Head down to the Third Floor Gallery in Cardiff and you’ll find a rather fine exhibition of work by the French photography collective Transit. The subject matter ranges from all over. Nanda Gonzaque records Armenia’s attempts to define itself as a newly born nation with a long history. Alexandra Frankewitz travels France and documents the lives of those living and raising families in mobile home communities, despite government efforts to rule such places as temporary dwellings only. Bastion Defives makes a humid, dreamy study of life on the Amazon and Yohanne Lamoulère takes a long look at the rough but socially cohesive life on the fraying edges of Marseille’s rickety old estates, and how a vibrant community is under threat from gentrification. And Alexa Bunet documents the Kists of Central Russia and their life under governments both communist and federal.
My favourite of the set however features a mountain in France obsessed over by cultists who determine that it shall be the only place to survive the Mayan apocalypse back in 2012. People began to flock to its gloomy slopes to see out the extinction of man and initially the local mayor was all in favour of this unexpected revenue boost. As hundreds became thousands however the local community became swamped and the mayor’s efforts to advertise the sanctuary for further tourist revenue suddenly appeared somewhat less canny.
To celebrate this pretty damn exciting new exhibition we had the mandtory opening party. Cheapest beer in Cardiff, fact fans! Also, a raffle, which in true Third Floor tradition rapidly became farcical. Or maybe that's just sour grapes, as I didn't win the frankly gorgeous print that proudly sits atop this blog post. Pshaw! Click the gallery below to flick through the twenty-eight moments from a pretty boozed up opening...
A highlight of the exhibition however was the visit by photographer Alexandra Frankewitz and the group leader, Valentine Pignet. Unusually, despite having a fierce passion for photography, Valentine does not herself wield a camera. But she is the tireless machine that runs Transit and enables the myriad projects to take flight. The two of them discussed the reasons behind Transits relative longevity as compared to other collectives – with the group having celebrated its ten birthday in 2012. They also highlighted the importance of collectives during the steady erosion of photographer’s rights and the demise of photographer agencies. They also admitted to how running a collective is frequently a matter of balancing conflicting visions and nursing bruised egos.
But of special interest was how close each photographer worked their way into the communities where they photographed, and not just on the margins either. Several had made good connections with local authorities and found a willing collaborator and occasional patron of their attempts at social documentation, in return for helping out with other local projects.
Alongside the exhibition a book was presented for sale, titled 'La Conspiration Des Instants'. Featuring work by the entire collective the rich, dark colours and wide variety of subject matter made a superb calling card for the collective, even if I was sadly at a loss for understanding the intriguing French essays within.
Still, the opening night was cracking fun, as were Valentine and Alexandra. It’s clear that collectives are increasingly popular in France and I only wish the United Kingdom followed suite. Here’re some snaps from the opening night and the talk, taken with the good old X100: