We first met in 1992. At the time Paolo Pellegrin was unknown, and he showed us his story on homeless people in Rome, the barboni. The photos were magnificent, so our idea was to have large-format prints and display them in pedestrian streets of Perpignan. Alas, the tramontane wind struck and wreaked havoc with the exhibition just two days before the official opening, so it was decided to present the work the following year, in a more conventional venue. Since then, Paolo Pellegrin has been one of our most faithful photographers at the festival.
Exhibitions have shown his work on AIDS in Uganda, his coverage of Cambodia, and of Kosovo, his view of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, and of the Iraqi diaspora, not to mention feature in the Campo Santo evening shows with stories on Bosnia, Albania, Algeria, Rwanda, cholera in Uganda, Lebanon, Darfur, Gaza, and more.
Paolo Pellegrin feels genuine empathy for the people he is photographing, seeing them suffer and suffering with them as he endeavors to draw attention to the victims of crises and conflicts. And there is always the same talent, the same mastery, the same sensitivity, in a style so immediately recognizable.
For the 30th festival I called him, saying I would like to have him here with us for “my” festival, and was promptly corrected when he pointed out that it was not “my” festival but the festival of all photojournalists. That was the perfect reaction showing quite simply that we had grown up together.
Since 1992, Paolo Pellegrin has been with different agencies: Grazia Neri, VU’, and now Magnum Photos where he is one of the most distinguished members. Over the years our working relationship has gradually developed into a genuine friendship, and I must confess that I am greatly touched by his loyalty.
This year, for the 35th festival, my ambition was to offer a promenade through all these
“Visa years” shared together.
Jean-François Leroy, director, Visa pour l’Image-Perpignan