Knokke-Heist Photo Festival
Like photography itself, the annual Knokke-Heist Photo Festival continues to tinker with its format, while keeping its nucleus intact. Last year, the 80-odd selected photos could be found along a tour in and around Knokke. That scattered group exhibition replaced the longtime tradition of sending visitors to a series of distinct but interlinked exhibitions across the coastal cities.
A matter of perspective
This time around, there’s no need to hop on a bike or hike around the Knokke hinterland: All photos await your gaze at the Scharpoord Cultural Centre.
While only a year ago the free-for-all festival wanted to bring contemporary photography to the masses by taking it to the streets, suburbs and crowded public spaces, the current edition aims for that same goal by staying indoors and launching a new international prize for photography: the biannual PixSea Awards. A matter of perspective, no doubt.
The festival hands out two prizes. The Oeuvre Award has been given to Italian photographer Guido Guidi, who displays a keen eye for contemporary landscapes. In Knokke, he presents a selection from his latest book, A New Map of Italy. Guidi, now 71, steers clear of the picture-perfect idylls of his native country, preferring to depict spaces of everyday life.
His photos are modest in size, too, and avoid folkloristic stereotypes in favour of what he calls “simple, actual reality”. His work is in tune with the current crisis in Italy, while presenting a refreshing take on the widespread tradition of backyard scenes.
Grab bag of styles
The international jury also nominated seven photographers for the PixSea Emerging Artist Award. The nominees are testament to the variety in contemporary photography. Twenty-something French photojournalist Benjamin Girette dislikes being labelled an “artist”: He rather wants to inform and agitate. Instead of framing the photos he took during the Tunisian revolution (pictured) as works of art, he just tacks them to the wall as witnesses to an often-gruesome reality.
All the other photographers use the exhibition setting to display imaginative interactions with the world around them or create installations on site, which range from playful gimmick to artistic-historical research. Dutch photographer Anouk Kruithof encourages visitors to take a mirror and look at the photos she has attached to the ceiling. Clare Strand of the UK explores the history of the uses of photography, using found photographs in her interactive installations and photomontages.
In dark shadows and brown planes, German artist Andrea Geyer explores the relationship between photos, archive documents and historical objects that refer to the 1919 Spartacus revolution in Germany. Compatriot Annette Kelm, on the other hand, has by far the most colourful works in this Emerging Artist section.
French photographer Noémie Goudal offers monumental pictures, often with trompe-l’oeil effects, whereas the work of Olivier Cornil, the only Belgian photographer in the selection, is much more intimate. His project Vladivostok undertakes a personal and poetic journey, named after a place Cornil doesn’t show.
By tradition, the Knokke-Heist Photo Festival also welcomes Photo View, a selection by the Centre for Visual Expression, an image medley from local photography clubs, and ( from 9 May) the touring World Press Photo exhibition. In this year’s winning photo, by Swedish photographer Paul Hansen, a group of grieving men carry two dead children through a narrow street in Gaza. You’ll also see the portrait series People of Mercy by Flemish photographer Stephan Vanfleteren, who won the World Press Photo’s category “Staged Portraits Stories”.