Arles photo festival defiantly celebrates world's diversity

One of the world's most renowned photo festivals returns to the French town of Arles this summer with an ode to diversity.

The Rencontres d'Arles festival, which runs until 29 September, is spread across 27 venues in the ancient cobbled streets of the former Roman town in Provence.

Now in its 55th year, the event has chosen the theme "Beneath the Surface", seeking to delve into diversity without the usual caricatures around minorities.

The star exhibition is a world-first retrospective for US portrait artist Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015), who worked for magazines including Life and Rolling Stone.

One of her most celebrated images features an Icelandic child resting on the neck of a horse, the pose focusing attention away from the boy's disability.

Mark "devoted a lot of time and attention to her protagonists, in a few cases returning to photograph them again and again over the course of many years, forging close relationships with many", said co-curator Sophia Greiff.

"What I'm trying to do is make photographs that are universally understood... that cross cultural lines," Mark once said.

Emphasis on humanity

Elsewhere at the festival, Spanish photographer Cristina de Middel presents documentary and dreamlike work about migrants travelling from Mexico to the US.

She ignores the usual tropes around migration, presenting the crossing as a heroic epic of courageous men and women heading towards a new life.

"Green is beautiful, because every time I like something I'm told it's green," reads one caption, alongside a shot of vivid grass.

(with AFP)


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