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Portrait(s): Photography Festival in Vichy

Posted on June 16, 2023 - By City of Vichy
Portrait(s): Photography Festival in Vichy
Portrait(s): Photography Festival in Vichy

June 23 - October 1, 2023

For this year's festival, Portrait(s) is occupying the Grand Etablissement Thermal of Vichy, a magnificent building designed by architect Charles Lecoeur that opened in 1903, as well as the Hall des Sources, and is hosting a grand out of doors retrospective of the work of Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf.

Body mechanics are on show throughout the nine scheduled exhibitions.

When an artist like Belgian photographer Jacques Sonck is discovered, along with his incredible black and white street photography portraits, one has to rejoice at hosting his first exhibition in France. “What am I an original in?” could be the sub-title of his series Archetypes. Sonck's interest lies in extraordinary, charismatic individuals who, through their physicality, clothes or presence attract the eye in a rerun of human comedy.

The son and grandson of soldiers, Stéphane Lavoué went to capture faces at the military academies that showed their commitment. Allons enfants ! takes us from life in the barracks out to the field, in the everyday lives and the battle training of these youngsters whose lives may well be overturned in an operational theatre. Gilles Leimdorfer went to find former Miss France winners from 1965 to 1985 and compiled a kaleidoscope of subjects of memory. With the connivance of these old beauty queens, he rebuilds what once was their notoriety, a moment in their lives that briefly but intensely was lit up. Stéphane Lavoué and Gilles Leimdorfer are both photographers in the nation-wide command “Radioscopie de la France: regards sur un pays traversé par la crise sanitaire” funded by the Ministry of Culture and managed by the French National Library.

This year, pictorial professions are also being honoured. In the wings, they work on lighting and take part in the creative process. After a gallery, a collector and a press agency are included, two other professions are presented: the photographers' agent promoting an impressive group exhibition, and the residency organizer. What is behind a picture? The photographer's eye, to be sure, but also the shadow crafts to which two exhibitions here are paying homage: production and the agent's job.

We see a picture and it tells us a story. To define the importance of this first profession, the production of photographs, we have depended on the expertise of Cinq Étoiles Productions. The producer's job of is to available to the photographer the necessary elements and means that will enable him to create a picture: décor, a hairdresser team, a cosmetician, stylist, assistants, light... and so many other trades that are essential to carry out a visual project like a photograph or a film. The one who is signing the residency provided by Cinq Etoiles Productions and who is proposing a gentle, adjusted staging is photographer Letizia Le Fur. Using her oh so special chromie, she stages a cast of some twenty senior Vichy citizens who are still active in town.

The one that embodies the second trade, that of photographers' agent, is the story of Carole Lambert, a woman who, thirty years ago, opened her own agency, Lambert Lambert. Operating between contracts and private confessions, an agent discovers new talents, defends them, sells them in service to a mainly commercial creative process. He accompanies each of his artists in producing objects that have been ordered or that sometimes are more personal. The Agent Stars exhibition presents a multidisciplinary artistic spread through which the agency makes us discover the richness of this profession through a selection of twelve of her most creative artists – photographers, video makers and set designers, combining work for orders and personal work. These artists are Charlotte Krieger, Benni Valsson, Laura Pelissier, Eva Wang, Valentin Abad, Charles Negre, Korner Union, Sophie Van der Perre, Lilian Hardouineau, Kourtney Roy, Marine Armandin, and Vincent Fournier.

Words to See. Neuflize OBC Enterprise Foundation is presenting Words to See, an exhibition that honours the works in its photographic and videography collection. The works loaned to us this year are photographs by Mathieu Pernot from his series Les Gorgan. The pictures have been entrusted to our mediator, who has circulated them in the public sphere of the City of Vichy. The public reactions have been recorded in a sound capsule and provide a sincere, spontaneous view on understanding the picture.

