Les Rencontres de la Photographie, Arles, France https://www.rencontres-arles.com/fr/expositions/view/1453/agnes-varda
Agnès Varda had a particular attachment to Sète. A Sétoise by adoption, having taken refuge there as a teenager during the Second World War, she returned every year until the beginning of 1960. An amateur photographer from 1947 onwards, then a professional, she captured friends, sailing boats and the quays of the southern city with her Rolleiflex camera, and captured the jousting on its canals... and soon the fishermen of the Pointe courte, this working-class district of the Etang de Thau, the very one that anchored her first film shot in 1954.
Going through Agnès Varda's contact sheets gives an account of her photographic journey. The exploration of the archive then becomes an investigation. Comparing the 800 or so images taken in Sète, which are drowned out in the corpus of her photographic practice, with the meticulous selection that the young woman undertook in 1953 to prepare her film, reveals her vision. It is not a question of photographs from the set or the shooting, but of what pre-existed the idea of the film or participated in its conception. These reference and location photographs, gathered on nine plates, inspired her to create scenes, atmospheres and even still shots. Her favourite subjects and motifs are further confirmed by the rediscovery of period or late prints, reflecting her preferences.
Alternating between a graphic and a realistic style, Agnès Varda produced a radical film that did not escape the notice of the informed cinephiles and critics of the time. Many praised the originality of her script and above all the audacity of her author, known as the official photographer of the Avignon Festival and the Théâtre National Populaire. Made with very little money, La Pointe courte displays an artistic independence that breaks with the codes of the cinema of its time to the point of being described as a precursor of the New Wave.
With a first exhibition of photographs in June in her courtyard in the rue Daguerre (Paris 14) and the shooting of her first film during the summer, the year 1954 crystallises for Varda the tenuous link between these two modes of expression that heralds a singular work.