Why Aren’t You Fat?

Story and photo by Sophie Wyckoff

I sit at the wooden table with a mother and her two children, whom I luckily get to call my family for the next four weeks. We’re sharing our first meal together. My host mother, Isabel, breaks the silence and blurts out in her broken English how shocked she was when we first met that I wasn’t “fat and didn’t eat a lot.” 

Since then, my host family and I have often compared portion sizes, meal choices and grocery shopping differences between the United States and France. I find myself confirming Isabel’s stereotypes as I describe how much fast food our country has. Isabel shares that on Wednesdays and Saturdays, a market with fresh produce and butchered meat is located less than a half mile from her home.

On Wednesday morning, I stuff my purse with euros and start my journey to the Arles market. I hear the voices of the Arlesian people doing their weekly shopping as the smell of freshly baked croissants hits my nose. I have experienced farmers’ markets in my hometown in America filled with homemade items, but nothing compared to the abundance of fruits, vegetables and baked goods available at this market.

As I walk down the street surrounded by produce, my mind begins to wander to life at home. Instead of freshly grown ingredients, the aisles at Target, Hy-vee and Walmart are loaded with prepackaged food, saturated fat and high-fructose corn syrup. If we had as easy access to farm-fresh ingredients as we do fast food, America would not have earned the image of poor health it has today. These next couple weeks, I will relish the locally grown food until I am back to the reality of America: processed food. 

This is a personal reflection and does not necessarily express the opinion of The Arles Project or program sponsors ieiMedia or Arles à la carte.

Spare change

Story and photo by Ella Ehlers

As I was sitting outside a small bakery in Arles with some friends, the remains of our lunch scattered around us, when a small boy approached our group and caught our attention. 

The boy looked to be around 7 years old, but his clothing looked a lot older. He was wearing ripped-up shorts and a gray T-shirt with gashes through the fabric. His hair was shaggy, and he had dirt smudged all over his face. I was instantly hit with a wave of sadness after seeing the state this young boy was in.

He looked up at us and softly asked for some coins for a pastry. I was too stunned to speak, but quickly turned to my wallet and started digging for coins. I could feel the boy’s eyes looking at me, making me hope I could find some spare change. I snatched a few euros to give him and my friends chipped in too. We ended up collecting enough for him to buy some food. The boy’s eyes started to glow, and he smiled ear to ear as he thanked us for the coins and quickly scurried into the bakery. 

As the boy walked away I was filled with a wave of relief, knowing that he could buy something to eat. But I was quickly taken back to a dark place, knowing there are children fighting hunger and homelessness every day. Then the boy came out of the bakery with a bag in his hand. 

He sat down at the table right beside us and quickly gobbled down the sandwich. It seemed like this was the first time he had eaten in a while, which made me upset. From the way the boy was eating, it seemed like he didn’t know how or when he would get his next meal.

As the boy was leaving, he said, “Merci, mes dames,” and rode away on his rusty bike.

I was left with a pit in my stomach and many unanswered questions. I wondered where his parents were and how he could be left alone at such a young age. 

After this interaction, I feel grateful to have grown up in a family that was able to financially support me, and I feel deeply sorry for the children who aren’t sure if they will eat every day.

This is a personal reflection and does not necessarily express the opinion of program sponsors ieiMedia or Arles à la carte.

Watching death through a lens

Story and photos by Sam Guzman

When I heard there was going to be a bullfighting event at a ranch on the outskirts of Arles, I jumped at the opportunity to photograph it. I had been to rodeos before, but I’d never attended a bullfight.

“La Corrida” is a centuries-old tradition for the people of Spain and Southern France.  Bullfighters wear traditional outfits –- short jackets, knee-length trousers and boots — and dance with the bulls as spectators watch. It ends in the death of the bulls, one sword to the body and another to the head. To many people in this region, it is an act of honor. 

I thought I was going to a practice session where the animals would not be killed. Marie-Anne Devaux, my guide for the day, introduced me to three of the matadors who were to be performing that day. Everyone there was incredibly charming and kind. They really made me feel welcome, and I was excited to shoot photographs of the bullfight. 

