CULTURE

An international photo festival

THESSALONIKI – It is the largest and most international event on photography held in this country. Since its establishment by Aris Georgiou almost two decades ago, the Thessaloniki-held Photosynkyria has been a growing, varied event consisting of multiple exhibitions and parallel events, a true festival on photography that has acquainted the Greek public with some of the biggest international names in the field and the history of photography. This year’s Photosynkyria has been one of the most ambitious and international. Designed by Vangelis Ioakimidis, director of the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography (organizer of the event since the museum’s foundation), it includes additional events that are breathing new life into the festival by turning it into a lively meeting ground and a useful network for photographers from all over the world. The broad range of «the 19th International Photographic Meeting» (the name of this year’s Photosynkyria) anticipates the Photo-Biennale, a larger event that will replace Photosynkyria and will be held on a two-year basis, alternating with another burgeoning event, the Biennale of Contemporary Art that is to be inaugurated in Thessaloniki at the end of the month. Apart from the various exhibitions that were held all over Thessaloniki and were based on the notion of «Time,» this year’s Photosynkyria also had the character of a workshop. In Portfolio Reviews, an important parallel event established for the first time this year, about 50 short-listed Greek and international photographers had the rare chance to discuss their work with 20 reviewers – all highly experienced and well-known personalities in the field – who were invited from around the world by the Museum of Photography. The remarks that both the reviewers and those reviewed made on the event ranged from positive to enthusiastic. «It has gone very well. The level of the work is up and down, which is not surprising for an event which is taking place for the first time. Some of the photographers are very talented but not experienced in showing their work. I have seen around five people who are at a level to show their work in top exhibitions,» Fred Baldwin, director of the Houston-held Fotofest, told Kathimerini English Edition. Baldwin, an award-winning photographer who has worked as a freelance photo-reporter for some of the top US magazines, also commented on the excellent organization of the event and the hard work that has gone into it. Krzysztof Candrowicz, director of the International Festival in Lodz and the European Photofestival Union, said the selection of photographers was very good and noted the event’s international aspect. «The Portfolio Reviews is helping photographers to gain international exposure,» said Issa Tuma, director of the International Photography Festival in Aleppo, Syria. With almost 600 meetings taking place between photographers and reviewers, the Portfolio Reviews gives photographers important feedback on their work and, potentially, opens up new opportunities. For Greek photographers, this international exposure comes as a rare chance, yet the fact that the event also drew in international photographers shows that the event is not just of local importance. Juliana Beasley, an American photographer who learned of the event through the Internet, chose Photosynkyria over another international photo festival and was enthusiastic about the event. Another addition to this year’s Photosynkyria is the Cedefop (European Center for the Development of Vocational Training) Award, which is given in collaboration with the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography to a selected photographer. The workshop-like, lively character of Photosynkyria was also underlined by another new section which focused on photojournalism and included slide show projections, discussion panels and master classes. Another event was the International Reflexions master classes, a series of seminars held in various parts of the world, this time in Thessaloniki. The exhibition program has always been one of Photosynkyria’s biggest strengths. Including historical, archival material and contemporary photography, the exhibitions that were organized this year were – for their most part – singled out for the artistic value and rareness of the photographs that they presented. The Andre Kertesz (1894-1985) exhibition – being held at the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, curated by Vangelis Ioakimidis and organized in collaboration with the Jeu de Paume – is a display of the exquisite photographic finesse and talent that permeates the entire oeuvre of this great artist. Kertesz’s play with light and shadow and his ability to breathe life into inanimate objects makes a lasting impression. A photograph by Kertesz is also included in «Entre Deux,» an exhibition curated by Petros Petropoulos at the Museum of Byzantine Culture. Drawn from the «Premiere Heure» collection, the photographs in the exhibition include precious photographs, including early daguerreotypes. Among the images shown is the first NASA photograph taken in orbit. Other beautiful images include work by Robert Frank, Andre Breton and Theodore Feininger. Considering the historical importance of most of the pictures, the inclusion of contemporary work by Wolfgang Tillmans or Nan Goldin seems misplaced. Another highlight is an exhibition on the photographs that Spyros Meletzis took during the Greek resistance in the period 1942-1944. Curated by Nina Kassianou (an expert on the work of Meletzis) and Nicolas Sanchez Dura and held at the National Bank Cultural Foundation (MIET), the exhibition includes vintage images that were printed by Meletzis. The propagandistic-like photographs of the National Liberation Front (EAM) officials are among the most typical in the series. Also at the MIET, an exhibition curated by Costis Antoniadis and drawn from the Nikos Politis collection presents children’s photographic portraits from 1880-1950. The exhibition is telling of changing notions of childhood. In another unusual exhibition, photos from the United Photoreporters Agency Archive and the collection of Nikos Tolis capture important moments in the history of Greece from 1944-1964, all through images that include automobiles. Beautiful specimens of contemporary photography are included in «Images of a Territory,» a group exhibition (curated by Marcelo Fortini) that includes the photographs that 14 artists took on Corsica. Curator Bia Papadopoulou has organized a group exhibition that focuses on the use of photography by artists who are painters or sculptors. Among the numerous solo exhibitions, «A Traveler’s Readings» by Diane Katsiaficas, the elegant, photographic portraits taken by Costis Ignatiadis of his artist friends, the poetic images of the Spanish photographer David Jimenez, the atmospheric spaces of Sarkissian Hair or the confrontational images of Manolis Baboussis each offer a different, interesting take on contemporary photography. They are all part of a successful and important event in the field of photography, a festival that is setting new goals and fosters the exchange of ideas and collaborations in the field. Thessaloniki Photography Museum (2310.556.717, www.thmphoto.gr).