It’s six years since the inaugural edition of Unseen Amsterdam arrived with the mission to shake up the art fair model, focusing on emerging photographers and collectors, and instilling a welcome dose of fun to proceedings. And despite its beginnings during difficult times for arts funding, the ‘fair with a festival flair’ has largely succeeded, developing into something more ambitious than a glorified trade show, with its own public programme and a city-wide celebration of the medium in one of the world’s great photography capitals.
The emphasis remains on championing new talent, and with this in mind, the latest addition to Unseen is Futures, a cross-European photography platform bringing together 10 cultural institutions from around the continent, each with their own talent programmes.
Unseen Amsterdam has announced the 34 photobook dummies shortlisted for the Unseen Dummy Award 2018. Picked out from 212 submissions by a five-strong committee, the shortlist respects “a degree of rawness, including an ‘unfinished’ look and feel’, in keeping with the prize’s ethos of celebrating books-in-progress. The winner will be announced on 21 September at Unseen Amsterdam, after being picked out by an international jury including: Paul van Mameren, managing director of the award’s sponsor Lecturis; Sarah Allen, assistant curator, Tate Modern; Tim Clark, editor-in-chief and director, 1000 Words; Russet Lederman, co-founder, 10×10 Photobooks; and Małgorzata Stankiewicz, winner of the Unseen Dummy Award 2017. Stankiewicz’s winning book dummy, cry of an echo, was published by Lecturis in May. Showing the Białowieża Forest, the last remaining primeval forest in Poland, Stankiewicz used several unusual interventions when processing her images – including masking, uneven development, and even bleaching – to protest against the intensive logging which has been allowed in the forest by new legislation passed in 2016. Unseen Amsterdam takes place from 21-23 September at Westergasfabriek https://unseenamsterdam.com
Projects exploring mysterious religious rituals in Russia, Soviet health resorts in Poland, and Ukrainian school graduations all feature on the shortlist for this year’s New East Photo Prize. Including 16 photographers from Latvia, Romania, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Croatia, Slovakia and Azerbaijan, the shortlisted series will be exhibited as part of a group show this autumn.
“Each of the shortlisted photographers demonstrate a unique approach to the people, places and stories that shape the region,” says Ekow Eshun, creative director of Calvert. “The prize has proven itself once again to be an important space for emerging photographers to gain international recognition, and we look forward to working with each of them in the exhibition and beyond.”
Titled XO, Josh Adam Jones’ graduation project investigates expatriate communities in Oman. “I had informed myself about Middle Eastern culture and the social landscape in the country before visiting, so upon arrival I was eager to embrace everything I was presented with,” he says. “The atmosphere was hugely welcoming, albeit stiflingly hot.”
Born in Cheltenham in 1995, and a recent documentary photography graduate from the University of the West of England, Jones says his inquisitive nature pushed him towards social documentary photography. “I like meeting people, so looking outwards, as opposed to photographing my own ‘backyard’, always felt natural,” he says. “Images have a wonderful potency that other mediums cannot quite match.”
“There is a term to describe the cultural ache that Koreans go through: Han. A complex intermingling of historical, collective and personal sorrow, acceptance of a bitter present, and a hope of a better future.” Introduced to the term by a North Korean defector, Herman Rahman decided to adopt it as the framing concept for his project of the same name.
Han traces the collective history of the notoriously closed regime of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, relying largely on archival imagery and found text to probe at the borders of a near-impenetrable subject. The work is an interrogation, not only of the secrecy of the North Korean state, but also of the nature of photography itself.
Born in Barcelona in 1984, Arnau Rovira Vidal first learnt photography from his father, a keen amateur with a darkroom set up at home. Initially studying film-making at university, Vidal devoted himself to still images two years ago when he moved to Madrid, taking courses at EFTI Centro Internacional de Fotografía y Cine and LENS Cursos de Fotografía y Cursos de Vídeo. He now specialises in shooting fantastical buildings and architecture, and is already making a name for himself, showing his abstracted series RE-FORM at Spanish festivals such as Pa-ta-ta and Mirades, and publishing his series on the new wave of building in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan in titles such as Wired and GUP.
His new project, Fantasia Resorts, was shot in Orlando and shows the cartoonish holiday resorts of Disney World, a theme park which covers 65 square km and includes 33 different resorts.
Growing up, photographer Tom Roche learned about his Romani Gypsy heritage only through fragmentary stories and speculation. “My great, great uncle was stabbed in the heart with a wooden stake because he owed money for land,” says Roche, a recent University of the West of England graduate. “Then I had one aunt, aunt Liz, who used to pick crops, one aunt that made baskets, and another who sold pegs – or so I’m told; I don’t have any images, records, or concrete facts of my ancestors.”
Pasko Kuzman wears four watches because he believes they help him travel through time. He’s an archaeologist who works in an office called Troy, searching for the burial site of Alexander the Great, and other elements of Macedonia’s Classical past.
Kuzman is one of the many characters Michał Siarek met while photographing Alexander, an exploration of Macedonian national identity by way of ‘Skopje 2014’. Set up in 2010 (and originally slated to end in 2014), the Skopje 2014 project hopes to make Skopje a tourist attraction by drawing on its history – Macedonia was once part of Ancient Greece, and shares its name with a Northern Greek province, but is now so far removed from its heritage that its neighbour lobbied for it to be called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
In our September 2018 issue, we interview Vanessa Winship and Hellen van Meene about the genesis of their latest works, and the backstory of death and rebirth that led them in new directions. We also speak to Marina Paulenka, the artistic director of Organ Vida festival in Croatia, about the 10th anniversary edition and its focus on the female gaze. Lucy Davies meets Winship at the Barbican Art Gallery, which is currently staging a mid-career retrospective of her work alongside Dorothea Lange. They discuss the photographer’s decision to step back from making pictures at the height of her success, and how she found her way back after the arrival of her first grandchild. “It has been a rebirth in a way,” she says, speaking about her new direction, “sort of freeing myself from the constraints of my former life. But it was also about conveying the immediacy with which my granddaughter sees the world.” Van Meene’s new series, which goes on show in Amsterdam this September, confronts the subject of death in an inherently personal …
When Polish photographer Wiktoria Wojciechowska first heard about the ongoing Ukrainian conflict she was in China, shooting a project titled Short Flashes, which went on to win the 2015 Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award. “I was cracking the internet but everything was so blocked I couldn’t get any information,” she says. “I was asking all my friends, then I realised not many people knew about it, even though it’s so close [as Ukraine borders Poland]. I was really inspired to go by fear, by wondering how I would react if the same thing happened in my country.”