Our pick of the key stories from the past week, including Q&As with image-makers like Mathilde Vaveau and Karol Palka, Paul Senn’s documentation of a mass migration from Spain in 1939, and the programme for the 50th Les Rencontres d’Arles.
In 1939, Spanish refugees started to flee the country’s bitter civil war, in a movement that’s become known as the Retirada [the ‘withdrawal’]. More than 450,000 men, women, and children crossed the border into France in February 1939 alone, following the fall of the Second Spanish Republic and the victory of General Franco. France, anticipating the mass migration, had started to make provisions for the refugees, but underestimated the sheer numbers. Many ended up on the beaches in makeshift accommodation, and by 1940, some 50,000 had ended up in a series of camps. Diseases such as dysentery were rife, and the mortality rate high.
One of the camps was Camp de Rivesaltes, also known as Camp Maréchal Joffre. Built in 1938, near Perpignan and just 40km from the Spanish border, it had originally been intended as a military base but, following the Retirada, the French government decided to use it as an internment camp. By January 1941 was housing more than 6500 refugees though, as by then World War Two had broken out, half the camp was Spanish – the other half Jews who had fled various counties and French gypsies. In just under two years, the camp housed some 17,500 people, just over half from Spain, 40% Jewish, and 7% French gypsies.
“The project is about the traces the ‘invisible world’ leaves on our world,” says 36-year-old Virginie Rebetez. “I don’t like the word ‘witchcraft’ – it has bad connotations. In Europe, we are afraid of people who communicate with the invisible world, but there are many ways of explaining events. I am also fascinated by the South African imagery that relates to this world of ‘spirits’ and the way in which characters and animals feature in rituals.” Born in Lausanne, Rebetez worked on the project two years ago during a four-month residency in South Africa organised by Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council. “I’m interested in the invisible world in general – how we communicate with it, what it is and so on. Johannesburg is not an easy place to arrive and work in by yourself, especially if you are white and working on this kind of subject. But through the residency I met people who helped me.” Rebetez, one of 10 emerging photographers selected to exhibit at last year’s Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography, met with experts in …