Les Rencontres d’Arles 2023 — Selections

Conceptual Projects
Published in
6 min readJul 23, 2023


Every photography enthusiast is thrilled when July arrives. As every year, Les Rencontres d’Arles opens the city’s historical venues and public spaces to welcome thousands of visitors willing to discover new talents and consolidated international figures. Unfortunately we had to check everything that was going on through social media and their website, which gives a really good overview of the festival.

Before presenting our highlights, I would like to point out the work of all the people involved to make the festival happen, in particular the job that Tanvi Mishra made curating the Discovery Award by Louis Roederer Foundation. I noticed all shortlisted artists have discourses that urgently need to be addressed and the multiplicity of backgrounds shows the existence of regional problems, which lead to global implications.

Hannah Darabi

Hannah Darabi explores Iran’s unique political, economic and social situation through photography and archival materials. In Soleil of Persian Square she put the focus on the Iranian community living in Los Angeles. It was important to her to capture the signs of this diaspora, the places the residents frequent, the music they listen to, all of which helped her create the fictional image of a city she imagined as a teenager.

Pop music was the main cultural activity that she associated with this city, commonly called Tehrangeles. Being able to travel to California allowed her to put face to this city she imagined and allowed her to work between the real and the idealised space. Her photos depict objects from popular culture, most of them from the 1980s and 1990s, and her landscapes are a clear reference to the American street photography from the 1960s-1970s.

Hannah Darabi (b. 1981, Iran)

Soleil of Persian Square

at Salle Henri-Comte

Eric Tabuchi and Nelly Monnier

I first saw the Atlas des Régions Naturelles around 2019. I found the project absolutely fascinating and since then, I started following Eric Tabuchi who regularly posts images from his archive on Instagram. The Atlas is documentary in nature and comprises images of France’s unique architecture and landscape. Together with Nelly Monnier, they built a huge archive with more than 12,000 photographs that can be seen online.

Grey Sun is the title of his presentation at Ground Control. Selected directly from the Atlas, the images allude to apocalyptic scenarios dominated by colossal architectural structures and grey skies. This references to an uncertain future associated with the artists’ concern about global warming. Displayed in a modulable installation, the photographs offer a transversal reading and show the versatility of the archive.

Eric Tabuchi (b. 1959, France) and Nelly Monnier (b. 1988, France)

Grey Sun

at Ground Control

Sheng-Wen Lo

Born out of The Shelter artistic residency, Here Near presents three projects linked to the Côte d’Azur surroundings. Mathieu Asselin, Tanja Engelberts and Sheng-Wen Lo have been working for a whole year and researching in situ how time and human development has affected local ecosystems. All three took as a departing point issues that affect the environment such as pollution and its repercussions on wildlife.

Mathieu Asselin focuses his research on Fibre Excellence, a pulp production plant located ten kilometres north of Arles, which has been emitting various types of pollution in the area. Directly related with Asselin’s project, Tanja Engelberts follows the Rhône river, questioning at what point it ceased to be a swimmable river. In the same province, we find France’s largest wetlands, home of hundreds of species. Sheng-Wen Lo points to the increased mortality of local wildlife due to roadkill caused by highways and speeding cars.

Mathieu Asselin (b. 1973, France), Tanja Engelberts (b. 1987, The Netherlands) and Sheng-Wen Lo (b. 1987, Taiwan)

Here Near

at Monoprix

Samantha Box

Caribbean Dreams comprises a different series of images through which Samantha Box traces her roots and origins back to her African, Indian and Caribbean ancestry. Based in the United States, she interconnects home with the diaspora. In his photographs there are numerous references linked to elements of colonisation, exploitation of resources or acts of power exercised towards the natives.

In Constructions, she does not hesitate to show the artificiality of her images. By exposing in a theatrical way still-lifes and compositions that remind historical paintings, Box points to the role of art in reinforcing the colonialist perspective of the Caribbean as an exotic paradise. Plants, artificial lights, objects and archive photographs carry a significant cultural value and act as catalysts for memory.

Samantha Box (b. 1977, Jamaica)

Caribbean Dreams

Discovery Award — Louis Roederer Foundation at Église des Frères Prêcheurs

Philippe Calia

Nowadays, museums and institutions are in the spotlight due to the questionable provenance of some of the objects they hold. A large number of these works come from a different context and this has a considerable impact on its perception. Philippe Calia reflects on how memory shapes our comprehension of these objects. Through the archive format, his images take place in exhibition spaces in museums across India.

The Ajaib Ghar Archive challenges the museum’s traditional position as a moderator of the universal historical narrative. Calia’s images reveal photography’s ability to reshape institutions and bring multiple meanings. To avoid having a biassed perspective on history, museums should stop removing and presenting objects out of their original contexts. Otherwise, this current cataloguing system, which was established over two centuries ago, will only continue to foster dominant narratives that are taken objectively.

Philippe Calia (b. 1985, France)

The Ajaib Ghar Archive

Discovery Award — Louis Roederer Foundation at Église des Frères Prêcheurs

Hien Hoang

Hien Hoang’s practice is closely linked to her Vietnamese heritage. The title comes from a letter from his aunt to her family saying “All is well. Across the ocean”. At the time, Hoang’s aunt was living in Berlin. It was 1988 and she had only recently arrived in the country. These words resonated with Hien Hoang, sparking a reflection on his perspective on emigration and the way a person has to assimilate his or her position in a foreign society.

It was not until Hien Hoang visited her aunt that she realised the difficulties an immigrant has to go through in a country with a totally different culture. When she subsequently moved to Germany, Hien found herself confronted with the same Asian cliches and stereotypes. Her warping images of food or distorted women’s bodies reflect the Western desire for the consumption of cultures portrayed as “exotic”.

Hien Hoang (b. Vietnam)

Across the Ocean

Discovery Award — Louis Roederer Foundation at Église des Frères Prêcheurs

Hope you enjoyed the article and if you want to discover more about emerging photography, you can find us on Instagram and on our website

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Text by:

Juan Blasco — Founder & Curator of Conceptual Projects