The French town which celebrates photography more than any other

Deep in rural France, surrounded by fields of Breton wheat and bundles of hay nestles a small town of stone walls, slate roofs and magnificent photography.

While Instagram is to the still image like a saccharine sweet can of pop, the multitude of outdoor photo exhibits at La Gacilly is more like a bottle of aged red wine, complex, organic, a precious treat to be savoured.

The open air and free to visit Festival La Gacilly Photo was founded in 2003 funded in part by the generosity of the wealthy local employer, cosmetics firm Yves Rocher.

Some 40 odd collections are displayed around the town, in dedicated fields at the Maison De La Photographie and hung as vast prints on the sides of buildings.

Like many other devotees of the frozen moment I’ve been making an annual pilgrimage to the Festival as the highlight of our family summer holidays.

Thinking back over the years many images endure but what I value more is the power of a series of photographs to tell a story and deliver a message that can change how you see and understand the world.

From a set of pictures of overweight, white hunters surrounded by the trophy heads from their self indulgent safaris, to a photo essay following an asylum seeker as he tried to get from Africa to Britain to a project to capture the aesthetic beauty of water in all its different forms, these pictorial essays and many more have, for me, provoked discussion and shaped my worldview.

That the curators of the event have found a good balance between hard hitting visuals and simple to enjoy pictures are is reflected in the visitor numbers, up to nearly 400,000 in 2019.

So if beaches and resorts aren’t your holiday choice do think about visiting this little corner of Brittany for the very best of what photography has to offer.