Report from Stu Sontier at Pingyao International Photography Festival, 2016.
The festival is well under way now and the craziness of hanging and captioning well behind us. This year, John Turner has curated an approx 100 image show of Tom Hutchins work from 1956, and I am here as the PhotoForum representative.
We both arrived on the 17th with the exhibition to open on the 19th. There was no sign of our framed prints so we killed time meeting a local photographer friend of John’s.
The following day we, and our 3 assigned helpers, had to first unpack and then arrange the pictures in order. Then came the task of arranging them on the wall, with less space than we had expected.
We gradually worked our way through a number of problems including missing pictures and reformatting and printing captions, finishing late in the evening. Although without captions on the wall. Throughout the hanging we already had a stream of people coming through, peering closely, taking pictures of the pictures and pictures of us with the pictures, and selfies with the pictures. Pictures of anything it seemed.
The following morning we were treated to what can only be called an extravaganza of Chinese proportions, with huge video displays showing bizarre cartoons for some unknown reason. There were some formal speeches as there are at such things but the main purpose seemed to be to get the foreign photographers out in public and subject them to what they sometimes impose on others. Again we were photographed photographing our peers photographing all manner of subjects and in a sign of the time we were also filmed from above by several drones.
The military, police and swat teams were all out in force but generally used just to keep the photographers under control. After these formalities and another million pictures added to the global stock bank, we came back to our show to interact with the audience.
Pingyao is awe inspiring to say the least, with the work of 200 overseas and 2000 Chinese photographers on show. The visitor number is huge too and an uncountable number are moving through the space, with greater or lesser levels of interest. John has been interviewed numerous times with at least two TV crews being on the list. We’ve also started visiting a few of the many other exhibitions and meeting some of the many local and overseas photographers. That includes the other NZ contingent, who are part of a curated show by Rosanna Raymond and organised by the Auckland Festival of Photography. The show, Ata Te Tangata, showcases Pacific Island photographers with a range of cultural interests. Four of the photographers, and the curator are in Pingyao, and all, with John, participated in the “Dialogue with NZ Curators and Photographers” with a good audience turnout.
The festival continues for another two full days and as a first time visitor, I can recommend attending if you want a mix of culture shock, great food, misinterpreted English and Chinese (learn a little), and an awful lot of photography covering many genres and at many levels, from top local and international names, to outstanding student work.
John B. Turner’s Photography Blog, dated 16 December 2014:
The New Zealand contribution to the 2014 Pingyao International Photography Festival included three exhibitions, six floor talks, a three-hour seminar, several television interviews, posing with Chinese strangers, and making new friends from all over the world. The vocabulary of PIP volunteer translators, who were mostly students of the dynamic Amy Liu of Taiyuan Technical University, was seriously tested with our odd Kiwi accents and vernacular speech. Julia Durkin, Director of the Auckland Festival of Photography, somehow found time from intense networking to join the portfolio review team, while I, as a guest curator, was free to network after helping “my” photographers, Craig Potton (Nelson), Ian Macdonald, (Auckland), and the environmental sculpture couple, Martin Hill and Philippa Jones (Wanaka), whom I had not met before, to settle in. They were joined by Jenny Tomlin, from Auckland, who had a solo exhibition. To cap the NZ presence, Martin Hill won an ‘Excellent Photographer Award’ and 4,000 people were given a free copy of the 32-page A6 bilingual catalogue of To Save a Forest… Photographs by leading New Zealand conservationists: Martin Hill, Ian Macdonald and Craig Potton.
As usual, there were pluses and minuses to the PIP Festival, with the positives dominating, and apart from the extraordinary array of photographs on display, it was the genuine warmth of their welcome, and the generous help from the volunteers that made a huge impression. Ian Macdonald summed up the exhibitions when after his initial foray he returned to exclaim that he had seen more outstanding photographs in two hours at PIP than he had seen during his recent exploration of London’s photography scene over a four week period. Ian and Elise Macdonald are legendary hosts, and Ian did as much as any official tourist bureau could to entice their new Chinese friends to get to enjoy a New Zealand visit and visit them at home in Matakana.’
