Every year since 1970 the international photo community descends upon the South of France to celebrate Les Rencontres des Arles, the international photography festival. For the last six years, as part of the annual photography event, Dior has partnered with Luma Arles and the Ecole Nationale Superieure de la Photographie in Arles (ENSP) to present the Dior Photography and Visual Arts Award for Young Talents, which honors one winner from the selected finalists, as well as an exhibition of works by 12 finalists at LUMA Arles.
This year, the photo series of 12 unknown artists, which reflected upon the recurrent annual theme of “face to face” were presented to a jury, which was presided over by Brazilian fashion photographer Rafael Pavarotti, as well as other notables such as Dior Creative and Image Director for Dior Make-Up, Peter Philips. Ultimately, the jury selected the photography series Mont Lion, by Iris Millot as the winner. Millot’s work was celebrated (along with the other finalists) at a cocktail reception and awards ceremony, and subsequent seated dinner at LUMA in early July.
The winning series explores the life Millot’s great aunt Helene who has spent the last 40 years cultivating isolated family farmland. Through both still life and portraiture, Millot presents an illustration of life choices and the traces that they leave behind, interweaving time, personal decisions, and social strata for a unique meditation on both farming history and the women’s liberation movement. Millot describes her project as an almost literal interpretation of the theme “face to face,” explaining that it’s the meeting of two women from two different generations.
“It was the rediscovery of someone’s life and past, through a young gaze,” she said. “I tried to collect a piece of her story and through my own gaze, make it my story too. At the meeting of both of our gazes, it becomes a new story. Almost like it’s part fiction, too.”
At the nexus of both personal and historical, is Millot’s talent for merging the technical with a creative outlook. In this project in particular, the young visionary describes the process as taking the banal and the documentarian quality of the subject matter, and moving it into the space of fiction as well. “I would like to make a movie based on this project and this story, because it’s almost like there’s a cinematic quality to it, in its many fragments,” said Millot.
On what the honor of this award means to her, Millot explained that she was very proud of the opportunity to take the story of her great aunt and expose a wide audience to it. “It is my hope to evolve it into many other exhibition projects.”
Juror Peter Philips explained why Millot’s photoseries was a natural fit for the award. “The winner told a very moving story with her images about an older woman, it’s visually compelling, emotionally touching, while also technically masterful. She ticked off all of the boxes.”
On the recurrent theme face to face, Philips notes that this concept galvanizes emotions because there’s an element of confrontation inherent to it. “With face to face, there’s a confrontation of a story that you want to tell. It’s not just about what you see. It’s also about telling a story while looking inward. That duality is like a confrontation. And how to visually share that confrontation is such an expression of creativity.”
Though Philips, no stranger to photography in both his schooling and professional life on set as a makeup artist, is not keen on judgement, he is emphatic about the value of Dior presenting this annual exhibition and award. “It’s a great platform and a different way to get exposure or discover new parts of the industry. It’s a reminder that there’s a world out there that appreciates the value of visual art, and there are people all over the globe who may not normally have the opportunity for this kind of exposure. In all of this, there’s also not just the possibility, but the potential to push them and stimulate their work further,” he said.
Upon the awarding of the 2023 Dior Photography and Visual Arts Award for Young Talents, which was celebrated on July 7, Iris Millot received a grant from the House of Dior as well as a creative commission. Her photographs are now in exhibition at the Grande Halle at Luma Arles along with the works of the 12 finalists until September 24.
Deputy Digital Lifestyle Director
As the deputy digital lifestyle director at Town & Country, Roxanne Adamiyatt covers fashion, beauty, wellness, design and travel.