Les Rencontres d’Arles is the most prestigious photo festival in the world – that’s beyond question. But according to a high-profile group of photographers, curators, and writers, there’s still more that it could do. They’ve got together to sign a public letter to festival director Sam Stourdzé, which urges him to include more exhibitions by women in the main programme at Arles, and which was published in the French newspaper Libération on 03 September.
The letter is signed by influential industry figures such as Iwona Blazwick, director of the Whitechapel Gallery; Victor Burgin, Professor Emeritus of History of Consciousness, University of California, Santa Cruz, and Emeritus Millard Chair of Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, University of London; collectors Claire and James Hyman; and Olivier Richon, Professor of Photography, Royal College of Art, London, as well as photographers and artists such as Clare Strand, Sunil Gupta, and Anna Fox.
London-based collectors Claire and James Hyman have donated 125 photographs to the Yale Center for British Art, gifting key works by leading figures in British photographic history – including Bill Brandt, Bert Hardy, Roger Mayne, Tony Ray-Jones, Martin Parr, Chris Killip and Anna Fox – to the 44-year-old institution in New Haven in the US. It’s a move that could be interpreted as a damning indictment of UK institutions’ commitment to collecting British photography – particularly as, the last time BJP caught up with James Hyman (our May 2015 issue), he said building such collections has been “left to private individuals, and it shouldn’t have been”. In the same interview Hyman also singled out Birmingham Library and its curator of photography collections Peter James for praise – yet in the intervening time, both the photography archive and James’ job have fallen victim to funding cuts. But Hyman says the donation should be viewed in a positive light as evidence of the growing interest in British photography abroad – an interest which may spark more commitment in the UK.