The yearly photo festival Les Rencontres d’Arles has kicked off in style in the overheated town in the heart of Provence. With some 30+ exhibitions, talks, slideshows and rosé-infused night-long socializing among roman ruins and narrow alleys. The exhibitions hold a very high standard this year, and navigate on the ever more blurred line between journalsim and art, with elements of architecture, anthropology and humor as kickers.

Over the past 10 years or so, one of the parties of Arles has gained a legendary status. Our friends at the Swiss-Italian collective Riverboom, have gotten into the habit of organizing an unsolicited party on the riverbank of the Rhone each year. The party this year involved whole a whole roast pig smuggled from Italy, copious amounts of wine, a raffle with prizes such as “your own weight in expired italian pasta”, and a stellar DJ that drove the crowds nuts dancing on the riverbank until the police broke up the party.

And this year Riverboom had a real reason to celebrate. The exhbition “The Heavens” by Riverboom members Gabriele Galimberti and Paolo Woods, was one of the highlights of the festival. It is the result of an astounding documentary project about tax havens around the world. More than half of the world’s trade passes through these far off places wich offer compianies and individuals refuge from the tax man of their own countries. The two friends set out to photograph this almost immaterial subject by travelling to places such as Panama, The Cayman Islands, Singapore, Jersey and nine others. Beside the fact that in many of these places there was litterally nothing to photograph, they were met by countless closed doors and suspicion. But armed with hard heads, good ideas, patience and humor, they managed to row the offshore project ashore after almost three years of work.

When they went to visit a building in the state of Delaware, where countless multinational companies have “offices” – they got the idea of registering their own company there. In less than 20 minutes, with no documents required, or questions asked, and for a very small fee, they registered the company “The Heavens” that now pays no taxes on its activity outside Delaware – just like the other companies registered in the same building, including Apple, Coca-Cola, Bank of America, General Electirc, Google, Walmart and some 285 000 others.

The exhbition in Arles includes a boardroom, with a table and chairs with The Heavens’ logo, and the book constitutes the company’s annual report. Paolo Woods and Gabriele Galimberti have playfully extended the realms of documentary photography to the multinational corporate world, while exposing the dubious tax practices of the same. And they seem to have had a lot of fun while they were at it.  Congratulations on a fascinating and important project Gabriele and Paolo, and thanks for inspring us to work more in collaborations such as yourselves.



Paolo Woods and Gabriele Galimberti at “The Heavens” headquarters in Arles. Photo by Chris Maluszynski

See the project The Heavens  at INSTITUTE: