you need to buy his app. The same goes for Via PanAm by Kadir van Lohuizen." Great. I like to discover new things, but what I'd like to know is how many of these apps they are actually selling.
Olivier Laurent: Not a lot, in fact. I was talking with Carl de Keyzer at Magnum, who was supposed to release his latest book on the iPad. When I asked him why it didn't happen, he explained that he lost money on Zona, which he released last year on Apple's tablet.
Jean-François Leroy: Exactly. If you look at Paris Match and Le Figaro, their apps have been downloaded tens of thousands of times, but how many of these users are actually buying each issue? Maybe a thousand, if you're lucky. The iPad is popular, but it's not there yet. It's just one more way for a photographer to distribute his work.
Olivier Laurent: Last year, I met with the editors of Once Magazine, which is only available on the iPad. They come from San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where they are taught to challenge entire markets. When they came to Visa Pour l'Image in 2011, they spent a few days talking with photographers and agencies, and quickly realised that our market was reticent to the idea of change. Do you agree?
Jean-François Leroy: Photographers have traditionally sold their stories to magazines. But this doesn't work anymore. And yet, no one is doing anything about it. No one is willing to challenge this model. No one is looking for another way to sell their stories. It's a pity, but these guys at Once Magazine are right.
What's interesting, though, is that the younger generation has never been paid handsomely; they have never been sent on assignment and stayed in a five-star hotel. So they come onto the market with the idea that it's going to be difficult, that it won't be a walk in the park. Yet they still believe in what they do. Just look at Dominic Nahr. When I first met him, he said: "Everyone tells me about the heydays, but I don't know what these are."
Olivier Laurent: Looking back at what the editors of Once Magazine said, don't you think photographers at Visa Pour l'Image, for example, should get together with business experts who have no particular connection with the world of photography, with the goal of sharing best practices, and apply them to the market?
Jean-François Leroy: I'd love for you to organise a roundtable around this theme. We tried, a few years back, to organise events like this. Ten years ago, we brought 200 to 250 people together to discuss photographers' rights with Freelens. But the last time we did it, we had just 18 people in the audience. In 1992 or 1993, we had Russell Brown come to Visa Pour l'Image to talk about Photoshop. Robert Fiess of Geo was furious at the end of his talk. He came to me, screaming: "Do you realise this was an amazing conference and there were only seven of us in the room?"
I run into a lot of photographers at the Paris Match lunch, the Canon party and the Getty Images Agence France-Presse cocktail party, but when there's a smart panel discussion at the Palais des Congrès, they all go missing. I'd love for you to bring together experts from San Francisco. I'm willing to take that risk for next year's edition, if you want. I'd be interested.
Olivier Laurent: Next year, you'll be celebrating the festival's 25th edition...
Jean-François Leroy: It's way too early to talk about that.
Olivier Laurent: That's not my question. What I want to know is this: Is there one photographer you've never been able to show and whom you'd like to see for this 25th edition?
Jean-François Leroy: Don McCullin. I believe he'll be there next year. In January 2011, he was invited to a National Geographic seminar. I was sitting next to him when he said: "You know, you've never invited me to Perpignan. I'm old and I've had four by-pass operations." I answered: "Are you kidding me? I invite you every year." So I invited him for last year's edition, but he cancelled because he had a big show in London. I know that Aidan Sullivan wants to do something special for the Ian Parry Scholarship next year, and Don McCullin is presiding it. So I told Aidan, "Let's make a deal. I'll do whatever you want regarding the Ian Parry Scholarship, but I'll also put your president on show."
Olivier Laurent: Anyone else?
Jean-François Leroy: I think my only regret will have to be Co Rentmeester. Beyond that, I don't think I've missed anyone. I've shown Dimitri Baltermants, Ian Berry, Charles Moore, Dennis Stock, Mary Ellen Mark, Joe Rosenthal, everyone who worked for Life, David Douglas Duncan, Larry Burrows, Horst Faas and many others.
For more information, visit www.visapourlimage.com.
[Disclaimer] This interview was commissioned by Images Evidence, which organises Visa Pour l'Image, to be published as part of the festival's press kit. I, Olivier Laurent, received a fee for its translation into English, and paid travel expenses. The questions, however, are mine and mine alone. Jean-François Leroy did not see them in advance and had no say in how this interview was conducted. BJP decided to publish the interview, in full, because of its news value.
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