Vendôme, a fighting, threatened festival

Dernière révision le 30 octobre 2015 à 11:56 par Michel Puech 


“The hand of man” is the main theme of the upcoming “Vendôme Photographic Promenades” scheduled this summer (starting June 22) in this typically French small city.

Our readers certainly remember last year’s “Bateaux quittant le port du Havre”, a picture by Gustave Le Gray that sold for 917 000 Euros during an extraordinary auction. A record for a 19th century picture. The century when the train went from Paris to the hills of Vendôme. Today, it takes only 42 minutes for the TGV to travel from Paris to Vendôme, and for the past seven years, many amateur and professional photographers have made the trip.

65,000 visitors in 2011 (an increase of 30% with nearly 10% foreign) went to see the exhibitions, the awards ceremonies, the conferences, the meetings… In seven years, the dynamic little team run by Odile Andrieu has exposed 134 photographers, including such major signatures as Hans Silvester, Sebastião Salgado, our staff photographer Yan Morvan, Alain Keller, Gérard Uféras, Gilles Caron, Marc Riboud, William Klein or William Daniels… They all appreciated the warmth and simplicity of the “Promenades”.

Vendôme is not a city, but a garden city flanked on the banks of the gently flowing Loir river. The students from 30 international photography schools competing for the dual Mark Grosset Awards (artistic and journalistic photos) create a delightfully open-minded atmosphere for discovering new talents. It is not unusual to see organizers of other photo festivals in Vendôme to “shop”.

More than 3000 pictures have already been displayed here, and the Salon de l’édition photographique located in the city’s central market is more than just a book-store. It is in the process of becoming a festival highlight.

With such remarkable results, the reader can imagine that the “Promenades de Vendôme” would be delightfully strolling into a brilliant future… I thought so myself until Odile Andrieu told me about her troubles. A few weeks before going to print with the 2012 edition, Nikon decided to withdraw from the “Promenades”. We know that Nikon has been hard hit since the tsunami. We also know that after resettling their production factory in Thailand, they were unlucky enough to get drowned out! But we also know that camera manufacturers have also become video camera manufacturers…

“We are changing our partnership strategies” explained Pham Doan Tuan of Nikon France. “We want to work with the general public. We supported Vendôme for two years, but were a bit disappointed by the results among the general public. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a high quality exhibition, but this year we decided to invest in other festivals including the short film festival in Clermont-Ferrand”.

With the withdrawal of four other “little sponsors”, the “Promenades” budget diminished by 40%. With Guy Bourreau, formerly of Canon and Kodak and “Promenades” president since 2008, Odile Andrieu has invested her time and money tirelessly. Every year she hoped, like other festival organizers, that she would receive an extra few extra thousand Euros in subsidies to mount an extra exhibition, better fund an award, or merely contribute to the growing popular success of photography in general. Unfortunately, this year, it is a cold shower.

“Of course we still hope to run a beautiful new festival” she comments, barely hiding the deception in her voice. “Fortunately, there are people who believe in us, like our friend Sebastião Salgado who helped us this year with his magnificent exhibition “The hand of man”, nevertheless… Every year I have to sacrifice an exhibition for lack of funds, certain to see it displayed in a better funded festival…” Although she doesn’t mention it directly, Andrieu, like other festival organizers, is referring Arles, favored by the French Culture Ministry whose incredible budget (nearly 5 million euros) is the envy of all. The Visa pour l’Image Festival in Perpignan with its wide press coverage receives only 1 million euros. Of course, the “Promenades photographiques de Vendôme” and its small 170 000 euros budget, lacks the notoriety of Arles or Perpignan, but still attracts thousands of foreigners in this pretty little part of France.

That said, in the hopes that a new photo sponsor might appear for a profitable partnership, we will go to Vendôme to see “American In Colors”, “La FARM en noir et blanc”, l’Albanie, l’Arménie et bien d’autres expositions dont nous reparlerons le moment venu.

Michel Puech