Visa pour l’Image 2009, Perpignan
The southern French town of Perpignan plays host each year to Visa pour l’Image, a two-week festival celebrating the finest photojournalism from around the world.
Despite today’s thirst to break news often means words steal the limelight over pictures, photojournalism is still as important today as it was when Magnum’s founding photographers chronicled the post-war world, for the first time combining art and journalism.
See our highlights of the festival ahead of its opening this weekend
Cartier-Bresson, one of Magnum’s founders, recalls how Robert Capa, another founder, drove him to understand this need for tapping into the new curiosity people had to see (and not just read about) what was going on elsewhere: "Magnum was born with the necessity for telling a story - Capa said to me, Don’t keep the label of a surrealist photographer. Be a photojournalist. If not you will fall into mannerism. Keep surrealism in your little heart, my dear. Don’t fidget. Get moving!"
This decree was the birth of photojournalism and each year Perpignon proves, despite the immediacy and multifaceted nature of media nowadays, that the discipline is thriving.
On the receiving end of a newspaper or website we only ever see the one image that captures the story and Perpignan gives the photographers an opportunity to show their series and tell the story visually without the article. It’s also an opportunity for them to show the incidental images, little scenes they’ve captured on their travels that never make it to press.
As well as numerous exhibitions across the town, there are screenings each evening in Campo Santo, providing a chronological review of the previous year’s news stories. It’s also, unsurprisingly, a platform for debate about the issues of the genre and a hub where the world’s finest agencies, photojournalists and undiscovered talent get to meet, mingle and make merry.
It might be a photographic genre that has little of the glamour of editorial or artistic photography but that’s not to say photojournalism doesn’t have its own considerable artistic merit. The art lies in capturing the moment, the gesture, the emotion in an instant, hunting to be in the right (and often very wrong) place at the right time.