The Voice of the Gaze
Analyzing a photograph through an audio and video montage. Brigitte Patient takes us on a visual journey, describing what she sees, what she imagines, what she knows about photography and her place in the history of photography. Guided by her voice, the onlooker follows her gaze in a moving image that little by little reveals itself... This year Chinese performance artist Liu Bolin is on show in the Halle des Sources.

Portrait(s) invites itself to school continues this year with a first-grade class at Sévigné Lafaye School and runs a new workshop on photographic reportage. For this year's festival, the children let digital imagery go and gave priority to a return to silver practices. This is the promise of a workshop on developing and printing on paper.

Every year, Portrait(s) pays homage to the artists and the picture-making craft, and from the onset has taken care to honour French photography.

A profound thank-you to the photographers and artists. Thank you to the Portrait(s) teams in Vichy and Paris who work hard every day to ensure that this photography festival follows its trail. Special thanks to the City of Vichy, Vichy Culture, the scenographers and the technical teams. Thank you also to our faithful and valuable partners who have stood committed beside us ever since Portrait(s) started. These are: Neuflize OBC, SNCF Stations and Connections, Cinq Étoiles Productions. And our public partners: the City of Vichy, the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Regional Cultural Directorate, and the Department of Allier Bourbonnais

Fany Dupêchez, Artistic director

Selected Program

Erwin Olaf

Paradise Portraits, Matt, 2002 © Erwin Olaf

Erwin Olaf: Beauty is a Lure
The pictures by Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf (born 1959) are now known around the world. Recently crowned with praise for his portraits of the Dutch royal family, Olaf has been pursuing a body of work for over forty years in which he shows an extraordinary talent for telling stories through subtle chromie pictures. In them we encounter out-of- work Hitchcock beauties, sad-eyed children, domestic worlds made of shiny paper, and decors with dawn- and dusk-like settings. Isolation is internal and external at the same time. The perfect balance of his compositions seems to heal the imbalance of lives. Along the Allier, the artist is exhibiting his most emblematic series.
Erwin Olaf is represented by the Galerie Rabouan-Moussion, Paris

Jacques Sonck: Archetypes
Belgian photographer Jacques Sonck shoots classical analogue black-and-white street and studio portraits with an eye for the extraordinary. Across all ages, genders and races, he is attracted by individuals who stand out from the crowd, either by an anomaly in their appearance or by their extravert attitude or clothing-style. His oeuvre reads like an eccentric cross-section of Flemish society from the 1970s onwards. Seen together, his comic, tragic, melancholic and joyous portraits form an in-depth study of the human condition.
Somehow I try to document the people living in this era and in this part of the world. It is the diversity that is interesting. Maybe through my work spectators learn to see differently, full of empathic curiosity for my subjects. That we are all different is the leitmotiv, and that we are proud of it, is the message.”
Jacques Sonck is represented by Gallery FIFTY ONE, Antwerp.

Jacques Sonck

Untitled, Studio, 1993 © Jacques Sonck, Courtesy Gallery FIFTY

Letizia Le Fur: Quadrille
Their names are Jeany, Jean-Paul, Marie-Alice, Nicole, Ginette, Titi, Bernie, Coco, Brigitte, Daniel, and Ryad. They are of the same age of the heart that is not counted in decades but in ever returning springs. They are the heroes of Letizia Le Fur, who was awarded this year’s residency. Using as her background the theme of the small Vichy square, this artist, who uses her photographic pallet like a painter, combed out the city and took portraits of lively seniors. Facing her lens, they let their fantasies free, putting on the power-house coloured clothes that a virtuoso pianist or a heartbreaker would wear, a dancer or a dandy. Their eccentricity was such that they would apply the colours to the places they went to... the Opera, the public baths, the church, the cultural centre... Certain that “happiness supresses old age,” as Franz Kafka said, Letizia Le Fur has redefined the outlines of a fantasy world in which, good year bad year, the lightness of living comes to life.

