Photojournalism Links’ Guide to Visa pour l’Image and Perpignan – Sunday 02 September 2012

Professional Week at Visa pour l’Image can be a daunting experience, especially if it’s your first time in Perpignan. At Photojournalism Links, we thought we would publish a short guide to the city, the festival and everything else that happens in Perpignan from 03 to 09 September, when thousands of photojournalists will converge on the French city.

In the map below, you’ll find the location of all the exhibitions and official festival events, but also a few other useful addresses such as where to find free Wifi or a supermarket. This map will be updated all week with addresses of the best restaurants, as well as the location of some open-to-the-general-public parties. If you are an agency, and are holding an event you would like us to flag up on the map, let us know at olivierclaurent[at]gmail[dot]com.

How do I get from the airport to the city centre?

There are taxis at the airport, but they can be expensive if you’re alone (and, anyway, there are not that many taxis there – not at all). But the city runs a bus shuttle. It costs around €5 and will get you there in around 20 minutes. Don’t miss it though, it won’t wait for you to finish your cigarette.

I just arrived in Perpignan, what do I do now?

Go to Palais des Congrès to get your official accreditation. It will also be the opportunity to get information about talks and events, as well as a list of all the exhibitions and evening screenings.

What are these evening screenings that everyone talk about?

Each evening, from 9.30PM, the festival presents a series of photography screenings at Campo Santos (see map above). Each screening is made up of two parts – one part recounts what has happened around the world in the previous 12 months, while the second part is dedicated to individual projects and photographers. On Friday and Saturday, the screenings can be watched from Place de la République, allowing you to have dinner at a reasonable pace while watching the show.

But all I want to do is meet editors to show them my work. How do I do this?

There are two predominant spots where you can meet photo editors: on the second floor of the Palais des Congrès or on the 7th floor of that same building. The second floor is the official spot, where agencies will have stands as part of the festival’s media centre. There you can find agencies such as Getty Images, Agence VU’, EPA, Cosmos and Polaris among many others. A lot of these agencies will have a schedule of available times for free portfolio reviews. But, be there early to secure a space – for example, in Getty Images’ case, if you don’t show up as soon as the doors of the Palais des Congrès open, you will have missed your chance: within minutes all of the day’s spots will have been booked.

Your second option is the 7th floor of the Palais des Congrès, where photo editors for publications as prestigious as TIME, Newsweek, The New York Times and many other worldwide titles from Geo to National Geographic will get a table and look at photographers’ work. Most often, they have already booked meetings with photographers they know they want to see, but they will also allow, sometimes, for a queue to form up to see the work of other photographers. My advice is to know who they are. Don’t show up in front of them without knowing who they are. With a bit of research on Google or even Facebook you should be able find out who is who. And it’s not because you have an opportunity to meet with the international photo editor at TIME that you should actually show him your work – know whether you are ready to meet that person and ask yourself if you will be wasting his time or not. Sometimes, photo editors will appreciate being told: “I don’t think my work is good enough right now, but could I get your business card for when it is?”

What is this Café de la Poste that everyone is talking about?

Café de la Poste has become one of the festival’s emblematic meeting points (see map above). In the beginning, this is where photojournalists on show at Visa would gather for a drink in the evenings. And year after year, they would be joined by other photographers, young and old, until the wee hours of the morning. Since the Café is open 23 hours a day during professional week, you can expect to find photographers there even at 5AM, especially on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Oh, and by the way, the Café makes 90% of its annual revenues that one week – photographers do like their drinks!

Who’s in Perpignan during Professional Week?

Visa pour l’Image has a great page on its site with the names of everyone that has checked-in at the Palais des Congrès to get their accreditation. Here it is:  http://www.visapourlimage.com/professional/who_is_in_perpignan.do

Don’t make this one visit your last one.

If it’s your first year at Visa pour l’Image, be prepared. It. Is. Scary. You will find yourself among thousands of photographers who are, just like you, trying to make it in a very competitive market. My first year at Visa, five years ago, was dreadful. I didn’t know who to talk to, I didn’t know where to hang out, I didn’t know what to do. But don’t give up. Come back the following year, and the one after that. And you will get the hang of it. Also, next year is the festival’s 25th anniversary, and that’s one edition you won’t want to miss!

Any other tips?

  • Do not carry two camera bodies around your neck. This is a festival where you’re trying to sell your work and meet people, not report on it like you would a humanitarian crisis. If you really want to have a camera with you at all times, a compact camera will do, or even your iPhone. Also, you won’t run the risk of being mugged at 3am in the morning because you’re carrying $10,000 worth of kit around your neck…
  • If you are staying the entire week, remember this is the South of France: stores WILL be closed on Sundays. So if you’re planning a big feast on Sunday afternoon, visit the local supermarket on Saturday.
  • Find the time to see the exhibitions. Not only does it make sense, but it’s also a good way to find out what photographers like Stephanie Sinclair, Stanley Greene or Sebastian Liste look like – each exhibition carries a description of the work and a portrait of the photographer. It might come in handy when you’re at Café de la Poste. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should introduce yourself to every single one of the exhibited photographers. Just like with photo editors, use your judgement before approaching someone.
  • Don’t miss Saturday night’s party at the Couvent des Minimes. Yes, the point system to get a drink is confusing, but it’s still good fun.
  • Perpignan isn’t far from the beach. You can get a bus from the Castillet or Palais des Congrès that gets you to Canet-Plage. The bus runs every hour, but don’t expect to get one past 8PM to go back to Perpignan, so don’t fall asleep on the beach! On your way back, there will be a lot of people trying to get back to Perpignan. Just remember that unlike in the UK and in the US, in France people don’t respect the queue, so expect to push and shove to get on the already-packed bus.

Written by Olivier Laurent

September 2, 2012 at 10:53 am

Posted in photojournalism

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