Lalo de Maria was the matador up first, and it was fascinating to see him work. Lalo threw a red cape in front of the bull, and the animal charged towards him. Then a man on a horse provoked the bull to check its bravery. It was at that moment when Devaux turned to me and said, “Oh, they’re gonna kill the bull; you can tell because he has his sword in his hand.” 

Matador Bruno Aloi uses a red cape on a pole to attract the bull and hide his sword.

In this moment I felt conflicted; I didn’t come to this event to see a bull die. It was against my very nature to want to see something like this. However, I also knew that as a journalist it’s not my job to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s not my right to go to a country I’ve never been to before, with a language I don’t speak, with customs I don’t understand and say that what they’re doing is wrong. 

Photographing the bull as it’s dying, blood leaking from its mouth, its eyes starting to fade away, was the most important thing I could do in that moment.

As I put the camera to my eye, I thought of a photograph I had studied in school.

After being stabbed, the bull collapses to the ground before dying.

On July 22, 1975, in Boston, Massachusetts, 19-year-old Diana Bryant and her 2-year-old goddaughter were on a fire escape during an apartment fire, waiting for firefighters to rescue them. But the platform they were on broke and the two of them fell to the ground. Bryant died; her goddaughter survived. 

A few feet away, Stanley Forman, a photographer for the Boston Herald American, was shooting the entire incident. He took a series of heartbreaking photographs, capturing the two bodies as they fell through the air. The photographs sparked a lot of outrage, and the press was charged with invasion of privacy. However, the photographs led to change; within 24 hours, the city of Boston altered its policies on the regulation and maintenance of fire escapes and other cities around the U.S. also passed new legislation, inspired by Forman’s photographs.

As I looked at the bull through my viewfinder, lying there, its life slowly leaving its body, I realized the power we photographers have in capturing death as well as life. Whether or not I support the practice of corrida, it’s my job to photograph this and show it to the world.

This is a personal reflection and does not necessarily express the opinion of The Arles Project or program sponsors ieiMedia or Arles à la carte.

Dancing in the Streets

The streets of Arles transformed into music halls on June 21 as the town joined in the annual French celebration of Fête de la Musique. Some of the musicians and their audience shared stories with our reporters.

Photo and interview by Sophie Wyckoff

Janis and Jacques Lemay are Canadian tourists who traveled to Arles, France, for their third time to feel the words, rhymes, and beats of la Fête de la Musique. They intended to listen to only La Chorale Coeur Escandihando at 3 p.m. but stayed and listened to a Latin-American choir until 6:30 p.m. Janis explained how the pianist was so theatrical that she “stood up screaming and cheering” once the conductor signed for the end of the song. The couple is already planning to travel to Arles for the fourth year in a row.

Photo and interview by Sam Guzman

Juan San Juan, 79 and retired, has lived in Arles for 24 years. He goes to Fête de la Musique sporadically. “I’m alone, all of my friends are in Spai, so I just occasionally come to enjoy. Look around, it’s Wednesday night and there are people from everywhere, on every street.”

Photo and interview by Destene Savariau

Wissem Agagg of Arles performed at the festival with other rappers. “It’s a party. Friends, music and lit vibes.”

Photo and interview by Louis Denson

Lous Martial has traveled far and wide over the last 50 years. He lived in France from 1970 through 1993 before traveling from New York to Vermont, India, and Morocco. Returning to Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône five years ago, he has made yearly trips to Arles to enjoy and participate in La Fête de la musique. Martial plays blues and electric music with a friend who plays the bass. Rather than performing cover music or their own composed pieces, the duo prefer to jam and let the music take them where it leads. “It could go for hours.” 

Photo and interview by Ella Ehlers

Sebastian Denez is a member of a band in Arles and he plays the drums. The band plays a lot of old music and they play Spanish songs a lot too. ”Sharing energy is what I like to do and the drums allow me to do so.”

An international reporting project co-sponsored by ieiMedia and Arles à la carte.