Taking in PhotoEspana 2009 (3 June – 26 July) as part of the invited press junket proved to be an intense experience. I’m a PhotoEspana virgin and my first experience wasn’t a disappointment. PhotoEspana is grand. Many of the exhibitions are housed in magnificent spaces, including the Circulo de Bellas Artes (Patrick Faigenbaum, Jindřich Štyrský and Zhao Liang) as well as the beautiful Real Jardin Botanico (Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel). The festival is well funded by the Spanish government and other organisations with the added bonus of Royal support thanks to Prince Felipe’s wife, Letizia Ortiz who I’m told is a photography aficionado.
I find it difficult to move swiftly through exhibitions as I need time to process what I’ve seen, preferring to move at my own pace and rhythm so the three-day schedule, which included a day in Cuenca, (a small town two hours from Madrid) resulted in my reaching saturation point on more than one occasion. By the end of Day 2 we’d already visited countless exhibitions and my mind was whizzing.
Listening to the various opinions and thoughts of colleagues in the press group also proved to be interesting. The question, “What did you think?” circulated amongst us, on more than one occasion and it made me consider the extent to which we help shape taste as part of an army of ‘establishment’ gatekeepers, but have we earned the right to comment and evaluate work? Reviews need to be critically examined and, where necessary, challenged. Blogs and online forums offer great opportunities with their inherent flattening of hierarchies – from the one-to-many content model, for example, from art critic-to-audience where there is little opportunity to respond, except say in the Readers’ Letters pages, to the many-to-many distribution of content seen online – and can help challenge traditional hierarchies. And so they should. However with the exponential rise in self publishing, where anyone and everyone can be a critic or reviewer, there needs to be an emphasis on the ethics of journalism so that we don’t lose sight of some of the basic principles relating to copyright, plagiarism and inaccurate reporting, something I’ll look at in more depth in future posts.
There were a few exhibitions, in particular, of the ones I managed to see which caught my imagination. But you’ll have to wait until August/September’s issue of HotShoe for my round up.