Compared to her first PIP exhibition, featuring four Aucklanders, Chris Corson-Scott, Geoffrey Heath, Anita Jacobsen, and Vicky Thomas, last year, Elaine Smith’s 2014 selection was undermined by including the work of Qiane Matata-Sipu, who despite showing some promise, has simply not yet reached the level of technical competence or confidence shown by the other exhibitors: Tano Gago, Solomon Mortimer, and Tim Veling. To make matters worse, the exemplary work of Gago and Veling was displayed on the heavily shaded walls, while Matata-Sipu’s (and Mortimer’s) weaker prints received the limelight. Allocated what should have been a good space in the revamped Diesel Factory B7, the Auckland Festival was stuck between a rock and a hard place because of inadequate lighting for the best (and largest) works in their show. What’s the point of showing fine images under pathetically uneven lighting conditions? So I have to ask of the people responsible, Why wasn’t the same care taken downstairs, as that taken for the proper and more versatile lighting on the floor above where PIP’s permanent collection was newly installed? It shouldn’t be a big deal to provide reasonably even lighting on both sides of all display panels? It was galling to see, just around the corner, empty display spaces with beautiful natural light begging to be filled, and another filled with a display of backpacks for sale. (Julia Durkin informs me that restrictions on the use of nails or screws forced them to change Elaine’s planned layout for all of the work. “The lighting correction was requested,” Julia said, but like curator Alasdair Foster with his exhibition, she had no luck in getting the lighting fixed.)
I was also tormented by the fact that no extra lighting would be provided to brighten the shaded side of the panels for our ‘To Save a Forest…’ show. The effect was to compromise viewing of most of Craig Potton’s work until late afternoon when the small floodlights unevenly illuminated his glowing prints and shaded Ian’s and Martin’s.
That PIP suffers from serious underfunding is pretty obvious. The Shanxi government’s decision to make PIP more of a fair, with a new avenue of overhead lanterns lined with numerous small stalls offering tourist trinkets, demonstrates an inability to understand the uniqueness and the real needs of such a festival, with so much potential for increasing the number of informed foreign and Chinese visitors with a particular interest in photography. Equally, the razzle dazzle of the Awards event, designed exactly like a commercial television presentation, is another lost opportunity to seriously celebrate photographers and photography. Not least because when something went seriously wrong with the electronics this year, the small intended slide show of work on exhibition was not seen.
Coming back to the issue of display lighting, it was, ironically, very noticeable in B7, how beautifully lit the delightful and impressive cellphone exhibition, ‘My Bed & One Day in China’ was. Subtitled ‘The First China’s Top Ten Mobile Phone Photographers’ a kpkpw show curated by Fu Yongjun. When I asked why their lighting was superior the answer was that exhibitors could reposition the lights for their work. However that might be, the lighting system elsewhere, high in the ceiling, did not look that sufficient or flexible.
In last year’s PIP blog I had expressed my hope that the Auckland Festival and any other contributions would present significant work from south of the Bombay hills, to better represent photography in New Zealand, so it was good to see Veling, Hill and Potton included in this year’s offerings. A three-hour seminar by Hill, Potton, and Macdonald was attended by over 70 people, mainly in the younger age group, with several expressing their hope of visiting and studying in New Zealand.
