For those that have never heard of Visa Pour L’Image, its a festival of photojournalism. It takes place annually in a lovely town in the South of France called Perpignan. The festival is split into various components. Firstly, and open to all, is a series of exhibitions in the most imaginative and brilliant of venues (ranging from convents to prisons - naturally now disused).
The second component is a series of talks and presentations which take place in an auditorium at the Palais des Congres. There are usually two sessions, which are open to all. However, to get further into the Palais, you’ll need to be accredited and have the needed passes. This allows entry into the huge Canon area where you can get equipment serviced and look at camera, video and printing gear. They also had a great exhibition of images and a studio demo area. On the opposite side to Canon is the Apple area where talks and presentations are made. This year, Martin Gisborne from Apple, who is an absolute genius when it comes to Aperture (and other things) gave a range of talks, from basic to advanced techniques. Brian Storm from Media Storm also gave a fantastic talk on all things multi media. There were also a bank of iMacs connected to the internet for all to use.
On the second floor were all the main players in the game; Polaris, Getty Images, AP, SIPA and so on. Appointments were made and work shown and some new friendships made by photographers looking for new agents or syndication for specific stories. One floor down were a large number of smaller co-operative style agencies. Lastly, on the top floor there was a cafe and open area to chill out in.
Another fabulous part of the week are the evening screenings which take place in an open air amphitheater called Campo Santo with seating for hundreds. This year there was an overflow area in Place de Republic which was a much more relaxed area to view the shows from, whilst sat at a table with table service!
The shows in my opinion weren’t as good as years gone by. There were just too many presentations and too many similar stories shown. Sitting through a two hour show with hundreds of images (some best not shown) just gets too much and there is visual over load. Still, there was some excellent work too and well worth attending.
For me, the highlights as far as the exhibitions were concerned (in no particular order) were: AFP - 20 Years Covering The World 1989-2008, Alexandra Boulat / VII - “Come On, Come On!”, Paula Bronstein / Getty Images - “Afghanistan - A Fragile Peace”, Horst Faas / AP - “50 Years of Photojournalism”, Yuri Kozyrev / NOOR - “Inside Iraq”, Paolo Pellegrin / Magnum Photos - “The Iraqi Diaspora”, Axelle De Russe - “China - The Return of the Concubine”, Kadir Van Lohuizen / NOOR - “The Katrina Aftermath - those who fell through the cracks”, Brent Stirton / Reportage for Getty Images - “Virunga National Park”, Alfred Yaghobzadeh / SIPA Press - “Religious Minorities in Iran” and the World Press Photo exhibition.
The entire mood of the festival is magnificent. To be surrounded by photographers who in some cases are the top of their game makes for very interesting conversation. After the talks, exhibitions and evening screenings comes the evening entertainment - wine at Le Grand Cafe de la Poste (commonly referred to as La Poste) which is just by the Castillet. This is were most people hang out ‘till around 4 am! Lots of wine, conversation (both deep and interesting and absolutely pointless and still interesting) and new friendships. If you’re going to Visa next year, be sure to print up a load of business cards!
As the morning sessions start at 10am, it gives you an idea of how little sleep one gets. Somehow this never seems a problem as the festival has an infectious energy that just keeps you going. Along with the normal evening get togethers, I was also invited to the private parties by AP, Canon and Getty - many thanks folks.
The superb weather enjoyed by all had to come to an end and alas on the last night of the professional week, it rained...rather heavily. The result was the cancellation of the legendary party at the Couvent des Minimes. I was thankful to discover the beach party the day after though and this brought a magnificent and chilled way to end a very fabulous week.
I've come across a couple of really interesting articles which paint a great picture of Visa: