London-based curator and thinker Federica Chiocchetti presents a cerebral take on travel photography from 24 February - 05 March
The term ‘travel photography’ may call to mind generic holiday snaps, but a festival in Jaipur is raising the bar for a more probing approach. Founded by the team behind GoaPhoto, artistic director Lola Mac Dougall and filmmaker and producer Nikhil Padgaonkar, JaipurPhoto returns to from 24 February to 05 March, following a successful inaugural edition in 2016, to explore what wanderlust can tell us about our times.
Describing the relationship between travel and photography as an “endless conversation”, the festival spotlights the many ways photography has shaped how we experience the world. London-based curator and founder of The Photocaptionist, Federica Chiocchetti, this year’s guest curator, pinpoints the relevance of this conversation in our image-saturated culture as a starting point for putting together the 2017 edition.
“I am fascinated by how the evolution of society and of photography has impacted on the very notion of travelling,” Chiocchetti says. From the pre-internet days of the travel agent selling a place through promotional images to the more recent way we filter our travel experiences through multiple devices, she notes that our experience of place has always been mediated.
As a Western curator who had never been to India before, this process even extended to Chiocchetti’s curation. “I felt that I was that outsider who could only get a sense of the place through Google Street View, installation views of the previous edition and reading about the architecture and history of the venues,” she says.
“As someone who works on the relationship between photography and fiction, who had to ‘imagine’ Jaipur, I started thinking about photographic works loosely about travel that are somehow related with notions of the imaginary.”
Drawing together 21 photo essays by both Indian and international artists, the festival presents an eclectic approach to the theme. From the phenomena of mass tourism in Reiner Riedler’s series about ‘fakecations’ and André Gelpke’s The Leaning Tower of Pisa, via journeys through time and literature with Vasantha Yogananthan’s Early Times, to reflections on cyborgs and travel in war zones, the work on show challenges a narrow reading of the genre.
A supporting programme continues the conversation with talks by Laia Abril, Aaron Schuman and Lars Willumeit, and a photobook workshop by Yumi Goto and Mariela Sancari.
The festival is held in landmark locations across the historic city, and its site-specific nature and the experience of discovering Jaipur also play into the theme. The outdoor exhibitions are presented in unconventional formats, designed to respond to the city’s architectural heritage and prompt new dialogues between photography and its public.
One highlight is Marco Barbon’s El Bahr, staged in the iconic Hawa Mahal. A palace in which the women of the royal household once resided, the building is fronted by a large screen that allowed the women to look out onto the street while remaining hidden from the outside world. Barbon’s series, which is made up of portraits of people facing the sea, their backs turned to the viewer, subtly interacts with the hidden gazes of the space’s former residents.
On holding the festival against the backdrop of Rajasthan’s scenic ‘Pink City’, Mac Dougall comments: “It has seen many a travel photographer visiting to encounter perhaps not a destination, but an image created by coffee-table books that people associate with travel photography. This is what the festival aims to question.”
Jaipur Photo is open from 24 February – 05 March. www.jaipurphoto.in