“Asking these women to pose for me was a challenge,” says the author of the photo, Afghan photographer Fatimah Hossaini, 28, a refugee in France after Kabul fell to the Taliban last summer.

Burqa raised, eyes made up, cigarette in hand, the young woman poses at the wheel of her car, a real provocation for the new regime.

“I wanted to show the resilience and the hope and the beauty that I could find in Afghanistan”, explains the photographer who gives pride of place to women, veiled or not, in her exhibition. “The situation of Afghan women is incredible, I hope women in Afghanistan and around the world will hold their heads high.”

Afghanistan is one of the three countries, with Iran and Pakistan, honored by the one who claims the largest outdoor photo festival in France, installed for nearly two decades in the alleys and alleys of the picturesque village of La Gacilly, between Rennes and Vannes.

Three countries which, in addition to the bewitching splendor of their landscapes, share a few traits: “quite oppressive regimes and women’s rights not very respected”, explains Cyril Drouhet, curator of exhibitions, in an understatement.

Afghanistan again with the “Shards of Peace” by Véronique de Viguerie, winner of the most prestigious awards in the profession, and a great specialist in this country. Between shots of children’s faces or high heels under the burqa, an image seemingly harmless, but rare in this country: a moment of tenderness between a Pashtun nomad and his wife, all smiles, whom he kisses in the holding by the shoulder.

“I am very sad to witness, powerless, the decline of a country for which we had so many hopes”, comments the reporter.

– Hymn to life –

Sad and also inconsolable, the Afghan photographer of AFP Wakil Kohsar – the international agency is a partner of the Festival – when he evokes the death in a suicide attack in 2018 of his former colleague Shah Marai.

Between photos of the fall of Kabul and a tribute to the beauty of a people and a country, the Festival exhibits dozens of photos by the two AFP reporters.

Like every year, La Gacilly gives a special place to a big name in photography. This year, it is the turn of an Iranian “legend”: Abbas (Attar), ex-journalist at the Magnum agency. The festival is devoting the first retrospective of his work to him since his death in 2018, in one of the green settings along the route.

Unsurprisingly, this 19th edition reserves more than half of its galleries for what makes its DNA: celebrating the Earth, its relationships and interactions with Man, the need to preserve it.

From the grandiose landscapes of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF) by Mélanie Wenger, to the ubiquitous and vaguely disturbing outfits of Stephan Gladieu’s “Homo detritus” in the DRCongo, to coal pollution in India almost palpable in the photos of Money Sharma (AFP New Delhi), the fragile beauty of a mistreated nature challenges and upsets.

But La Gacilly is first and foremost a “hymn to the Earth and a hymn to life”. “We want people to leave with a little hope!”, explains the president of the festival Auguste Coudray.

Like last year, the free festival hopes to welcome more than 300,000 visitors by the end of September.