There are a lot of photography festivals around the world: they often bring together photographers from different parts of the world, there's usually residencies or workshops of some kind, a final exhibition and sometimes, even a photobook festival. A lot of cities and organisations clamour to get them happening in their own backyards. And some of them offer a great way of exposing new photographers to the photography public and opportunities to refine their craft.
I've mentioned in recent posts that besides the other projects I've been working on recently, I've also done some work translating the catalogue and printed material for Bitume Photofest 2015. It's their second annual photographic exhibition, and as an event, it has quickly shaped up as the most important photographic event on the southern Italian calendar.
While there are so many photography festivals that seem to take place nowadays, I would say that very few of them actually seek to engage with the wider public. This is what sets Bitume apart from so many of the photography festivals that take place each year.
One of Bitume's main goals is to engage the wider public, not just those who might otherwise purchase a ticket or be willing to enter a gallery or converted loft. What we are talking about here are large scale installations that make themselves at home in and amongst the city. In public spaces, residential streets...wherever there is an appropriate space in the city.
In this case, the city is one of Italy's most beautiful (and oldest). Gallipoli. It's a scenic port city on the Ionian coast, full of charming laneways and snaking streets. And though it's just a half hour away from cosmopolitan Lecce, it's like stepping back in time, especially if you visit its historic centre which is basically a walled island. Honestly, if you have a stereotypical view of what a small Mediterranean city is supposed to look and feel like, then you're going to be pretty vindicated with the old town of Gallipoli. It really is a gorgeous place, especially when it's not overrun with tourists.
This year Bitume's event is taking place there and I head down there yesterday for the launch. It was a great excuse to inspect the large scale prints that have taken over parts of the city and that are elbowing for your attention. It was also a great excuse to take my favourite editor in the world out to Gallipoli and give her the chance to kill two birds with one stone: get some culture and see Gallipoli in action while tagging along for the curator's tour.
Bitume's exhibition is mostly an outdoors one. It takes place on ramparts, piers, city walls, balconies and other surfaces that the photography deems worthy as a temporary home. (There are also conventional indoor exhibitions).
You mightn't think it, but this is a challenging undertaking. You'll be surprised to know that beyond cities that have been schooled and educated in outdoor festivals, the realities can be difficult when you're importing the concept to somewhere new (old). There are a million considerations about how and where you're going to exhibit work, how you're going to maximise their visibility, and how you're going to protect them and ensure that they withstand the elements.
As such, the curatorial team have had to deal with a number of logistical problems with some of the installations.
Also, and unfortunately, people will be people sometimes, meaning that some people in the city took it upon themselves to deface a couple of the pieces that lined the streets. But in a way, it's almost the ideal thing to happen. Unfortunate for the handful of works, but ultimately it will act towards educating more people in appreciating such an ambitious undertaking. (And let's face it, bored teens, the likely culprits, exist everywhere in the world.)
But no matter, the issues were isolated and snaking through Gallipoli's streets over the next week or so will reveal some wonderful artwork that has been sought and collected from around the world. I'll be heading back for a proper look at the indoor exhibits later this week, but there are a host of public events also taking place over the coming week. Check the website for more information.
The photos in the post offer only a selection of the outdoor exhibits on show. Specific posts relating to the photographers featured in my post are linked below:
Lucas Foglia's A Natural Order.
Thomas Savin's Beijing Silvermine.
Gregg Segal's 7 days of Garbage
Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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