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La Gacilly and its open-air photography festival

by Clair

09 01, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Every year, La Gacilly, a picturesque village 60 km from Vannes and the Brittany coast, hosts the largest outdoor photography festival in France and this year’s event takes Japan and the ocean as its themes. Not only am I a keen photography enthusiast, I also love the sea and have always been fascinated by Japanese culture (after studying the language for three years), so when we found ourselves holidaying in the area this summer, there was no way I was going to miss out on the festival!

From June to September, La Gacilly is transformed into a vast open-air gallery, with huge images displayed on the sides of houses, along the cobbled streets and in the village’s garden maze.  With the colourful Japanese carp streamers – or Koinobori – flying over the bridge and Mont Fuji as a backdrop, you could almost forget you are still in Brittany for a moment or two!

The images on show deal alternately with the peacefulness of the natural world and the stiflingly dense urban environment, both important themes in Japanese photography.

The festival is also strongly focused on environmental issues – the Fukushima catastrophe is naturally featured – while the second major theme, the ocean, is tackled from an overtly militant angle. Contemporary issues such as overfishing, rising sea levels, migrants at sea and oil spills are captured in some powerful, often disturbing images exhibited in La Gacilly, contrasting with the idyllic, leafy village setting.

A glimpse of our visit:


Mount Fuji (Yukio Ohyama) behind the Aff, the river that runs through La Gacilly.


‘Counting grains of sand’, or crowds everywhere, by Hiromi Tsuchida.


Tokyo Parrots by Yoshinori Mizutani. Quite dazzling!


My daughters, inspired by the early Meiji-period portraits from the collections of the University of Tokyo Museum and the University of Lyon.


Likewise, the (stunning) ‘Sumo’ series from Motoki gets the girls posing!


There is something of Magritte in the photography of Shoji Ueda. Images shot in the dunes of Tottori, his ‘studio’.


Shoji Ueda.


Shoji Ueda.


One of my favourite series at La Gacilly – images from a French photographer living in Japan, Lucille Reyboz, captured in the ‘onsen’ or hot springs where the Japanese go to bathe.


Another very impressive collection – the large composite images by Sohei Bishino, made up of several thousand smaller photographs to create an almost abstract urban map.


Images from Pierre Gleizes, a plea to bring an end to overfishing. The striking images of the Chinese fishermen, pretty much stranded off the African coast on their  battered old trawlers, strike a discordant note in the peaceful floral setting.


A photo taken by my seven-year-old: Daniel Beltra documents oil spills in some strangely beautiful but terrifying images.


Daesung Lee. The small island of Ghoramara in the Bay of Bengal is threatened by rising sea levels.


Olivier Jobard, By sea into exile.


Guillaume Herbault, the islands in winter. The Breton islands of Houat, Hoëdic and Île aux Moines, once the holidaymakers have gone.


Paul Nicklen hopes to inspire initiatives to protect the polar species.


Paul Nicklen’s young emperor hidden in the long grasses of La Gacilly!

With 31 exhibitions in all, it is difficult to show everything here, but other highlights include Kiiro and his cosmos flowers, Miho Kajioka for the post-Fukushima series ‘Where did the peacocks go?’ and Shiho Fukada’s pictures showing the hellish conditions of the – often very young – workers in the shipbreaking yards in Chittagong. Also worth a look is the projection of a piece of digital art – ‘Le socle des choses’ (or The base of things) – by Benjamin Deroche and Jean-François Spricigo, produced during their residence at Créac’h lighthouse – mesmerizing!

The Festival Photo de La Gacilly runs until 30 September so you still have time to catch it if you are in the area!

The translator in me should also congratulate the organisers on the detailed notice boards explaining each series of images in French and in English! There is also a bilingual catalogue, available in the bookshop next to the tourist office. But if you are anything like me, beware the bookshop! It’s a trap (like all bookshops!) – with a great collection of photography books on sale, it’s almost impossible to come out with just the catalogue!


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