I first came across this annual photo festival in 2015.
The pretty town of La Gacilly in the Morbihan district of Brittany has for the past thirteen years, hosted an annual photo festival. The exhibition is outdoors and exhibits can be seen throughout the town. The cosmetic company of Yves Rocher Foundation has it’s headquarters there and whose goal is “the protection of nature”. and it strongly supports the festival. The Rocher company has it’s herb garden in La Gacilly where it grows flowers and plants for use in it’s products. It is here in the garden where a large proportion of the exhibits are displayed. A visit to the festival is like attending numerous exhibitions (31) and I will document my visit in parts covering the three themes of the exhibition.
There were three themes for 2016, Japan, Oceans and Environmental issues. The main focus was on Japanese photography which the organisers state is often ignored. In addition to the main themes there are categories for colleges and schools and also for three up and coming young photographers chosen by a panel of the organising committee.
This first review is of Japan and I have to agree I came into the description of the organisers of not really knowing or having seen many Japanese photographers. I loved them all for various reasons. The dedication of Ohyama, the simplicity of Ueda and the documentary of Tanumasoj.
The Japanese photographers:
Yukio Ohyama: who has dedicated his life work to photographing Mount Fuji and there were 3 enormous installations on the wall of two buildings.
Shoji Ueda: who returned to the sand dunes near to his home in Tottori as his backdrop to photograph over and over again his family and friends and creating what has been described as as series of stills as if from a film strip. He developed a particular surrealist style which made him famous. However, The Guardian (accessed 17.8.2016) in December 2015, hailed his book as “the most beautiful, surprising photobook of the year” and which included shots from other of his photographic series.
The shot below is typical of Ueda’s style with vast empty space and simple composition.
Shoji Ueda (accessed 17.8.2016)
Takeyoshi Tanumasoj: With the ascension of Hirohito to President in 1945, a new society was created in Japan. Photographers moved to this new era by abandoning beginning to capture reality as opposed to the old style of propaganda romanticism of previous imagery which hid the real Japan. Takeyoshi, inspired by Cartier-Bresson immortalised the shift to modernism. His street scenes captured in “the decisive moment” style documented the changes in the Japanese urban population as they began to adopt a Western lifestyle. I particularly like this image that captures the “modern” young women looking disapprovingly as their traditionally dressed counterparts.
The three Japanese photographers that I have described above are only a few on display at La Gacilly. What I observed about all three photographers was that they discovered a style which worked and became famous for their series in the chosen style. However, it did not prevent them from going on to develop other creations which were in at least moderately different and at greatest totally different to what they originally became famous for.
There were more Japanese photographers exhibiting and all had something credible and often incredible to say, from the changing world of Japan and the early diplomatic exchanges with Europe, to the busy cityscapes and beach scenes and the tsunami and nuclear disasters of the country. Some of which I will cover in my review of the themes.
I found the photography often moving and iconic and if you are travelling in Brittany before the end of September (or between June and September 2017) I would highly recommend a visit to La Gacilly (but beware it gets crowded on August Bank Holiday weekend – the one nearest to 15th August).
An argument that anyone can pursue political agency and resistance through photography, even those with flawed or nonexistent citizenship.