PERPIGNAN, FRANCE |   Where is photojournalism headed these days? To Perpignan, France, of course.

International Festival of Photojournalism, "Visa pour l’image," held in Perpignan, France
International Festival of Photojournalism, “Visa pour l’image,” held in Perpignan, France

from September 1 to 16, 2012, will highlight the work of six AFP (Agence France-Presse) photographers who will be showcased at the Palais des Congrès.

This festival is a unique event for those who share a love and passion for photography. For one week each year, the Palais des Congrès in Perpignan becomes the centre of the photojournalism community.  The Festival exhibits the greatest photojournalist work from around the world in exhibitions across the city. Evening screenings are held in the dramatic open air medieval enclosure of the Campo Santo. There are symposiums and conferences with photo agencies and manufacturers of photographic-related equipment.

This year, however, Visa pour l’image has lost the support of Corbis, one of the world’s biggest photo agencies. Corbis is not the only agency to cancel its stand. Other photography collectives such as Magnum Photos, VII Photo and Noor pulled out years ago.

On a positive note, Getty Images, Agence VU, Cosmos, Sipa, Agence France-Presse, Polaris and many other collectives are still opening their doors to young photographers. Visa pour l’image was the festival that discovered such talents as Rémi Ochlik, Guillaume Herbaut, Robin Hammond and Corentin Fohlen.

Fewer agencies at this festival means greater opportunities and more concentrated displays. “These exhibitions highlight the diversity of our news production which is the true richness of our agency,” says AFP President Emmanuel Hoog, in a prepared atatement. “Our photographers are above all field professionals. Whether it’s looking at daily life in Afghanistan, revisiting the disaster in Japan, monitoring clashes in Greece or peering at life in North Korea, they know the actors, often the dangers, and what’s at stake. Never has our production been so broad in range or of such quality as can be seen by the Pulitzer awarded to Massoud Hossaini, a first for the agency,” he adds.

NORTH KOREA:  Chilean photographer Pedro Ugarte and British colleague Ed Jones, based respectively in Hong Kong and Beijing, are present pictures from North Korea. The country’s government recently opened its borders to foreign reporters to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of former leader Kim II-Sung. The Chileans described their trip as akin to traveling back in “a time machine.”

GREECE:  The exhibition by Louisa Gouliamaki, Angelos Tzortzinis, and Aris Messinis — three Greek photographers working for AFP in Athens – offers a glimpse into 24 months of often violent protests as people took to the streets to oppose austerity measures brought on by the financial crisis. “Now everyone is resorting to violence,” says Aris Messinis. “Even old people are throwing stones.” The pictures have been awarded a number of prizes at recent international competitions (Picture of the Year, CHIPP and Fotoweek).

AFGHANISTAN:  Afghan photographer Massoud Hossaini’s exhibition looks at his country at war, and includes the picture which earned him a Pulitzer Prize. That award-winning photo was of a girl in green screaming following a suicide bombing in Kabul. “I could hardly see through my lens because I was crying,” says Massoud. In addition to a Pulitzer, the picture was awarded a 1st prize at Pictures of the Year, a 1st prize at the National Press Photographers’ Association, and a 2nd prize at World Press Photo.

Visa pour l’Image” is also showcasing an AFP projection entitled “Fukushima a year on,” the work of Japanese photographer Toru Yamanaka who, one year after the tsunami disaster, returned to take pictures of the places and people photographed by colleagues at the time of the catastrophe.

Highlights of this year’s news in pictures, including shots from the Olympic Games, will be shown at the AFP stall. Visitors will also be able to view AFP productions on real time data bases (ImageForum, VideoForum and AFPDirect).

Twenty-seven exhibitions will be presented at “Visa pour l’Image.” Admission is free of charge, every day from 10am to 8pm, from Saturday September 1 to Sunday, September 16, 2012.  From September 16 to 21 the exhibitions remain open for school groups (by appointment). In 2011, around 8000 students from across France as well as Spain visited the exhibitions, with commentaries provided by photographers Christophe Bertolin, Bertrand Gaudillère, Bénédicte Kurzen and Pierre Terdjman

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