PhotoVisa – Part 2
THIS IS PART 2 of Elena Firsova’s report on PhotoVisa festival in Krasnodar. You can read Part 1 here.
The 2012 Edition
THE OPENING WEEK of PhotoVisa 2012 ran from 17 to 24 October. The statistics are: 29 exhibitions, 12 lectures and three evenings of video shows presented in 18 spaces in four localities — the cities of Krasnodar and Novorossiysk, the town of Anapa and Myskhako village. There was a one-day portfolio review that consisted of some 10 sessions with 15 experts. 578 authors from 51 countries participated in a competition presented within the frame of the festival. All events were linked by a theme: ‘the face’. You can find the program of the festival on its website, and the results of the competition are here. Below, I will mention just the highlights of PhotoVisa 2012.
Fred Baldwin and Wendy Watriss in Krasnodar. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ [photo © Dmitry Fisenko]
Wendy Watriss and Frederick Baldwin
THERE WERE A FEW IMPORTANT GUESTS invited for PhotoVisa 2012. Wendy Watriss and Frederick Baldwin, the founders of Houston FotoFest, attended the full opening week. Their visit followed a special Russian program at FotoFest earlier in the year and their presence in Krasnodar helped attract attention for Russian photography once more and to open up new opportunities for Russian photographers. Wendy and Frederick participated in the portfolio review and took part in a special meeting with festival visitors to tell them about FotoFest. The main idea that Wendy and Frederick shared with us in this talk was “if you want something, do it yourself”. They started FotoFest when Houston was hardly a place noted for its art. Since then the city has grown into the one of the world’s important centres for photography. This is a very good example for regional cities in Russian.
Wendy Watriss noted that 85% of world’s photo festivals are organized by photographers themselves, to which Evgeny Berezner added that Russia has enough talented practitioners; what we don’t yet have is the proper infrastructure of festivals, institutions and so on to work with them. Indeed, following the advice of Wendy and Frederick is a good way for us to survive right now.
One of the outcomes from their visit to Krasnodar has been an invitation for the artist Eldar Zeitullaev (who had a show in PhotoVisa 2012 and participated in the portfolio review) to be exhibited at the Discoveries of Portfolio Review exhibition in Houston in March 2013.
Vicky Goldberg (foreground) and visitors explore Valera and Natasha Cherkashin’s art installation at the Myskhako winery. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ [photo © Elena Firsova]
THE INTERNATIONALLY RESPECTED PHOTO-CRITIC and historian Vicki Goldberg was another remarkable guest. She gave a lecture about difficulties photography had faced in becoming recognised as an art, setting this in a historical perspective. Wendy Watriss commented that this information could be very important for FotoFest followers as well. She and Frederick were going to invite Vicki to give a similar lecture within a future FotoFest educational program. In her turn, Irina Chmyreva indicated that, as a lecture by a foreign specialist on the history of photography, this lecture was only the third of its kind to be presented in Russia/USSR in the last 50 years. Consequently, Vicki Goldberg’s lecture was a really significant event for us.
Karol Hordziej posing for photographers in Novorossiysk, during the opening of the exhibition «The Voice of Clothing» by Tiago Coelho (Brazil) at the Svet gallery. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ [photo © Elena Firsova]
KAROL HORDZIEJ, artistic director of the PhotoMonth festival in Kraków, Poland, was another guest. The main purpose of his visit was to undertake on-the-ground research. It is expected that the next festival in Krasnodar will include a focus on Polish photography, among others, and he wanted to know the best way to show his country’s photography in the Russian region. Karol also made his own presentation to festival visitors about PhotoMonth and discussed with them possible ways of presenting Polish photography at PhotoVisa in 2013. Two concerns were voiced by the audience: the first was that these might just be ‘elitist’ exhibitions aimed only at photographers and the second was to ask for more activities involving the local nonprofessional audience.
Part of the installation by Valera and Natasha Cherkashin at the Myskhako winery. 22 October, 2013. ~ ~ [photo © Elena Firsova]
The Installation at Myskhako
THE MAIN AND BEST PRESENTED PROJECT of PhotoVisa 2012 was the enormous retrospective installation at the Myskhako winery made by the internationally known Russian/Ukrainian couple now living in New York, Valera and Natasha Cherkashin. Various projects by the Cherkashins were installed in an organic way in the production halls and on the exterior walls of the winery. Without doubt, this was the biggest and highest quality photographic project of its kind made in Russia since the break-up of the USSR in 1991. It clearly demonstrated the prevailing tendency of art to leave traditional exhibition spaces in favour of more everyday situations.
Portfolio Reviewing at PhotoVisa 2012. On the foreground is Canadian photographer Frank Rodick speaking with a young photographer from Krasnodar. Frank Rodick’s exhibition, ‘Faces Interred’ was presented at the Kovalenko Museum of Art. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ [photo © Elena Firsova]
WENDY WATRISS CONSIDERED PhotoVisa to be of most importance to local photographers because of the possibilities it gives them at the portfolio review. And this year we saw a significant number of exhibitions in the official program by young artists who had participated in previous portfolio reviews in Krasnodar (Pavel Shevtsov, Tatyana Vasilieva, Olga Virich, Sergey Karpov, Evgeniy Smirnov, Nastya Vasilieva and pupils of Viktor Khmel and Elena Sukhoveeva). The winner of the 2011 portfolio review, Sohei Yasui, had his personal exhibition in the 2012 festival, as will the winner of 2012 portfolio review in 2013.
