Pingyao, China: Today, the Pingyao International Photography Festival opened in China. It features approximately 20,000 images from 2,000 authors and photographic artists across 400 exhibitions. Curator Thomas Kellner (born in 1966 in Bonn) is presenting the exhibition "Look! Contemporary Photography Between Performance and Staging" this year.
Today, we're discussing photography. Photography is something that everyone encounters. Almost everyone has a camera in their pocket, specifically in their smartphone. It takes only seconds to activate the camera and take a picture. We can then send this picture to our friends on the other side of the world or to those sitting next to us. Social media is popular because it showcases the daily lives of people from all around the world. We see how others pose in front of the camera, and we also take photos of ourselves to be seen by others.
In fine art photography, the artist decides what they want to show us and what emotions and thoughts they want to evoke. Art adds deeper meaning to photography. It not only captures the external appearance but also evokes emotions and thoughts. Therefore, our relationship with the camera has evolved over the years. Photography can serve to preserve important moments or document social interactions. It can also be a means of self-expression. Nowadays, posing in front of the camera can even influence our relationship with ourselves and change us.
The exhibition "Look!" showcases all these aspects of photography. It shows us how people live today and who they are. Eight photographers from different countries present their works, allowing us to immerse ourselves in various cultures and identities. For example, Lili Almog's images illustrate how our world has changed. We have become emotionally and physically distant from each other. The portraits of masked women in an abandoned city symbolize this change. Michelle Sank's portraits are also deeply moving. They show how people express their personalities through body language, clothing, and behavior. Each portrait tells a story and represents individuality and cultural background.
The same applies to the work of Dan Nelken. He photographed hardworking women in Uganda. The portraits reveal the strength of these women and tell their stories. Here too, the relationship with the camera is a form of self-reflection. It shows who we are or who we aspire to be. It also highlights the pressure to be perfect. But what happens when we let go of that pressure? What happens when a photo captures our true feelings and challenges? Can we still distinguish between genuine personality and an artificial facade?
Patty Caroll and Suzanne Banning raise similar questions. Patty Caroll photographs mannequins in decorated spaces, while Kent Krugh combines X-ray images with photographs to depict illuminated mannequins. They aim to portray the essence of humanity - body, soul, and mind - perhaps in a new form. They show how deeply we can introspect and reexamine the concepts of authenticity and artifice.
Our self-representation influences our relationship with our own bodies. Often, we believe that our bodies must be beautiful to be accepted. Suzanne Banning's photographs, however, show how much we are a reflection of this world. Jürgen Königs travels through the beginnings of photography in his images by inserting himself into the pictures. Is this the key to authenticity?
The question of truth, or rather, authorship of images arises with Boris Eldagsen. Boris fed an AI tool with specific images from a particular time (action). The machine then generates new images (reaction) from the original motifs. They transport us into a staged world where we no longer direct the narrative. The path Boris Eldagsen takes here is more akin to Fluxus and happening than traditional photography. He emphasizes that the images are merely the result of a staged process. Yet, they are "beautiful." Our relationship with the camera, our authorship, and our self-perception have evolved and developed over time. The exhibitions are on display from September 19th to September 25th in Pingyao.
Look! Contemporary Photography between staging and performance
September 19–25, 2023
Pingyao, Peoples Republic of China
Partcipating photographers: Lili Almog, Suzanne Banning, Patty Carroll, Kathryn Dunlevie, Boris Eldagsen, Jürgen Königs, Dan Nelken and Michelle Sank.