16-25 September 2016 –

This year’s edition of Unseen Photo Festival, the annual festival began in 2012 by Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, Platform A, and creative agency Vandejong, highlights the most recent developments in photography by presenting emerging talent and new works by established artists. The festival and art fair invites viewers to experience a unique week the best in contemporary photography from across the world, with 53 galleries presenting booths at the fairgrounds in Westergasfabriek park, site-specific installations and exhibitions in the surrounding area, Spaarndammerbuurt, alongside involvement of cultural organisation across Amsterdam that all host public programmes, events, masterclasses and of course, parties.

There is so much to see and do but Unseen’s Photo Festival proved a fascinating thesis in site-specific presentations described as the ‘Festival Heart’ and was spread across 10 sites all over Spaarndammerbuurt including a historic museum (Museum Het Schip), hotel (WestCord Art Hotel), wine shop (JacqWijn), old people’s home (De Bogt-WeterBeer), restaurant (Buurtrestaurant), library (OBA Spaarndammerstraat) and the streets of Zaansrat and Spaarndammerplantsoen. This curated display occurred in one of the oldest districts of Europe, where the factory workers of Amsterdam resided and is now a neighbourhood known for its world famous Amsterdam School, which celebrated its 100th anniversary this year.

As you depart the fair and begin walking through this beautiful and typical Amsterdam-styled streets, the first work you encounter is the aptly named Dazzleswing by Ola Lanko at the Zaanstrat, here, photography creates a large-scale illusion with multiple replicated images creating a dazzling façade housing swings for children to play in. A short distance from this installation was the Anton Corbijn curated mini-exhibition, Touched – Craftsmanship in Contemporary Photography at Museum Het Schip, that brought together the works of twelve mostly younger artists who all mediate on ‘artisanal photographic processes’. This display’s highlights included Barbie Fitness, 2014 by Thomas Mailaender, a stunning large format Cyanotype on plaster board depicting a muscled female backing the viewer’s gaze, and also on display were Adam Jeppesen’s stunning Xerography landscapes. The most of all the works here was the eye-catching, pop-influenced installation, The Politics of Sport, 2016, by Christto & Andrew which took place in The Brediusbad, an outdoor swimming pool located next to the WestCord Art Hotel. This site-specific work was influenced by the duo’s recent residency in Qatar where the artist’s considered current developments in the sports industry specific to the country. Here, the prominence of hosting mega sporting events was parodied through showing how power can be asserted through a specific aesthetic.

Unseen Photo Festival and its accompanying art fair offer a unique format solely focused on one medium, photography, but at the same time presents it in its most expanded definition. It is a testimony to how far photography has developed since it first emerged in the 1830s.
The death of photography it seems is still, of, course a non-event.

By Jareh Das