This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – a sneak peek at some of the exhibitions programmed for the 15th annual Auckland Festival of Photography which opens on Thursday 31 May. Also, Tunisian photojournalist, Zied Ben Romdhane launches his first book, West of Life.
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Auckland Festival of Photography Celebrates 15 Years
This year’s Auckland Festival of Photography (AFP) presents a comprehensive programme of exhibitions, talks and events over three weeks (31 May to 22 June). The 2018 festival’s theme “Control” is curated by Gwen Lee, the curator and director of the Singapore International Photography Festival.
In thinking about “Control” Lee says in the 21st Century, “the rampant presence of photography has invaded both the private and public domains, leaving behind more questions than ever”. Twelve artists explore this theme in a diverse collection of work from the abstract to documentary. The majority of these exhibitions are at the AFB hub Silo Park in Wynyard Quarter, an amazing art space in the heart of the city right on the water’s edge (Ed’s tip: rug up!).
There are also 18 ‘Core’ exhibitions and 17 ‘Talking Culture’ events including presentations by the fabulous and generous Maggie Steber, an award-winning US photojournalist and long-time National Geographic contributor; Argentinian artist Alejandro Chaskielberg; and leading German political photographer Herlinde Koelbl. Plus there are numerous ‘Satellite’ exhibitions across the region.
The 2018 programme is evidence that AFP punches well above its weight, a fact that the Festival’s public participation director Julia Durkin says is lost on the funding bodies.
“Despite public funding paralysis in the country’s largest city, festival audiences have doubled in the past seven years. We keep hoping for increased investment for us to match our growing regional success,” says Durkin; a scenario Australian photography festivals are all too familiar with.
If the 2018 programme was done on a shoestring budget, with the support of sponsors and volunteers, imagine what they could do with proper financial investment! Bravo to Julia, Elaine and the team for a stellar line up. Wish I could be there again this year, but unfortunately I can’t make it ‘over the ditch’ this time.
Annual Commission – Alex Plumb
For the past 8 years AFP has commissioned a new body of work by an Auckland-based artist. This year commission is by Alex Plumb, known for his multi-channel video practice that “questions the psychological interplay between the subject, the viewer, and the site of performance. Plumb’s work conveys a heightened everyday world that shifts between the real and the imaginary depths of our subconscious mind and the desires that shape us.” His new work will be revealed on opening night.
AFP opens Thursday 31 May at Silo 6 and runs till 22 June. See the website for details.
Sneak Peek at the AFP programme:
American-based Sandra Chen Weinstein has two series in this year’s festival. SEOUL SEARCHING (CONTROL) explores the cultural and economic rebirth of South Korea shot from the unusual vantage point of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the world’s most dangerous border.
Her second exhibition is DIGNITY FOR PALESTINE. To create this series Chen Weinstein walked the Arab West Bank from Jerusalem to Hebron, crossing through the very checkpoints that Palestinians have to navigate everyday. She says her motivation with this project was to document the lives of locals who struggle to survive in “the apartheid-like system of Israel’s continuing occupation of the Palestinian Territories”. Her curiosity was matched by the Palestinians; for many she was the first Taiwanese/Chinese woman they had encountered and you can see this mutual cultural exchange in the warmth of her pictures.
FALSE POSITIVES (CONTROL) – Dutch artist Esther Hovers investigates how power, politics and control are exercised through urban planning and the use of public space.
FACE OFF (CONTROL) – UK photographer Jacob Burge explores the culture of surveillance in the digital space.
WAYS TO TIE TREES (CONTROL) – in this exhibition Singapore-born Woong Soak Teng delivers an intimate encounter with “trees and their much-overlooked structures in the man-made garden city of Singapore”.
SEWING FIELDS (CONTROL) – Taipei-based Hou, I-Ting combines embroidery with digital images to explore female labour conditions under historical and contemporary social and economic systems.
GROUND WATER MIRROR – Conor Clarke’s work “connects waters of Berlin to Auckland to Whanganui to ask if we seek out nature in order to appreciate it or to find a solution to urban living as a means of self-reflection.”
LABERINTO – Argentinian photographer and videographer Alejandro Chaskielberg presents his Laberinto series featuring “magical Patagonia landscapes” displayed as a CBD lightbox exhibition. 1-24 June, Freyberg Place CBD, artist’s talk Auckland Art Gallery 1.30pm, 3 June
Zied Ben Romdhane – West of Life
In 2011 Zied Ben Romdhane shifted his focus, moving from working as a commercial photographer to concentrating on social documentary projects. Two years later he was a participant in World Press Photo’s Reporting Change initiative, which ran between 2012 and 2014 with the dual goals of providing training to create “strong, professional, and self-reliant visual journalism communities in the Middle East and North Africa” and promoting narratives of regional change from local perspectives. Romdhane’s West of Life is a perfect example of these objectives realised.
West of Life, his first book, tells a story about Gafsa, a phosphate mining region in southwest of Tunisia. Romdhane says that while mining companies benefit from the extraction of valuable resources, local communities eek out a living in highly polluted, impoverished villages.
“This is my testimony of the harshness of the place, balanced I hope by the humor of the inhabitants and my affection for them.”
Published by Red Hook Editions, Brooklyn New York