There is a saying at VISA POUR L’IMAGE that you’ll never know who you are sitting next to. It could not have been more evident than on the evening of September 5th. The La Poste bar at Perpignan was full of photographers,editors and agents. Well past midnight, the table on our left was team National Geographic, on our right was VII photographers and Magnum. There was Kent Koberstein, John Stanmayer, Jonathan Bendickson and many more top names. VISA, arguably the greatest festival of photojournalism is held every year in Perpignan, France. This year it celebrated photojournalism for the 16th time.
I was attending VISA for the first time. As the TGV speeding towards Perpignan from Paris attained its maximum speed, the French country side became a blur. It was almost midnight of August 29th when I reached my hotel. The next morning registration was at the Hotel Palms in the city center. Palms is in a historic building with oodles of old world Europe and a court yard with trees, plants and all on the first floor! Day 1 of the professional week, things were slow in true French style. Members of the Association of photo editors (ANI) were there to look at the portfolios of freelance photographers and point them towards the right agennts who were congregating at the Palais De Congress, a short distance away.
Day two was slow too, most of the agencies hadn’t arrived and some were kind of busy setting up their stalls on the second floor of the Palais De Congress. I was fortunate to meet Ken and Melanie Light and a talented young photographer, Louie Palu at breakfast on day two. Ken is a well known documentary photographer and adjunct professor of photography at Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California Berkeley. Louie is a staffer at the Toronto Globe and has done a wonderful photo feature on a family migrating from Peshawar to Toronto.
There were 29 photo exhibitions at the various historical places in Perpignan; that was some treat . The evening screenings, on a 20’X60′ screen were awesome. Over 4000 people attended the screenings every evening! The images shown were mainly on the various conflicts raging in Africa and the Middle East and AIDS.
By Thursday all the top agents had set shop and many of us were busy setting up appointments to show our portfolios. Well the pace was hectic.
It was an intense experience for me. I felt fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet several talented photographers and top editors. I came back to India with my passion for still images reignited! I am sure I’ll be there again in 05.