Residency presented by Cinq Étoiles Productions.
Production team: Carolina Anselius, Chloé Dardennes, Marjorie Donnart, Sandrine Gonzales.
With the support of Leica Camera France, RVZ and FMAlebureau / Florence Moll.
Book from Filigranes.

Letizia Le Fur

Quadrille. Dominique © Letizia Le Fur

Stéphane Lavoué: Allons Enfants !
Who are the new faces of the French Army and what is the reason for this new infatuation with the career in the forces? The son and grand-son of soldiers, Stéphane Lavoué grew up surrounded by men in fatigue dress. Particularly attentive to the forces’ role during the lockdown periods, to returning from the war to the doors of Europe after more than a year, and to the unexpected or predictable effects these events caused, all he could do was note the increase in the number of young people with a vocation for a military career. “This is the first time in ages that we are reaching our recruitment goals,” as the headquarters of the various forces self-congratulate. The start of the war in Ukraine and the shift into a “war economy” have helped to restore the “military nation”. To find answers to his questions, Stéphane Lavoué went to meet these young men at various schools and training centres –officers’ academies - l’École Navale, Saint- Cyr at Coëtquidan; NCO training centres - ENSOA at Saint-Maixent – and for ordinary low-rank troops – the initial training centre at Bitche.

These photographs were produced within the framework of the nation-wide command “Radioscopie de la France: regards sur un pays traversé par la crise sanitaire” funded by the Ministry of Culture and managed by the French National Library.

Stéphane Lavoué

Élève sous-officiers lors de la remise de son paquetage à l’École Nationale des Sous-Officiers de l’Armée de Terre (ENSOAT) de Saint-Maixent l’École © Stéphane Lavoué / Grande Commande Photojournalisme © Stéphane Lavoué. Ces photographies ont été produites dans le cadre de la grande commande nationale Radioscopie de la France : regards sur un pays traversé par la crise sanitaire financée par le Ministère de la culture et pilotée par la BnF.

Words to See: Mathieu Pernot
Neuflize OBC Enterprise Foundation is presenting Words to See, an exhibition in honour of the works in its photographic and videography collection.

Portrait(s) and the Foundation are pursuing the innovative project that was started in 2018, that of bringing the treasures of the Neuflize OBC Enterprise Collection to the knowledge of the general public and to propose a scheme for analytic encounters about the works and thus encourage an open, ongoing dialogue between members of the public, academics, experts and artists.

This year, three works by Mathieu Pernot from the Neuflize OBC collection are being exhibited for the duration of the festival. Comments by members of the public collected by the mediator before the exhibition are being propagated in the exhibition hall. The public reactions have been recorded in a sound capsule and provide a sincere, spontaneous view on understanding the picture.

In 1995, when he was studying at the Ecole nationale de la photographie in Arles, Mathieu Pernot got to know the Gorgans, a Roma family. From that moment on, he recorded their births and deaths, their games and small trades. He was the family’s genealogist, godfather and portrait artist all at the same time, and his commitment went much farther than making a photographic chronicle. He shed light on all his research, in an approach that could be described as ‘monumentary’ or ‘documental’. Quotes from the text by Pauline de Laboulaye.

Mediation: Camille Carrias
Sound montage: Félix Fouche

The Voice of the Gaze: An audio and visual carte blanche by Brigitte Patient
Brigitte Patient has been through the ten years of Portrait(s) exhibitions and has chosen one artist, an image of this corpus. Now she takes us on a visual journey, describing what she perceives, what she imagines, what she knows about the photographer and his place in the history of photography. Guided by her voice, the onlooker follows her gaze into a moving image that little by little reveals itself... This is how this year you will discover a photograph of Chinese performance artist Liu Bolin.

Brigitte Patient’s singular way of speaking reveals itself in dialogue with a photograph, arousing curiosity and the desire to see.

Liu Bolin is represented by GALERIE PARIS-B
Sound montage: Félix Fouchet

Liu Bolin

Instant Noodles, 2013, Série Hiding in the City © Liu Bolin. Courtesy Liu Bolin / PARIS-B

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