Kwartalnik Fotografia (Pologne) : Transphotographiques Lille 2009
During the 5 years since we entered the European Union, not only has the Polish economic situation improved but there has also been a series of positive changes in the field of photography. Just as in the case of economy, the changes are mutually beneficial.
On the one hand, Polish photography has recently made great progress trying to catch up with the West. More and more local artists keep up-to-date with the achievements of the stars of modern photography. At the same time, they themselves start to draw the attention of international curators and art merchants. On the other hand. however, the new EU members have become an object of interest of ‘Western artists, who more and more often head to the East to explore this ‘terra incognita’ in search for fresh incentives for their works. year’ s edition of tlw Transphotograplliques festival in Lille, which proved to be one of the major presentations of Polish photography in Western Europe, supports the point. Numerous ‘Eastern European touches’ were present there, it comes to the photographers and the themes they have chosen, e.g. French and German artists displayed their photos taken in Poland and in other countries of the former Eastern Block. This year’ s review of photography in Lille was organized on a bit smaller scale than in previous years,. It most probably resulted from the fact that another cultural event, the Europe.- Lille 3000 art festival, which was hosted in some of the spaces used by the photo exhibition last year, was organized at the same time as Transphotographiques. however, at this point its ‘competitiveness comes to an end. In fact, a kind of symbiosis can be observed here. Europe XXL, to Transphotographiques, was devoted to the countries of the New Europe. What is more, due to the abundance of expositions, Lille was turned like a huge cultural centre in May, which must have had a positive influence on the turnout at both festivals. The Iblish artists who took part in both events had a great opportunity to present their works to a wide audience.
The majority of the exhibitions of 11-ansphotographiques were located in the monumental space of Palais Rameau. Among the Poles, who exhibited their works in the building, the most distinguishable one is Oiko Petersen with his cycle Guys. Awn Poland with Lore, which in a smart way presents the issues of conventions and stereotypes. A set of stylized portraits depicts a variety of men types, whose outfit, make-up and props perfectly fit carefully arranged settings and at the same time highlight interests, professions, personalities and, above all, sexuality of the models. The outcome of the photographer’ s work is a composition of colour photos that present an imaginary or even a fairy-tale land, in which kitsch and the feeling of joy are purposefully contrasted with the dullness of what is ordinary and common. A totally opposite approach was offered by the photographers from the Sputnik Photos group, whose members come from the Czech Republic (Hip Singer), Georgia (Justyna Mielnikiewicz), Slovakia (Andrej Balco) and Slovenia (Manta Alvan, Domen Pal). There are also three Polish documentary photographers – Agnieszka Rayss, Jan Brykczyfisld and Rafal Milach. Their At the bottlers series is a classic example of photojournalism which poses questions about immigration and which is connected with the problems of living in a new and unfiuniliar reality.
The issue of frontiers, Much constitutes the key theme of the Sputnik group, was also depicted, though in less direct and more varied ways, in the international project entitled Frontitnrs, which dealt with all sorts of social and cultural barrios in the post-communist countries. Out of the five photographers who took part in this project, the most significant are probably Kai Ziegner (Germany), who focuses on the post-DDR reality ai Minas. Rykaczewski (Poland), whose photographs tackle most controversial Mites of the Polish society – sexuality and tolerance.
As compared with the aforementioned photographers, whose works are mostly devoted to the socio-cultural consequences of the transformations that have taken place in the post-USSR countries, the Czech photographers Barn Prasilova and Dint Pepe & Petr 1 [rubes appear distinct. Their works present symbolic and unrealistic images, a composition of fairy-tale spaces, fanciful outfits and digital intervention. Similar tendencies can be noticed in the worts of other modern photographers that come from the Czech Republic, for instance, in the last yeae s Teresa Vl0ova’sexhibition. It certainly proves the unquestionable integrity of the Czech school of photography, which more and more often focuses on romantic themes that dominate in the modern world of art. Still, it manages to retain its unique character and stylistic individuality. It is also worth mentioning that during the last year’ s Transphotographiques, the Czech presentations were among the most successful ones.
Dominique Secher, whose documentary cycle entitled Rontanes depicts life of the contemporary Romani, also presented his photographs in Palais Rameau. The same theme was explored by other documentary photographers of Transphotographiques as well. Antoine Sude (the Roots, Porte de Valenciennes, Line series, presented in Maison de la photographic) and Yves Leresche (the Roma Realities – Eglise Saint-Maurice series) are also interested ill poor Romani communities. it certainly reveals a tendency, quite traditional in photography, to seek cultural differences both in the closest surroundings and during travels abroad. ‘lie neutral, ‘outside’ eye of a travelling photographer who enters the Eastern European reality which is unknown to hint, is one of the main motifs of the French festival. Jessica Backhaus from Germany is such an artist. I ler works were created dining her numerous journeys to \cm° – a tiny seaside village – where she captured the interims of houses, people she came across and pieces of space. The outcome of her project is an extremely poetical set of photographs focused on provincial reality and gradually fading elements of Polish culture. This series, entitled Jesus and the Cherries (exhibited in Maison de la Photographic), creates an association with the aesthetics of American documentaries and at the same time with the British contemporary pho- tography of Richard Wentworth and Peter Fraser. It also relates to the achievements of modern Eastern European photographers, who capture instant changes and the ‘margins’ of the familiar reality ‘typical Backhaus d wmes of everyday common and ordinary objects and actions are also present in the works of Joao Urban, a Brazilian photographer. in the liar and Them series (exhibited in Maison de la Photographic), he juxtaposes photos of Polish immigrants in Brazil with images of provincial villages of Poland. Our country and other parts of Easter Europe became the destination of yet another artist, Gntgoire Eloy. a French documentary photographer, whose black-and-white works from the Visas cycle were shown in Palais Rihour.
The heart of last year’ s events, Tri Postal, this year was devoted both to Tran.sphotographiques and theaforementioned Europe XXL- Lille 3000 festival. The ground floor of this exhibition building was give, to the pho- to festival, and a trite celebration of Polish photography took place here. In Postal, the oeuvre of the Photo-shop agency was presented, which comprises commercial pictures and also more independent (and definitely worth a closer look) works of individual members of this advertising agency. Igor Omulecki’ s photographs, presenting paradoxical motifs taken out of the Polish reality, were most significant. Every single picture of this artist is full of unexpectedly juxtaposed situations and unreality found by the photographer in the atmosphere of the eastern (poorer) part of Poland. Some of them purposefully applied an amateur technique which perfectly corresponded with the provincial themes of the pictures. In Tri Postal, apart from Omulecki. Zu7.a Krtjewska & Banek NVieczorek, a duet cooperating with Photo-shop, presented their works, which in some cases are strongly related to the works of Wolfgang Tillman. This year’s edition orrransphotographiques did not manage to escape some drawbacks, though. The commercial character of the event is certainly one of them. Sometimes, it was easier to find the prices than the titles of presented works… The same commercial dhnension of the festival explains the presence ofsuch figures as Tomasz Guclzowaty or Andrzej Dragan. The exlubition of Patrick Demarchelier s fashion photography was equally peculiar and surprising. His pretty mediocre works did not seem to fit the key themes of the event. However. the festival, which proved to be a unique promotion of Polish photography, shoal generally be described as successful. Olivier Spillebout, the director of Transphotographiques, pkins to found a gallery devoted only to the Eastern European photography and also to create a magazine, whose lust edition would serve as a catalogue of the festival. Thanks to Spilleboue s fascination with Roland, our photography was given a chance to emerge on the international scene. Hopefully the aesthetics of the pictures and the commercial success will not be decisive in the choice of the artists, though.