Atelier des Photos et des Mots

05/07/2016

Zoe Wright, PhotoVoice Communications Intern reflects on the PhotoVoice exhibition at the ‘Atelier des Photos et des Mots’ festival in France.

On the same day that Tom Elkins, PhotoVoice CEO and I travelled to France for the PhotoVoice exhibition at the Atelier photography festival, the results of the UK referendum to leave the EU are announced. We arrived in Tours where we were picked up by a French mathematician and festival volunteer who eagerly discussed the referendum as he drove to Vendome, a town in central France. He invited us into his beautiful home where we further discussed the future of the EU, photography, and local wine. We were then asked to help move a piano – but that’s a story for another time.

The ‘Atelier des Photos et Mots’ festival starts its journey as a series of photography workshops with college students. The programme enables young people to not only produce their own images but critically assess the mass media era that we live in. Participants learn to decipher and challenge the subliminal messaging and provocation of advertising, helping younger photographers to make a clear and informed judgement on some of the ethical issues that they may face today.

PEM workshops also work with people with special needs, people in prison and those with sensory impairment to give them a voice and enable wider social integration; a sympathetic fit with PhotoVoice, and a great opportunity to be exhibiting alongside likeminded and inspiring projects in Vendome until 18th September.

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Winding pathways, bridges over the Loire River and the ruins of an old castle host photographs open to the elements and passers-by, helping to convey as widely as possible the experiences of those who may not have the opportunity to share their thoughts with a wider community.

Weegee prints are exhibited in the Vendome Museum and three old barns are transformed into creative spaces filled with photography from a range of different genres. It was amongst these works and PhotoVoice participant photographs that a talk titled ‘The Subjective Participative Photography’ took place. Tom Elkins was joined by Philippe Andieu, the founder of the PEM workshops, Benoít Fournier, a photographer currently running workshops with young people in the favelas of Brazil, Katherine Kay-Mouat, picture editor at UNESCO and The National Geographic, Bertrand Paichoux, the director of the Andre Boule institute for children with language impairment, and Laurence Anchyse, who was diagnosed with lung cancer and used photography as a means of documentation and self-expression during her treatment.

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Each had a passionate and important story to tell on the subject of participatory photography. Having never met each other previously it was exciting to see that the power of photography as means to promote positive social change is so innately understood by those who love photography.

At that moment, surrounded by inspiring projects and those trying to make a difference, I understood the importance of ‘union’ in the charity sector. IN or OUT it is crucial that positive collaborations across Europe like ‘Atelier des Photos Et des Mots’ continue to challenge, educate and share the voices of underrepresented communities.

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