Translating the state of the world | Laurence Engel

How to translate the state of the world through photography? If the image can appear as a universal language, it requires photographers to question what, in each being, resonates beyond borders - geographical, temporal, cultural - and the intricacies of human, territorial and planetary history.

The photographers selected by the jury of the Bourse du Talent this year are informed witnesses of the upheavals of our contemporary societies, each choosing his or her own register of photographic transcription. On the walls, Christophe Meireis's photographs of men and women unjustly condemned to death, and Matei Focseneanu's masked faces of imprisoned women, meet each other head-on, while Alessandra Carosi's visual haikus express the way of concealing feelings that is so prevalent in Japanese society and relatively foreign to the Western mind. The black and white, binary without being Manichean, of Nadège Mazars which testifies to the only way of redemption offered to the members of Colombian gangs, contrasts with the bright colors chosen by Flamina Reposi to compose the standard of loves which flout the standards. Cheng Huanfa's sometimes joyful, sometimes weary body of a pregnant woman and Tian Jin's spectral silhouettes of China's disenfranchised are also in dialogue. Nathalie Lescuyer's incantatory poetry accompanies the wandering of migrants and their aspiration for a better place, while Tang Nanjing's urban views of the Val de Marne create an equivalence between French and Chinese suburbs. Some photographers also choose to evoke our planet in the grip of climate change: Nicola Bertasi reveals the stigmata of "Agent Orange", the defoliant used during the Vietnam War; Sébastien Leban photographs Tangier Island off the coast of Virginia, whose climate-skeptical inhabitants will be the first climate refugees in the United States in 25 years' time; Charles Xélot goes to the farthest reaches of the Russian Arctic to show the excesses of gas extraction and its consequences on the lives of the Nenets.

These images from the new edition of the Bourse duTalent, bearing the "shaky equivocity of the world" highlighted by Hannah Arendt in her Journal of Thought, describe one of the characteristics of the human condition where difference asserts itself as the catalyst of our relationships. This plurality of views and points of view proposed by the instigator of the Bourse du Talent, Didier de Faÿs, and the members of the jury he invites each year, is the fertile ground for the heritage of tomorrow. BnF is pleased to be able to promote and preserve them thanks to the support of Philippe Gassmann, Executive Director of the Picto Foundation. Each year, his laboratory contributes to the financing of the exhibition's production and allows hundreds of prints by artists who take their place in the line of artists who rethink the world through photography to enter the collections of the Department of Prints and Photography.

Laurence Engel, President of the Bibliothèque nationale de France