if the prospect of sharing a small market town in SW France with 1000 photographers conjures up images of dozens of earnest, goateed young men jostling for position at the Boulangerie, Leicas at the ready, then you’d be right, but only partly.
Six months ago I decided to join other members of the Brighton & Hove Camera Club in a trip to Arles in the Camargue region of south west France to hang out at the photography festival.
It’s been an amazing trip, and there is another day to go. The curation has been exemplary, mixing up photographers ranging from the turn of the century playboy Jacques Henri Lartique (outstanding) to modern commercial masters such as Guy Bourdin and Wolfgang Tillmans via the surrealist Gilbert Garcin and the icy self portraits of Arno Rafael Minkkinen. Its been an education and an inspiration and Leica wielding poseurs notwithstanding, the vast majority of people here are friendly and enthusiastic. The poseurs are definitely in the minority.
If there is a drawback to visiting an event such as this, it is the effect it immediately has on your own photography. With so many exhibitions in such a short time, there is no time to distil or process anything and I’ll cheerfully admit to taking some horrendously pretentious photographs over the last few days. Thankfully quality control has remained more or less intact and the waste bin on the Mac is overflowing!
Travelling as a group is an interesting experience too. I’m not used to taking pictures with other people and initially found it disconcerting, more difficult to engage with the potential image and resulting (for me at least) in a flood of technically acceptable but superficial images, most of which have already been jettisoned. That being said, the trip to the salt flats was triumphant. I think most of us came away with insect bites, sunburn and dehydration but there were outstanding photographs too.
I also learned a lot about action photography. I’m perfectly at home shooting landscapes and architecture, but bull fighting, wild horses and birds pose a completely different challenge. My first attempts at the bull fight yielded one interesting shot, blurred to the very edge of incompetence, but as an image it worked. The next night I cranked up the ISO in order to force a faster shutter speed. Worked like a dream. Small aperture to make sure I got the details (Bull fighting is way too mobile for manual photography) and aperture priority enabled me to sit with my camera on a monopod and focus on the areas of interesting lighting. This caused me to completely miss one spectacular event on the other side of the stadium, but the one I did capture, I captured well.
It’s been a great trip and a fantastic club outing. Well done in particular to Chantal Lonsdale for organising it. Tonight we visit Salin-de-Giraud for the Nuit de la Photographie and tomorrow will be mostly gift acquisition and a couple of last exhibitions. Next week, Spain…watch this space!
The pictures from the trip can be found here: http://electricalimage.com/galleries/travel/france/