How to Become a Kaunas Photo Star
CREATIVES NOT CASH COWS
The paid portfolio review has become stock-in-trade for photographic festivals worldwide. It is a practical and economically sustainable way in which to bring photographers together with curators, publishers, dealers and collectors. But in some cases this seems to have evolved into a kind of production line in which photographers are herded and processed like cash cows. The portfolio interviews remain useful, of course, but do the photographers get as much value as they could and do they, themselves, feel valued?
It is welcome therefore to see a number of the smaller, younger festivals in Europe and elsewhere are taking a more collegiate and less overtly commoditised approach. One such event is the photography festival based in the city of Kaunas, Lithuania.
Kaunas Photo Star is open to photographers of all ages and nationalities, working in any theme or style. This diversity is reflected in the multifaceted approach which combines aspects of online and face-to-face portfolio review within the framework of competition. Visiting participants not only have one-on-one reviews but also an opportunity to display their portfolio to all reviewers at a ‘portfolio walk’ and showcase their images to public and reviewers alike during a ‘slide-show’ evening.
There are to be around 20 reviewers at the festival this year, mostly from European and Baltic countries. Each undertakes face-to-face reviews, not only advising each photographer they see, but also evaluating the work. Based on these evaluations, a winning portfolio is selected along with a number of runners-up.
The winner receives an invitation to present a solo exhibition at the Kaunas Photography Gallery with their expenses paid by the festival. The runners-up each receive an invitation to show at one of five museum or gallery spaces in Europe.
But organised competition is just a part of the mix. You can never quite predict how festivals like Kaunas will connect you with your next professional opportunity. An earlier post on the work of the Australian photographer Richard Simpkin outlined the interconnections that led from Australia via Kaunas to Richard’s work being championed by Martin Parr and consequently presented in the UK.
2012 sees a new development in the way the application process for Kaunas Photo Star is structured. The changes are designed to help ensure that expectations are aligned and physical distance does not exclude anyone. Photographers begin by submitting their portfolio electronically. This is then assessed and, if it meets the basic criteria for quality, is forwarded online to a team of some 50 photo experts worldwide. From the online stage around 60 photographers are selected for the face-to-face reviews to be held in Kaunas on 6 and 7 September. The benefit here is that it helps ensure that photographers travelling to Kaunas are of a suitable level of experience and aptitude to make the journey professionally worthwhile.
There is a scale of fees to cover some of the costs of running this program. They are modest when compared to many larger festivals. 10EUR [$12.50US] to enter; 35 EUR [$44.00US] if accepted for the online review; 50 EUR [$63US] if accepted for the face-to-face reviews in Kaunas. So around $120US for the whole package. Each photographer must pay their own way to Kaunas. If that is not possible then you can still enter the online stage even if you are unable to attend the festival, but you must indicate this when you apply.
Kaunas Photo Star is open for submissions until June 28, 2012. Further details here…
The 9th Kaunas Photo Festival opens on 4 September 2012 in the historic city of Kaunas, Lithuania. More information is available at their website…
Visitor to Kaunas Photo Festival 2010 © Kaunas Photo Festival
Interior of Kaunas Photography Gallery © Kaunas Photo Festival
Martin Parr inspects the installation by Richard Simpkin at Kaunas Photo Festival 2010 © Kaunas Photo Festival
Louise Clements, Director of FORMAT festival in UK, during a portfolio review at Kaunas Photo Festival 2010 © Kaunas Photo Festival