It’s the biggest and best-respected photo festival in the world – it’s Arles and it’s back from 02 July-23 September, with a special opening week from 02-08 July. With the blessing of the French Minister of Culture François Nyssen – who declares that “Arles wouldn’t be Arles without photography” in her welcome to the festival – the 49th year of the festival is lead by director Sam Stourdzé, who took over its organisation in October 2014. As you might expect, the momentous events of May 1968 are commemorated at Arles this year, with a group of exhibitions titled Run Comrade, The Old World is Behind You. Considering events such as the student demonstrations and strikes in France, and the assassination of Robert F Kennedy that year, this section includes shows such as 1968, What a Story! which uses previously unseen images from police archives, Paris Match and Gamma-Rapho-Keystone. Elsewhere Arles looks to the future with a group of shows titled Augmented Humanity which includes work by Cristina de Middel & Bruno Morais, Matthieu Gafsou and Jonas Bendiksen; and in the Emergences section, which includes the ten photographers included in the New Discovery Award this year.
Half a century on, the events of May ‘68 still burn in the memories of its provocateurs. Morphing from a frenzy of student protests into a nation-wide revolt, embroiling seven million people at its height, France was dragged out of its post-war complacency that summer and into seven weeks of turbulent action and police brutality. The fire of the rebellion was first sparked on Valentine’s Day, when students of Nanterre University in the Western suburbs of Paris, held a residents’ strike to promote the right to move freely between male and female dorms. The university hesitated over making any change, so on 22 March, 600 frustrated students gathered to occupy an administration building in protest against the old institution’s ageing values.