It is interesting, but by no means comforting, to see that some of the finest work featured at PIP is often displayed in the labyrinth of makeshift and often leaking spaces that PIP is renowned for. Thus Jenny Tomlin found her pinhole work displayed opposite that of Ed Kashi, the VII agency photographer, in equally dismal lighting in Diesel Factory A5, where my ‘Tint’ exhibition was held in 2013. For Jenny, who is an expert analogue printer, the main consolation and trade off was likely the huge number of people who “saw” her work and took an interest in her mysterious low tech images. “Glimpsed,” however, would be a more accurate description of the interaction from the great majority of onlookers who have not learned the rewards of paying adequate attention to pictures and their meaning. Some smart ones used the light from their cell phones to take a closer look in the shadows. Kashi, billed as a star attraction, and a PIP award winner, didn’t visit Pingyao to see where his three essays were displayed, but his work can best be seen in publications and on the web. Jenny’s best prints, with their nuances of tone, detail and colour need to be seen in decent lighting.
International exhibition presentation submissions are open for established artists.
Our partners in Thailand are now seeking work from Asia and overseas, including NZ, for documentary photography work, Chiang Mai Documentary Arts Festival are looking for in depth documentary work from Asia or on Asian communities overseas. They show prints, documentaries and multi-media – http://cdaf.asia/submissions-2015/ this link has a submission form.
And across the Tasman in Australia, our Sydney partner, Head On Festival, are open for submissions, see their website for details – applications close on 12th October.
Now launched is the new Asia Pacific Photoforum website, for this collaborative network of professionally delivered photography Festivals who work co-operatively towards the promotion of photography and photographic art throughout Asia, Australasia and the Pacific rim through the exchange of ideas, artists, support and cross promotion between member festivals. Like our Asia Pacific Photoforum facebook page too!
Sponsorship Associate opportunity
After eleven successful Festivals, we have established the Auckland Festival of Photography as the premium photographic event in New Zealand, and grown and developed a number of unique events, competitions and commissions within our programme as well as growing an international network of partner Festivals across the Asia Pacific.
We are now seeking the services of a dynamic individual to concentrate and further develop our fundraising, stakeholder support and commercial sponsorship. Due to a ongoing sustainability drive we are looking to expand our income to match our workload and proven track record of success. This Sponsorship Associate opportunity is envisaged as a volunteer position, with time commitment and honoraria level to be negotiated. If you fit the bill, have a proven track record, and think you have what it takes to move our festival to the next level, then drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with subject of “Show us the Money” with brief CV or acheivement list. Expressions of interest welcome until 21st October 2014.
EyeContact is a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. Zara Sigglekow has just compiled this review of Recent Auckland Photography exhibition (20 May – 12 June 2013), which is now posted on their website. Below is an extract from her article.
Photography at North Art
Derek Henderson, Kevin Simmons, Leanne Hema and Troy Burton, Reid’s Farm, 2007.
‘Recent Auckland Photography at North Art gallery was part of the Auckland Festival of Photography. Set over two gallery spaces this large exhibition is accompanied with an extensive publication, which includes an introduction by the curators Chris Corson-Scott and Edward Hanfling, foreword by senior Auckland Art Gallery curator Ron Brownson, and brief essays on each photographer. Within the expanse of approaches represented in the festival the curators choose to focus on a particular style of photography. While somewhat narrow, this is necessary in order to create a survey of coherence and depth and prevent a mish-mash of styles and approaches.
The photographs chosen are what could be labelled ‘straight’ photography. There is no push to abstraction, overt manipulation or over conceptualisation. Yet – as stressed in the accompanying book’s introduction – they are not ‘snapshots’ or ‘documents’ taken with an impartial and objective eye. The photographers ‘make’ the pictures selecting with scene with intentionality, framing the image and sometimes staging its contents. All twelve photographers take photographs that are ‘scapes’ of the world around them: cityscapes; suburbanscapes; landscapes, and the details that lie within them. Some engage with identity and history while others scrutinise the present. The restriction of ‘Auckland’ is taken loosely: either photographs taken of Auckland or by Auckland photographers in international or Auckland regional locations.’ Read the full reviewHERE
This Saturday (8th June) at 3pm, Ron Brownson (Senior Curator New Zealand and Pacific Art at Auckland Art Gallery), will be giving a gallery talk at Northart, on their current exhibition Recent Auckland Photography. Exhibition curators Edward Hanfling and Chris Corson-Scott will join the discussion, followed by an informal “meet the artists” session. Refreshments will be served, refer poster below for full details.
