First I need to say something about La Friche, Belle de Mai, Marseille. This is a space of 45,000M2 completely dedicated to the arts and social lives of the people of Marseille. The building started its life in the mid 1800s as a tobacco factory. One in five of the famous french cigarettes, Gauloises, was made here. The factory employed 1,000 in 1960 but by 1968 the workforce had declined to 250. It closed in 1970.
In 1992 two very progressive theatre groups moved into the building in order to create a working space for the theatres and artists of Marseille. The famous french architect Jean Nouvel was on board and La Friche was born.
The project expanded to included an area for heritage preservation, a cinema, artists work spaces, a restaurant, a library, a creche, a roof garden and a dedicated play area for the people of the ‘quartier’. This is a tough area of Marseille and the idea of integrating an art space with the lives of the young people of the area has paid huge dividends. When we visited yesterday there were lots of children skateboarding, there were young guys hanging out around the cafe and artists going about their work. It is a vibrant, living space for both the people of La Friche and for artists.
The Exhibition: Ostkruez 25th Annivrsary
After the fall of the Berlin wall President Mitterand invited a number of german artists to Paris. Among them was a group of east German photographers. This group of seven were supping coffee in Les Halles when they came up with the idea of establishing a photographic agency in Germany, on the lines of Magnum, the french agency founded by Cartier-Bressan. They called this agency Ostkreuz after the railway station which linked east and west Berlin.
The agency celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2015 with an exhibition in Paris. This exhibition moved to La Friche, Marseille in Janaury 2016. The agency now consists of twenty photographers aged between thirty and sixty five. This exhibition consists of ‘the best images’ from these photographers over the past 25 years.
A very short emission by Arte talks briefly with some of the photographers (1 )and shows very briefly some of their images. For me there were too many images from too many photographers, in this one space. I found it difficult to switch my brain between the very different styles and subjects of these photographers. I was overwhelmed. So I decided to look at some of these Ostkruez photographers quietly online after the visit (2). In this way I hoped to gain some insight into this exhibition.
I started to look at each one of the photographers just after I had watched an interview with Steve McCurry about his portraiture. I have to say most of the east German photographers work, although it was very different. looked a bit flat. Sibylle Fendt exhibited a series she made when she travelled with a man and his wife just after the woman had been diagnosed with dementia. But I failed to get the tragedy of this experience.
The other topics included German work spaces, heavy metal followers, Detroit after the Ford closure, memorial meetings, a trial in the Hague and an observation of Roma people.
The exhibition has prompted me to ask “what am I looking for in photography”? “Where do I want to go with this”?
- Les 25 ans de l’agence de photo Ostkreuz | ARTE Info. 2016. Les 25 ans de l’agence de photo Ostkreuz | ARTE Info. [ONLINE] Available at: http://info.arte.tv/fr/les-25-ans-de-lagence-de-photo-ostkreuz. [Accessed 12 March 2016].
- Photographers: OSTKREUZ Agentur der Fotografen GmbH. 2016. Photographers: OSTKREUZ Agentur der Fotografen GmbH. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ostkreuz.de/en/photographers/. [Accessed 12 March 2016].