What to see at the world's premier photography festival

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From magazines to Instagram to the dozens of newsfeed photos we burn through in the blink of an eye, it can be easy to take photography for granted as a condition of our lives – if not to tune it out completely. But the annual Festival les Rencontres d’Arles, dedicated to showing new and unpublished works from the best names in world photography, provides countless reasons to rediscover the art form. A three-month-long series of exhibitions, symposiums, screenings, and workshops takes over the eastern Provence city to celebrate every side of photography as a medium. Black and white, the festival’s theme for 2013, restricts its roster of artists to monochromatic explorations of light, shadow, and tone.

Out of over 60 exhibitions, highlights range from a recently discovered cache of early Guy Bourdin prints to a NASA space probe’s surreal aerial shots of the Mars landscape. Hiroshi Sugimoto’s minimalist Polaroid series “Couleurs de l’Ombre” captures the light of Tokyo sunrises refracted through a prism and rendered in pure, precise tones. Works of every genre, from John Davies’s urban landscapes to the Bogota cinema portraits of Miguel Angel Rojas, show the endless range of the black and white medium. We can’t think of a better cure for photo fatigue. Also not to be missed: a personal reflection on the surrounding landscape from Arles-born couturier Christian Lacroix. The festival runs from July 1st to September 22nd at various locations in Arles, France.

Images, top row: NASA images of Mars, curated by Xavier Barral. Second row: John Davies. Third row: John Davies, Miguel Angel Rojas.