Dior’s Vision for the Future:
LES RENCONTRES D’ARLES
In creating The Photography Award for Young Talents in 2018, Parfums Christian Dior resolutely turned its gaze to the future by enabling young artists from major international art and photography schools to gain recognition and, above all, to pursue a bold and creative vision. This incredible initiative happens parallel to the Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, an event that is now recognised as one of the most prestigious photography events in the world.
—By Stéphane LeDuc
For Simon Baker, one of the members of the event’s remarkable jury and the new Director of The Maison Européenne de la Photographie, France has a long and great photographic tradition, and Les Rencontres d’Arles is a not to be missed annual event that you absolutely have to discover. “There is nothing like Les Rencontres d’Arles in the world,” he says. “There are other important festivals in Japan, in Spain but nothing as quite huge and as essential as Arles. You really do see most of the photography world here. There’s a lot of people here and some of the best photographers don’t even have a show here. They come just to see all the shows and meet people. Today photography is so important because it connects many other media. It connects cinema, it connects fashion, it connects design, it connects music, performance. Photography is there. Whatever you’re interested in, it’s there in the middle. It’s interesting to think about all of the ways that photography touches creativity. ”
Simon Baker, Director of The Maison Européenne de la Photographie, and Member of the Jury
In this spirit of mixing different forms of media and creation, the members of the jury for the 2019 Dior’s Prize, just like those of the 2020 Prize, A spirit of diversity among the various forms of creation, the members of the jury for the 2019 Dior Prize, as well as the current one for 2020, were sensitive to this more diverse vision of photography, knowing that the participants had to respect the imposed theme of “Woman-Women faces”. The selection of finalists may seem perilous, but for a judge as experienced as Simon Baker, one must always put the original vision of the competition into perspective: “You have to remember what the goal of judging is. You have to bear in mind those finalists are students or recently students. We’re expecting promise rather than a finished artist. You’re expecting something unique, exciting, but it could be quite raw. It could be waiting to be perfect in the future. After that it’s a collective activity. In the jury there is some people from Dior that are experts in fashion and the world of beauty and editorials. Some are photographers and others like myself that are more historians and curators. But this year and last year it has been unanimous.”
“Today photography is so important because it connects many other media. It connects cinema, it connects fashion, it connects design, it connects music, performance. Photography is there. Whatever you’re interested in, it’s there in the middle. It’s interesting to think about all of the ways that photography touches creativity.”
For Peter Philips, also a member of the jury as well as the Creative and Image Director of Christian Dior Makeup, such is also one of the lessons of the profession. “You have to choose a winner but it does not mean the other ones are bad also. When you enter a competition, you know it is part of the game. When you go to the Olympics there is only one gold medal. There is always a doubt but on the other hand it’s a great way to learn. Also, if you don’t win, it can challenge you to be better next time. You won’t always be chosen in the business and it can help you not to take it personally. It’s a good learning process. For me it’s very interesting as a Creative Director for Dior to see a young point of view in photography and images. It is important for us as a brand to stay in touch with what is happening, to make sure our doors are open and that we are not in our ivory tower.”
Peter Philips, Creative and Image Director of Christian Dior Makeup and Member of the Jury
The 2019 jury’s unanimous choice, led by photographer Dominique Isserman, was the young Chinese-born artist Gangao Lang from the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts. The new director of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (European House of Photography) enthusiastically praised the originality of the winner’s work, “There is something about her work that is very sculptural or graphic. To me, this is very beautiful and it is not just about photography. It’s something about arranging objects, making forms and using space. It is very interesting. It’s not just restricted to ‘I want to be a photographer.’”
Members of the Jury
For Simon Baker, the world of photography isn’t limited to just one medium. Artists today both are and have to be multidisciplinary because the public’s knowledge of photography is at an all-time high. “The historian Walter Benjamin said in the ‘30s that in the future the illiterate will be the people that don’t understand photography. Right now, the idea of literacy, understanding how photographs work is very strong. We now have an audience that is smarter and sharper and more attune to the visual because they are used to doing it themselves. So, I think you have to be better now to be a photographer because people can do beautiful pictures with an IPhone. The question of people being able to appreciate what artists have done, appreciate the craft and also the singularity of voice is stronger than ever. I don’t think as many people nowadays actually think of just being a photographer, they think of expressing themselves in a plural way within how they use the camera.”
Gangao Lang from the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts, Winner of the Dior Photography Prize
One of Gangao Lang’s winning photographs
See more of her photographs here.
It is in this vein that Dior is promoting the dialogue between the schools of art and photography. Dutch photographer and President of the Jury Viviane Sassen will have the honour of unveiling the 2020 Grand Prize at the 50th Rencontres d’Arles in July. Good luck to the winners and long live the Prix Dior!
From June 29th to September 20th