Copies of the accompanying publication Pictures They Want to Make – Recent Auckland Photography will also be available. If you are interested in this publication (or learning more about PhotoForum), do feel welcome to chat with us. Current members also have the opportunity to pick up their subscription copies at the event. We look forward to seeing you there!
Gus Fisher Gallery, Fine Arts
4 May 2012 to 23 June 2012
Opening event: Friday 4 May, 5.30pm
Image by Peter Peryer: Michael Dunn, 1983, vintage gelatin silver print, courtesy the artist and McNamara Gallery.
This exhibition highlights the intermittent periods of portrait photography that Peter Peryer has completed. Showcasing work from 1975 through to 2011, these portraits are collectively titled ‘Other’, in distinction from the ‘Erika’ suite and self-portraits. The exhibition illuminates Peryer’s approach to the human form, offering single portraits that are intricately planned and characterised by an enticing quality of mystery. While his later portraits are more tightly cropped and are often set against a blank backdrop, there remains a perceptible thread of stillness and mystery that runs through the entirety of his work.
Saturday 5 May, 1pm
Fiona Pardington talks to fellow photographer and Arts Foundation Laureate Peter Peryer about his Gus Fisher Gallery exhibition Other (Portraits 1975 – 2011).
Saturday 19 May, 1pm
Dr Erika Wolf discusses the work of Peter Peryer. Erika lectures on both historical and contemporary photography in the Department of History and Art History at the University of Otago. She co-edited the recent anthology Early New Zealand Photographs: Images and Essays (University of Otago Press, 2011).
Following on from last year’s success, we are again collaboratively hosting a Pecha Kucha Night as part of the 2011 Auckland Festival of Photography. We hope many of you, along with your friends, can join us for what promises to be another enjoyable and informative evening.
PhotoForum PKN_AKL_26 // Wed 15 June// Hopetoun Alpha // 19 Beresford Sq., Ak Central // Tickets $10 (cash) door sales only // Doors open 7.30pm // Event start 8.20pm.
Leading photographers from diverse backgrounds present their work in the Pecha Kucha 20/20 slideshow format (20 images, each shown for 20 secs, total presentation time 6mins 40 sec). Presenters include: Edith Amituanai, Greta Anderson, Julie Downie, Peter Evans, Jae Hoon Lee, James K. Lowe, John Lyall, John Miller, Peter Peryer, Peter James Quinn, Marie Shannon, Geoffrey H. Short and Wayne Wilson Wong.
Exhibition: 23 June to 16 July 2010 Gallery Hours 9am – 4pm Opening: 22 June at 5pm
Photographers Eva Kozub and Vanessa Parkercontemplate their lives by capturing moments, people, objects and other fragments of the everyday. These quiet images reflect the act of looking at oneself in the mirror and the self-analysis that follows.
This exhibition profiles winners and champions from the length and breadth of New Zealand. All the people included in the exhibition have won competitions at a high level, often nationally or internationally, sometimes setting world records. From jam-making to rodeo these are people with passion and determination.
Nocturne by Ava Seymour
For Lopdell House Gallery Ava presents a new series of works developed during her summer residency in the studio next to Colin McCahon’s cottage in French Bay. Combining photoshop, collage and photography, Seymour’s images explore the subtleties of colour and shape and the relationships between form and line.
Lopdell House Gallery: Corner Titirangi & South Titirangi Rds, Titirangi, Waitakere City, Hours: Daily from 10am- 4pm (except public holidays as listed on website)
Artstation’s latest exhibition, Transition, invites the viewer into a world of change as portrayed through the eyes of four diverse photographers, from 2 to 19 June 2010.
Photographers Alice Ng, William Booth, Heejeong Min and Leigh Bell each put their unique stamp on this exhibition through a range of photography styles including portraiture, landscape and documentary.