“Visa pour L’image” 2022 opened on August 27 in Perpignan. The exhibitions are on display until September 11, a short period but we know that the core of Perpignan are the meetings among professionals in the opening week.
Ukraine seems to have reawakened the war reporting profession, with all its values and risks. Jean Francois Leroy, director of Visa pour L’image – one of the longest-running directorates in the international festival scene – since 1989, said as much in a video posted on Instagram “Thousands of freelancers are following the war in Ukraine, often without protections, without guarantees. But war is not the only place where they can showcase their talent.” In short, the festival focuses its attention to a time when photojournalism has returned to producing news from conflict zones, but on the other hand, publishing industry has changed forever, and the risks are much higher than in the past.
Freelancers in theatres of war, publishing industry without resources, photographic languages that go beyond image printing. Even a Festival as rigorous as Perpignan must adapt and explore the new codes of photography.
Among the Italian photographers on display, Paolo Woods exemplifies this with his work Happy Pills on the happiness induced by the pharmaceutical industry through the pill and drug market. “I was very surprised to be invited to exhibit in Perpignan, Happy Pills is totally my style but far from the classic one of Visa pour L’image. In the exhibition I am bringing to Perpignan there are installations, lightboxes, objects. I think that being open to all the styles, languages and mediums photography works with is a very good thing for Perpignan.”
There is also politics with its election campaigns that while occupying social media, when they take place in the public squares are still “a crowd bath”, as the title of the work by Le Monde photographer Jean Claude Coutausse puts it. And of course, there is plenty of Ukraine, Mariupol and Bucha, scenarios in which the documentation of photojournalism, this time the more classical kind, has been useful in providing visual evidence for ongoing war crimes investigations.
Another key theme of the 2022 edition is the environment. For instance, the work of Alain Ernoult, a past as a war photographer and now engaged in documenting the oceans and endangered species.
Among the Italians in Visa pour L’image there is Valerio Bispuri, with his years-long project on the places in the world where mental health care is provided today. “Even though there is a dominant news as Ukraine”, Jean-Francois Leroy states, “the agenda of a Festival must show the world in all its complexity, where connections are often invisible, but they do exist.”