Monday, August 30th, 2010
Last month, photography lost one of its most soulful and engaging teachers: Serge Gal, 59, founder and director of L’Image Ouverte (the Open Image), a conservatory-like school in Clarensac, near Arles. Serge had run the lab at the Arles festival during its early years when it overlapped a gypsy guitar festival – an inspired and exuberant pairing of free spirits and free loaders. His wife Annette handled all festival exhibits at a later period.
Everybody lived at the school, students for nine months and teachers for shorter periods. We ate Annette’s meals en famille in the garden. Serge, being a techie, made certain that every student conquered the techniques of film photography and the new possibilities offered by digital imaging. Photographers such as Eva Rubinstein, Robert Frank, Guy le Querrec, Bernard Plossu, Lewis Baltz and Yann Le Goff taught there, as did former students Rene Tanguy and David Brunel. It was truly open to ALL the kinds of imagery blown there by the winds of photography.
Some days when I was feeling frazzled from teaching, I would just sit down across from Serge and watch him peel potatoes. If I was really beat, Serge would choose a CD, pop it in, and, hand me a double-strength pastis. Serge humanized what can sometimes be an arid or rancorously competitive experience. Learning photography there was not just about a career, it was about having a life.
He kept the candle of photography burning in the south of France. Salut.
August 28, 2010