IF there’s one thing that’s on the mind of Europeans at the moment, it’s the question of immigration.
Whether in the northern European countries (destination points) or the southern nations (arrival points), you’re bound to encounter real division on the matter.
Naturally, as an issue that is gripping society, immigration is also proving to be an endless source of inspiration and work for photographers – particularly those unafraid of trying to tackle social issues.
The third edition of the Bitume photo festival focuses the theme of Identity Flows, often as occurs in the urban context. As a result, immigration is a theme that recurs pretty frequently in the selections for this year’s festival in Lecce [September 3 – 10].
This year, Bitume went international: after two years of exhibits in the south of Puglia, the project was awarded and expanded, and, as a result, the team hosted festivals in Malaga and Thessaloniki – in Spain and Greece – not coincidentally, the other two southern EU countries feeling the brunt of the humanitarian crisis.
Bitume’s growing stature as a photo festival [which incorporates large scale outdoor exhibits, workshops and a week-long residency for selected participants in addition to collateral indoor exhibits and other events] means that the program is brimming with both up-and-coming and established photographers.
There’s some interesting work on offer, and, because the urban experience is about more than just the question of immigration, there are some interesting and quirky projects that are part of the line-up that don’t seek to address the immigration issue.
I‘ll post about the immigration projects in another post, but in the meantime, I’ve scanned through and noted what I think are going to be some of the highlights of the program.
I’m looking forward to getting up close and personal with Giorgio Di Noto’s The Valley: its black and white city-scapes seem to be silver plated, as well as Jan Stradtmann’s mysterious Subversive Eclipse project which has a golden glow to it and was a result of his stay here at last year's festival. Stradtmann’s location scout deserves an award, but credit as usual to Jan for the classy shots he’s able to pull off in challenging light.
Elsewhere, while most of Europe starts to pack its bags and head home from their vacations, Jorge Fuembuena’s Holidays reminds us of the relationship between people and nature and the immense and illusory pull of vacation spots. It does so while Fuembuena somehow elevates ordinary scenes to the extraordinary.
Another highlight I'm going to seek out is Angélica Dass’ Humanae in which the Pantone colour series is recreated through the tones of people’s skin. It’s already proved to be a huge hit on social media, so I’m looking forward to seeing it in person.
Finally, of the non-migration projects, Gloria Casto’s In Attesa has really piqued my interest and made me chuckle which is a good starting point. Her collection features some fun, well framed photos of inanimate objects which have ended up in accidental or unexpected places due to unintended uses. They were the result of the 2014's residency/workshop, and photographed in the quarter in which I now live.
Bitume returns to its spiritual home of Lecce and kicks off with a guided walk through the historical centre, in which artists will be present to talk about their work on September 3.
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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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