Inside the opening of Dior’s ‘The Art of Colour’ exhibition in Arles, France

In the picturesque city of Arles, Dior organized its annual photography and visual arts prize for young talents. Produced in partnership with LUMA, the competition continues the mission begun in 2018. Hundreds of photographers from all over the world responded to the “Face to Face” invitation. Among the submissions, twelve winners and one winner were chosen by an esteemed panel of jurors, including Maja Hoffman, Samuel Fosso, Maya Rochat and Estefania Penafiel Loaiza.

Artists, publishers, collectors and designers have descended on the coastal town, whose stone foundations date back to the Roman Empire. The city once served as a favorite destination for Vincent Van Gogh. (After cutting off his ear, the painter stayed at the Old Hospital of Arles). Five years ago, LUMA, an arts center created by Hoffman, made Arles a cultural epicenter.

In the shaded lobby of the Hotel L’Arlatan, Fosso, surrounded by journalists and admirers, held court. The Nigerian artist remains one of the most famous photographers of his generation for his self-portraits which engage, through a series of characters, the history of Africa. Prominent institutions including the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Museum of Modern Art in New York have exhibited his work. With the help of an amateur translator, Fosso reflects on his role as a juror and, more broadly, on his global encouragement of young talent.

“They are the future,” Fosso, 62, said of the finalists. “I am not the past, but I am not the future. Young photographers are the future and I am captivated by what they offer.

Across the hotel, award winner Rachel Fleminger Hudson spoke about her latest career-changing achievement.

“I think because it’s really life changing, it’s overwhelming,” she said.

Hudson’s work has a clear emphasis on materiality. She meticulously dresses her subjects with art historical attention to detail. A recent graduate of Central Saint Martins, where she studied fashion, the photographer spoke about the balance between her discomfort with fashion as a business entity and her respect for clothing as a medium for storytelling.

“I engage with clothes as a costume,” Hudson explained. “It’s not fashionable because it’s not trying to be fashionable.”

Later in the evening, Hudson’s work rubbed shoulders with that of the rest of the winners. The “Art of Color” exhibition showed the medium’s capacity for provocation and innovation. The images ranged from the luminous abstractions of Jesus Torio to the cinematic seductions of Joseph Craven.

In the shadow of the Frank Gehry Luma Building, a fantastic shimmering silver tower, guests drank champagne and mingled with performers. There, the jurors officially announced Hudson as the winner.

At a celebratory dinner, as the light began to fade, revelers enjoyed a summertime feast and talked about culture, ideas and current events. At a time when so much seems to threaten the future, the talent gathered by Dior offered a reassuring sign of what is to come.

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