Visual thrills at Unseen Photography Fair
Many people imagine that, since the revolutionary advent of digital photography, photographic technology cannot evolve much past the amount of pixels crammed into one image or the wonders that new versions of Photoshop can achieve. This is why events such as Unseen are essential – not only do they treat us to dream amounts of visual thrills, but they also showcase the surprising levels of creativity that photographers can summon.
At the fifth edition of the Unseen Photo Fair, from 23 to 25 September 2016, 150 international visual artists will share slices of the pie that the Gashouder (the round behemoth building at the Westergasfabriek) becomes for three days. Their works demonstrate a scope going way beyond portraits vs. landscapes. In parallel, the Unseen Photo Festival will sprawl across the Spaarndammerbuurt from 16 to 25 September 2016, engaging the public with special events and exhibitions, and revealing even more photographic treasures from established and emerging talents alike – all the while honouring the personality of its host neighbourhood of the year.
events such as Unseen are essential – not only do they treat us to dream amounts of visual thrills, but they also showcase the surprising levels of creativity that photographers can summon
Rixt Hulshoff Pol, the director of Unseen since last September, travels year-round with her team to unearth inspiring talents from all over the world. ‘Photography is developing at lightning speed and many artists offer new, provocative and unexpected perspectives,’ she says. One of these is the return to older, more traditional techniques – but integrated in novel ways, which is the concept behind the exhibition curated by iconic photographer Anton Corbijn on show at the Museum Het Schip during the festival. TOUCHED – Craftsmanship in Photography brings together the works of 12 photographers who take the art form to another level, such as Antony Cairns’ eerie collotypes or Susanna Kraus’ monumental, lifesize-format portraits.
‘The fair is our yearly harvest of new work, but it’s curated by the galleries. At the festival we can show our own perspective and bring it in contact with the city,’ says Hulshoff Pol. And that’s what makes the festival, which is already impressively mature at just a year old, so intricately appealing. With many interactive exhibits, combining local colour with international flair and transcending art to broach political and social commentary are but a few of the event’s magic tricks. Official campaign artists Christto & Andrew, who are exhibiting The Politics of Sport at the Brediusbad outdoor swimming pool, are excited about this collaboration: ‘Amsterdam is filled with creative energy and Unseen offers something very cutting edge that breaks away from standard photography fairs.’
‘We want a real festival atmosphere: immersive, and connecting the city with new photography,’ adds an enthusiastic Hulshoff Pol. Among many other initiatives, the festival got local retirees involved in a selfie project; Studio Aleppo offers portraits by renowned photographer Koos Breukel while honouring local Syrian refugees; and the Josilda da Conceiçao Gallery turns the spotlight on innovative Japanese artists.
Christto & Andrew explain their imagery for the campaign: ‘We wanted to highlight themes of clairvoyance and foreseeing of the future.’ And while ‘it’s not possible to see the future of photography’, Hulshoff Pol concludes, ‘At Unseen, you get a glimpse.’ The twin fair and festival, with such a rich menu, promise to do a lot more than dish out gargantuan amounts of anodyne eye candy.
Words: Marie-Charlotte Pezé