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Article: Karolina Maciagowska reflects on her attendance of Landskrona Foto Festival 2016

Posted on: 22 May 2017

Landskrona is a relatively small Swedish city but aims high in photography. This year’s festival featured everything from exhibitions, an international seminar, artist talks, outdoor installations to portfolio reviews, photo book fair, guided tours and film screenings.

The majority of exhibitions and lectures were held at the institutions like Landskrona Konsthall (art gallery), Landskrona Museum and Landskrona Theatre. In addition there were exhibitions in Landskrona Citadell, small galleries and empty shops premises.

When you think about a photo festival – you generally think about the theme. This year’s festival curators: Christian Caujolle and Jenny Nordquist have chosen not to develop the theme and allowed the criss-crossing of expressions through the confrontation and coexistence of different opinions and approaches, creating an ambitious platform encouraging audience to think about the image and its current issues, transformation and development. Another aim was to present photography which has rarely or never received any attention in Sweden. The Festival featured over 150 artists, lecturers and curators from all over the world, including internationally acclaimed Cat Phillips and Peter Kennard (kennardphillips), Joan Fontcuberta, Elina Brotherus and SMITH, Cristina de Middel, Jason Larkin, Tomasz Kizny and Dominique Roynette, Fred Ritchin and many others.

International Seminar and The Great Terror

Landskrona Foto Festival started on Friday morning with an International Seminar: Media Consumption and Memory Loss in a Digital Age, hosted by Lars Mogensen – a freelance journalist and a radio producer, interested in social affairs, culture and philosophy. Through analysis and experiences in the fields of photography, media and communications speakers questioned digital technology, how it changed photography, the world, the concept of time related to the huge number of pictures which flow incredibly fast through the networks, notions of memory and history. The seminar was followed by a discussion with speakers. During the seminar Fred Ritchin, Dean and also founding director of the Documentary Photography and Photojournalism Program at ICP, shared his views about challenges and possibilities implicit in the digital revolution and how digital consumption is changing our perception of memory.

Tomasz Kizny, acclaimed photographer, journalist and researcher studying the history of crimes under the communism, spoke about the collective image of a society in time of terror.  In the years 2008-2011 Kizny worked on The Great Terror 1937-1938 project in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, dedicated to the memory of victims of crimes against humanity. Crimes were committed between 1937-1938 in former USSR, where 750 000 people were killed within a period of 15 months. The Great Terror exhibition, curated with Dominique Roynette ,held at Landskrona Citadell, was divided into three parts and included portraits of terror victims taken by NKVD before the execution, contemporary photographs of the sites of executions and graves and portraits of victim’s descendants, all accompanied by multimedia pieces (slideshows, sound and video).

Who? A dialogue between Elina Brotherus and SMITH (Dorothée Smith)

This exhibition was curated by co-director of Landskrona Foto, Christian Caujolle and took place at Landskrona Konsthall, featuring work on the theme of identity from two prominent European female artists. The work of both artists was shown side by side, creating a dialogue between them which. The exhibition really opened my eyes to the tension between the work and the power of the visual medium; questioning the possibilities of expression, reflecting on appearance and disappearance, past and future.

Photo Salon and Karolina Jonderko, Lost  

Swedish newspaper Helsinborg’s Dagblad teamed up with the festival to present the ‘Photo Salon’ open call – resulting in displays in various locations, including shop fronts in Landskrona’s city centre. Selected photographers who sent their submissions were invited by photographer and curator, Nygårds Karin Bengtsson, to exhibit their work in full.

Polish artist Karolina Jonderko presented Lost – a series of photographs which portray rooms and interiors that have been left untouched, sometimes for many years, after their owners have been reported missing. This incredibly moving project was divided between two parts – photographs were accompanied by a slideshow, which included images of letters ‘addressed’ to each missing person written by their family members (polish+english translation). Lost was a part of a group exhibition entitled It’s so Hard to Live Without You.

AgNO3  – Histories of Science and Photography in Sweden

If you ever wondered what happened to the cameras taken to the Moon, what allows scientists to conduct a research on rare collections of insects or how criminals should be pictured to be easily recognised or you are generally interested in the use of photography in science and research during past 150 years, AgNO3: Histories of Science and Photography in Sweden is definitely a must-see exhibition (showing at Landskrona Museum until 29 January 2017).   Photographs, video and multimedia installations and objects accompanied by text, which added a further dimension to the viewing. All items were carefully arranged and displayed across 12 rooms, creating 30 stories based on a variety of themes including: medical experiments, photographs of crime scenes and suspects, museum objects reconstruction process, military authorities documentation, planning and project design of the Stockholm metro system, Finnish population research, photographs of nature and birds or video records of birds and bats movement studies.   One of the presented objects that caught my attention was modified Hasselblad 500 EL which has not been taken to the Moon, but used by the astronauts for training purposes in Houston. All thirteen cameras used on the Moon between 1969-1972 were left there to minimise the weight of the space capsule on the journey ‘home’. Astronauts brought back the exposed film rolls only.

Worth mentioning is also Joan Fontcuberta’s ‘Science and Friction’ exhibition (Landskrona Museum), at which artist presented three bodies of work: ‘Herbarium’, ‘Hemogramas’ and ‘Lactogramas’. In ‘Herbarium’ photographs of non-existent plants are presentes in a context of a scientific research. ‘Hemogramas’ and ‘Lactogramas’ were created without the camera. Artist made negatives by deposing drops of blood or milk onto transparent glass slides. Specific scientific instruments and tools are presented next to the photographs as an important part of all installations.

About the experience

 I always thought that photo festivals are only for established artists – and I was wrong. I would encourage every emerging artist to look for opportunities which may be part of international photo festivals – whether it is a portfolio review, book dummy award submission, Photo Salon (open call) or simply networking (those great chats during the photo book fair!). I have gained some very valuable insight through the festival and ways that photo festivals are being curated. I had a great opportunity to discuss artwork and get an advice from internationally acclaimed artists, lecturers and experts. It helped me to understand how artists are working on their projects and exhibitions, what may interest or influence curators, how curators work with the archival materials and objects, discover new ways to engage the public, how empty premises can be turned into mini art galleries or how artwork can be presented (for example in a form of an outdoor installation).

And finally… Thank you!

I would like to thank Arts Council England, University of Sunderland and NEPN – Amanda Ritson, Dr Carol McKay and Jemma Gibson – for their hard work, enthusiasm, energy and fantastic Landskrona Foto Festival opportunity, which was an absolutely mind-blowing experience.

Karolina Maciagowska was one of two selected photographers of the DEVELOP International Travel Bursaries 2016.

This initiative is designed to encourage photographers based in North East England to engage with the international photographic community and to take a pro-active approach to developing their practice and their networks.  The Bursaries are supported by public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Karolina is a fine art photographer and video/multimedia artist based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Her work brings together imagery and text inspired by the imagination and memory and the depiction of real objects, situations and ordinary moments. Her images are carefully constructed records created by observation and an ongoing investigation of the world and her surroundings.

The editing within her grid installations is crucial to her work and the final results are never left up to chance, aiming to lead the viewer into finding the extraordinary within the mundane and discover the visual poetry of photographic language.