Bertrand Carrière from the series The Jubilee, Dieppe 2002 (detail). An exhibition by this Canadian artist was presented at the Felitzin State Historical and Archaeological Museum.
THE CENTRAL FESTIVAL PROGRAM was also based upon portfolio reviews, but this time a range of large international reviews, where Evgeny Berezner and Irina Chmyreva had participated as reviewers themselves. One of the largest projects was ‘Jubilee’ by the Canadian photographer Bertrand Carriere, who was another of the invited guests. The project, which had been selected at the Meeting Place at Houston FotoFest 2012, spoke about memory and the Second World War. The exhibitions by Dennis Hodges (another festival guest) and Susan A. Barnett presented in Krasnodar also came from the last portfolio review in Houston. The Encuentros Abiertos at the 2012 Festival de la Luz in Buenos Aires was another important portfolio review that helped to complete the program of PhotoVisa, with projects by Claudio Meneghetti, Jose Pilone, Tiago Coelho, Jose Diniz, Alejandro Almaraz and Cale. Of these Latin American artists, Meneghetti, Pilone, Almaraz and Cale all took part in Photovisa 2012 as invited festival guests.
Oleg Dou’s extensive exhibition at the Kovalenko Museum of Art attracted many visitors. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ [photo © Elena Firsova]
FOR NOW, it remains difficult to consider PhotoVisa as a truly ‘international’ festival: despite the attendance of the invited guests from abroad and several exhibitions by foreign authors, the majority of the audience is from Krasnodar itself and from places nearby such as Novorossiysk, Rostov-on-Done, Anapa and a few smaller localities. It is hard to imagine today that European and American people or those from other non-Russian-speaking regions would come to PhotoVisa just to see the exhibitions and take part in the activities. But that cannot be considered the main direction in PhotoVisa’s development just now. Bearing in mind that the professional photography sector is not well developed in this region, it would, for the moment, be a mistake to expect huge numbers of ‘professional’ visitors. It looks to be more important for the festival to focus attention on working with the local community, to grow a new public for the festival through education, as PhotoMonth in Kraków does. For example, the exhibition by the Russian digital artist Oleg Dou, which was presented as part of the 2012 program, helped to attract what was probably the festival’s largest number of visitors to The Kovalenko Museum of Art. This might be attributed to the provocative yet accessible nature of Dou’s work. It is also the case that Krasnodar is a rich town, with a potential for the growing the first generation of art collectors there.
The organisers have already begun working with the community to help ensure that the festival exhibitions are engaging and relevant for local visitors. The next step (which might be a parallel stage with local audience development) could involve attracting visitors from more distant localities, including metropolitan Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The development of PhotoVisa as a truly international event attracting visitors from abroad will come in tandem with the future of Russia itself. And it is too early to speculate about this now.
Meanwhile, the city of Krasnodar has already been given the informal status of ‘Russia’s Third Photo Capital’, mostly thanks to PhotoVisa. The authorities pay more and more attention to the festival every year and 2012 saw the mayor of Krasnodar visit the event for the first time. While it may still be searching for its identity and looking for its face among other festivals, PhotoVisa is, nonetheless, firmly established as the biggest and most professional regional photo festival in Russia.
Vladimir Evlanov, Mayor of Krasnodar (left), speaks with Irina Chmyreva and Andrey Chezhin at the Felitzin State Historical and Archaeological Museum where Chezhin’s exhibition ‘Self-portrait of the artist in midlife’ was one of the exhibitions on display. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ [photo © Vladimir Sergienko]
 Established in 1869 not far from Krasnodar on the shore of the Black sea, the winery takes its name from the local Myskhako area.
 Alejandro Almaraz and Cale were later named as the best photographers showing work at this review in Argentina.
This is Part 2 of Elena Firsova’s report on PhotoVisa festival in Krasnodar. You can read Part 1 here.
For more information on PhotoVisa, please go here.
For more information on the installation by Valera and Natasha Cherkashin, please go here.
This report was made by
Elena Firsova is a photography critic and Managing Editor of the Russian monthly magazine Foto&Video. She graduated from the Faculty of Journalism of Lomonosov Moscow State University and has a Master of Arts in Cultural Management from the University of Manchester, UK, in affiliation with the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences.
(Top) Evgeny Berezner speaking at the opening in Ulko studio, Anapa. Owned by two professional photographer, Igor and Olga Ulko, the studio/gallery is the only space exhibiting photography in the town. In 2012 PhotoVisa presented here ‘About the Sea’, an exhibition by the Brazilian artist José Diniz. [photo © Elena Firsova]
(Above) photo of Elena Firsova © Natalia Vertlib