By Claude Grunitzky
Although last year’s edition was cancelled because of the pandemic, the Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles returned this year with a series of groundbreaking exhibitions. One of the world’s most established photo festivals, which runs from early July to late September, the Rencontres takes place in Arles, the city in Provence that is famed for inspiring many Van Gogh paintings.
A highlight of the 2021 edition is an exhibition curated by Antwaun Sargent, a director at Gagosian Gallery who is also emerging as one of the most influential curators of his generation.
The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion examines Black identity in photography. It is billed as presenting “artists whose vibrant portraits and conceptual images fuse the genres of art and fashion photography in ways that break down long-established boundaries.”
The exhibition, which was previously presented in the United States, Australia and Qatar, showcases the work of young photographers from a variety of countries including Nigeria, Ethiopia, Guinea, South Africa, the UK, and the US. Tyler Mitchell made history in 2018 when he shot Beyoncé for the cover of US Vogue, a first for a Black photographer. He is featured, alongside other TRUE Africa favorites including Campbell Addy, Awol Erizku, Nadine Ijewere, Ruth Ossai, and Namsa Leuba.The beauty of photography is it starts a dialogue about who we are, where we come from, and where we are going.” – Ruth Ossai (Nigeria)“In my work, I try to create alternatives. It’s a form of activism.” – Daniel Obasi (Nigeria)“I am inspired by my origins and by new creative exchanges, infusing reality with my own sensitivities and experiences.” – Namsa Leuba (Switzerland/Guinea)Blackness can get pigeon-holed into a onedimentional viewpoint, but in reality, it is as diverse as the galaxies in the universe.” – Micaiah Carter (USA)“I can see myself within my work. I want to give that platform to young women of color and show the beauty is not just one universal standard.” – Nadine Ijewere (UK)“With every project and everything I try to do, there’s a sense of educating the viewer. Not necessarily educating for the Black viewer or for the white viewer, but just for people in general.” – Campbell Addy (UK)“To convey Black beauty is an act of justice.” – Tyler Mitchell (USA)“Everywhere in the world, the current generation is keen on just believing in their crafts and pushing for what they love to do… You see a lot of young people trying to Create awareness – from music to fashion to technology – moving toward freedom.” – Stephen Tayo (Nigeria)“If I hadn’t been posting my work on multiple platforms for years, I would never have had these opportunities. Every moment that I didn’t give in, pack up, and move back home has been critical to my success.” – Dana Scruggs (USA)