Fotografia Europea 2014 in Reggio Emilia, Italy

What started as a weekend long excursion from Paris, France, May 2-4 to see a friend’s solo show at the 9th annual Fotografia Europea in Reggio Emilia, turned into a week long love affair with Italy’s Emilia Romagna region. Years ago, a boyfriend who introduced me to Italy suggested that I might need to someday choose between Italy and France. Lucky in love for me I found a loop hole. As it turns out, being torn between two lovers in Europe is not an issue. In fact, Europeans embrace the notion of the cinq à sept – a double meaning for “happy hour” as well as another life prolonging habit. Whether visiting as a photo geek or not, you’ll be seduced to stay by the infamous happy hours and by seeing, eating and touring your way through this fabulous and under rated region. All the while,  its’ warm and friendly residents will appreciate your enthusiastic hand waiving efforts in limited Italian and encourage you to “ritorna presto”.

Headliners of the Fotografia Europea

ghirriLuigi Ghirri moonSarah Moon listHerbert List broombergBroomberg & Chanarin

Fotografia Europea, the international photography festival held in the tiny walk-able ancient city of Reggio Emilia since 2006, opens its gates the first week of every May. This year exhibitions, talks and installations were guided by a reflection on the theme of the infinite gaze, or Vedere. Uno sguardo infinito. Sixteen exhibition sites sprinkled throughout the village included some festival big timers including French photography sensation Sarah Moon, eight Magnum Photographers, archives of Italian photo legend Luigi Ghirri as well as other emerging international and Italian talents. An “off festival” which tends to accompany most regularly programmed photo festivals these days, also offered independent selections displayed at various municipalities and art galleries throughout the city.

Key participant Magnum photo who seems to be in every single photo festival worldwide today, organized and presented a retrospective of member Herbert List. Shown for the first time in Reggio Emilia at Fotografia Europea, the exhibit featured approximately a hundred works from the List Estate. In a separate gallery, under the theme of No Place like Home,  photographers Christopher Anderson, Jonas Bendiksen, Bruce Gilden, Trent Parke, Martin Parr, Jacob Aue Sobol, Mikhael Subotsky and Patrick Zachmann exhibited works curated from their own archives.

A large exhibit of work from Broomberg and Chanarin’s photo book Holy Bible was also on view. In the last year, the book and work has gotten a lot of attention and acclaim. While a very clever concept indeed, I have a hard time engaging and entering into the work, perhaps due to my lack of intimate knowledge with the King James. Your insights and thoughts about this work in the comments section are welcome.

Traveling to Europe for these festivals always leaves me comparing the work of emerging European photographers to those I see in the United States. As cultural and historical references inform an artist’s work – sometimes I walk away from a series in Europe thinking “that was really weird”.  Not bad weird but simply  “I don’t understand the meaning or I don’t quite get it because I”m not from here weird”. Which is to say that all in all, it’s a beautiful and very healthy experience causing one to dig deeper and learn more. Overall, Europe provides artists more opportunity to “put it out there” and as such to take risks. As expected, the result is at once freeing, fascinating and unique and at times banal and derivative.  One benefit of seeing work at a Fotofestival is that it is carefully selected and curated by industry professionals. This however can also be an issue – posing questions of equal opportunity as illustrated on the french blog Atlantes Cariatides.  For this reason and others, “off festivals” which aspire to function as a type of “salon de refuse” have the potential to be evocative and interesting. For a comprehensive list of worldwide photography festivals visit Fotografia Magazine and be sure to leave your comments below.

Fotografia Europea 2014 reggio Emilia
Seeing an infinite gaze
Until 15th June/28th July 2014
42121 Reggio Emilia, Italy

All text and photography ©Erika Gentry 2014 All Rights Reserved

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