Has anything improved since Linda Nochlin’s 1971 essay Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? The fact that women make up just 15.5% of the artists’ files on Wikipedia suggests not. According to L’Observatoire de l’Egalite, only 30% of the artists exhibited in galleries are women, even though more than 60% of art students in France are women.
Even so, there is some cause for optimism – as French photographer Vincent Ferrané points out. “Of the top 500 contemporary artists in 2017 [in France], only 14% of women,” he says. “But 30% of those were born after 1980.”
“There is a myth that the suburbs in the outskirts of Paris are full of violence and disruption,” says Camilo Leon-Quijano, who is completing a PhD on the relationship between photography and the experience of living in low-income banlieue. “For me, it is just another place where you live and grow. Media and even academic discourse always tries to put these places down.”
Originally from Bogota, Colombia, Quijano has worked in his own country’s suburbs, the favelas, and has been studying in Paris for the last five years. “I wanted to see how people live, and try to leave behind all these negative stereotypes,” he explains.
Since 2009, around 400 acres of land in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, a commune in the west of France, has been home to Europe’s largest rural protest camp. Led by a mix of environmental activists and locals, the ZAD (which roughly translates to ‘Zone To Defend’ in English) developed in opposition to the construction of an international airport that would wipe out the wildlife and villages of the area. Though these plans have stalled for several years now, the ZAD has taken root, growing into a self-sufficient community complete with its own markets, bakery, brewery, theatre space, newspaper and even a pirate radio station. Intrigued by people and the structures that bind them, sociologist-turned-photographer Kevin Faingnaert spent a month documenting the ZAD as part of his participation in World Press Photo’s most recent Joop Swart Masterclass.
When approaching Mathieu Pernot’s 20-year-spanning work on a Roma family settled in southern France, you should leave all misconceptions and prejudices aside, as he did, and read the introduction to Les Gorgan, the photobook published by Editions Xavier Barral to accompany his critically-acclaimed exhibition at this year’s Rencontres d’Arles festival. When he began, the French photographer writes, he didn’t know anything about the Gorgan family, nor was he aware that its members had been living in France for over a century. It was to be a transformative experience, one that led Pernot to witness the birth of a child for the first time, attend funerals and engage in a type of intimacy that only time and surrender can offer.
“The exhibition just becomes this transition point. There will be new artwork created by the exhibition. I think that’s exciting: it means it becomes alive. These often tragic stories will continue living in other forms, whether through painting or through music, so it’s about making the exhibition a place of life and a celebration of that life,” says Giles Duley, the photographer who has spent months travelling Europe and the Middle East to document the refugee crisis with UNHCR. Taking images from his photobook, I Can Only Tell You What I See, the display will feature artists in residence, a soundscape from Massive Attack and will host an evening supper so as visitors can sit and discuss the work and the wider problems surrounding the refugee crisis.
“Between colonialism and cosmopolitism, between a sense of not belonging and their nationality, many use the word Schizophrenie to describe how it is to construct their identity in the middle of two antagonistic cultures,” explains Carolina Arantes. Her project, First Generation, follows the lives of young Afro-French women living in the Parisian suburbs as they overcome prejudices and culture clashes. It has now been awarded the 2017 Firecracker Photographic Grant, securing Arantes £2,000 to help her complete the project.
“I have simply seen breastfeeding as an act of life and love that is not always an easy task, and that therefore is deserving of encouragement in its all dimensions, psychological, physical and social,” says Vincent Ferrané, whose photobook Milky Way is a testament to his wife and women everywhere as they begin their lives as mothers. The series focuses on breastfeeding, a natural act that can sometimes cause controversy when brought into the public sphere. Ferrané’s photobook hopes to move past that and reclaim the breast as an empowering part of the female body.
For two months last April and May, Aurore Valade isolated herself in a remote village in the Haute-Bigorre region of France. The result? Her photography project Se Manifester, which has been awarded this year’s Photo Folio Review at the Rencontres d’Arles festival. “Etymologically, ‘to manifest’ is the action of making visible. I feel that could be a beautiful definition of photography too,” says Valade.
“Everything in France over the last year-and-a-half has given a different context to the pictures I’ve made,” says Magnum photographer Christopher Anderson. “There’s a darkness now that wasn’t there when I began.” We’re discussing his series Bleu Blanc Rouge, an open-ended meditation on French identity and culture he’s currently editing into a book. He started it back 2010, on a residency in South France, but the work has taken on new resonance, after a spate of terrorist attacks in France and the rise of ultra-nationalist Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. In fact the series now seems timely – prophetic even – but then Anderson’s work often does. He released Stump, a photobook satirising the American presidential circus, back in 2014, two years before the upset election of Donald Trump; and he released Capitolio, a dark vision of the Venezuelan capital, in 2011, two years before the death of President Hugo Chavez and the economic and political crisis now playing out on Caracas’ streets. “I have noticed that,” he says, when I point out his talent for …
Christophe Gin has been awarded the 6th edition of the Carmignac Foundation’s Photojournalism Award, winning a €50,000 grant for Colonie, his work ruminating on lawless areas in France. Created in 2009, the award has sponsored photojournalism in conflict zones and neglected regions; previous winners include Robin Hammond (featured in our latest Portrait issue) and recent Magnum Photos nominee Newsha Tavakolian. The award was mired in controversy last year, after Tavakolian contended that the foundation’s benefactor, French investment banker Edouard Carmignac began to interfere with with the presentation of her work to an “unacceptable” degree. The foundation disputed her remarks, claiming the postponing of her project was due to purported threats to the photographer’s safety, which it said Tavakolian reported. It would seem any acrimony has abated, however – Tavakolian’s work will be part of the Carmignac Foundation’s upcoming retrospective at Saatchi Gallery, London. It features 40 works produced since the award’s inception by all laureates – Kai Wiedenhöfer, Massimo Berruti, Robin Hammond, David Monteleone, Tavakolian and this year’s winner Christophe Gin. Colonie, Gin’s winning project delved into French Guiana, a region in …