meet the new photographic stars from this year's hyères festival
Alice Mann and Hubert Crabières picked up the top photographic awards this time.
Though fashion folk may often try to present their careers as labours of love for which little is received in return, there are occasional moments that perforate that veneer of low-pay-glossed gloom. The Hyères International Festival is undoubtedly one of them. Now in its 34th edition, the yearly celebration of fashion and photography sees the industry traipse down to the Villa Noailles, a modernist villa just touching distance from the Côte d’Azur, to take in some of the most exciting fashion design and imagery that the industry’s young guns have to offer. Très chic, n’est-ce pas?
With the air as thick with talent as it is with the smell of mimosas (the flower, not the drink, you lush), this year’s jury, counting Chloé creative director Natacha Ramsay-Levi, Craig McDean, Ezra Petronio, Guinevere Van Seenus, Paris Lees, Julia Sarr-Jamois, Camille Bidault Waddington among its members, were burdened with the unenviable task of selecting the winners for a roll call of coveted awards, such as the Grand Prix de la Photographie and the American Vintage Photography Prize.
Bringing home the former was Alice Mann, the London-based South African photographer, for Drummies, a powerful study of the all-female drum majorette squads of her homeland. Their members often hailing from some of the country’s most marginalised communities, the teams serve as forms of pride, aspiration and empowerment for the girls that make them up, something Mann conveys through the liveliness and physical verve she captures in her subjects. Richly hued, each image amounts to sort of visual onomatopoeia, a loud broadcasting of the rhythmic crash of drums.
Picking up the 2019 American Vintage Prize was Hubert Crabières, who crafts worlds filled with brightness and intimacy. “I started with photography after studying cinema and entering the world of advertising,” he explains. “As time passed, the images I once imagined in motion became more and more frozen, until they eventually became photographs. One day, my mother came home with an analogue Rolleiflex and offered it to me, and told me to get into photography: I’m very well behaved, so I obeyed!”
So what does he, as a young photographer, feel about the current state of photography? “I have no idea! In any case, it all depends on your own practice. In my case, I try to understand why the photographic image has such power and the answer is infinitely more complex than it seems.”
Winning the American Vintage Prize is, of course, no mean feat, but most crucially for Crabières it allows him to unambiguously situate his practice in the space of fashion. “I’m delighted to have won this award and to have been able to produce a series for the brand,” he beams. “I like the way clothes lend themselves to my daily work, which typically features people who are not involved in the fashion industry. Clothing doesn’t take up too much space and therefore gives the image a chance to exist on its own terms.”
Of course, defining what ‘makes’ a powerful image only becomes increasingly difficult, especially as the nuances of what constitutes a particular photographic style multiply. But as the horizons of what is beautiful, shocking or even hideous expand and blur, the more there is for photographers like Mann, Crabières and countless others to capture and present, bringing us face to face with as yet unexpressed facets of our lives and times.
For those fortunate enough to be jetting down to the South of France, the Hyères International Festival is open to the public until May 26th.