This year the line-up of Richard Billingham, Carolyn Drake, Samuel Fosso, Martin Parr and Tony Ray-Jones is further broadened with shows by Adam Patterson, Dana Popa, Nelli Palomäki, Jocelyn Allen and Francesco Giusti, augmented by a plethora of local talent exhibiting their photographs. In empty shops, vacated galleries, sunken gardens, bus shelters and the ubiquitous 20-foot wooden cube, the photographs, along with Jean Christophe’s vision for the public enjoyment of the image, has poked its way into the routine of island life here.
The committee of volunteers and sponsors that help to run and finance the festival work hand in hand with JC and have an unwavering commitment and seemingly limitless hospitality. This year more journalists, visitors and exhibitors have come to see the shows. Their presence and interest is a confirmation, I believe, of the deep roots that the festival has put down, providing an anchor between the island territory and the interconnected photographic world.
It is also proof that the word is out. The hideaway retreat has sounded its horn in the midst of the photographic festival fog, and people know it’s out there, calling out to be discovered and enjoyed by them too. I never was any good at keeping secrets, especially ones that fill me with so many good things to say.
Foto8 has been privileged to work closely with JC over the past two years, helping to guide the programme and engage with the platform he has created to showcase the photography of people we believe in. This year, Foto8 editor Lauren Heinz chose to present new projects by Adam Patterson and Dana Popa together in The Return Journey. A show of 12 prints each, Adam and Dana’s images from Northern Ireland and Romania, respectively, resonate together with stories of political change and social rebalance. In each project Adam and Dana look back at themselves and the new generation of their compatriots growing up after profound change.
In Northern Ireland, Adam’s work is centred around members of the Ulster Defence Association and revisiting his own memories of the country, showing us the slow process that is change. Patterson’s photographs are subtle and disarming yet laced with undercurrents of unresolved issues and for the youth, a blanket of restlessness that cloaks a loss of their defining identity as soldiers to the cause.
Following up on her previous project and book, Not Natasha, Dana Popa turns her attention towards her fellow countrymen and women. The youth are busy doing nothing, it seems, caught in limbo as they now emerge as the first generation to grow up in a post-communist society. The brutal dictatorial regime that once employed propaganda to create a binding national identity and consciousness is no longer present. Dana’s images show us the discomfort and uncertainty that has filled the vacuum after communism. It is a cultural abyss as well, not helped or filled by foreign values, sold to Romanians now through a complicit media that heralds fashion, celebrity and Hollywood films as the way forward.
Working with Adam and Dana is always a pleasure, their approach and openness to their photography always invites constructive collaboration. This show was presented both as an entity in itself as well as reflecting the work as being in progress as they continue to explore their subjects.
Around town the interesting array of photography continued with…
Interview with Nelli Palomäki