Fotograf Magazine

The Thirteenth Month of Photography in Bratislava

It was these tendencies that dominated the thirteenth annual festival.
Within the framework of a series introducing the work to date of some of
the states in this region there was featured a retrospective of contemporary
Serbian photography Identity and Otherness, put together by the young
Belgrade curator Paula Miklosevic. In spite of the varying quality of the work,
and the presence of both thematic and stylistic fragmentation, the
retrospective still pleasantly surprised through the number of accomplished
works by Serbian photographers, who due to the long isolation of Serbia
have been heretofore little known internationally. Among those were for
instance the self-reflective color photographs of Ivana Brezovac, evocative of
the sensation of old memories, the ironic series The Clean Face of Serbia,
by Branimir Karanoviç, which captured the defaced, painted over and sordid
election posters of Serbian politicians, or the sociological portraits of women
clad in dresses printed with the various skin patterns of wild animals by
Aleksandrija Ajdukoviç. The photography of the host country is also amply
represented. The exhibition entitled Woman presented the work of eighteen
Slovak woman photographers who deal with the subject of womanhood in
their work or who create self-reflexive photographs. Even though the exhibition showed a lack of focus, it featured a number of outstanding photographs, for instance the harrowing series In Seventh Heaven by Jana Ilková, showing the preparation for, the progress and the results of various plastic operations; there was the witty calendar by Zuzana Šulajová, which illustrated various holidays and memorable anniversaries through original arrangement, the stylized fragments of women by Jana Hojstričová and Erika Trnková which expressively depicted a female sexuality, sensitive series of portraits and nudes of various women by Lucie Nimcová, or the visually sophisticated color views through half-open doors into various interiors by Jana Šebestová. Among the most remarkable work in another group exhibition, The Portrait in Slovak Photography, were stylized color portraits by Ingrid Patočková and the inventive black and white portraits of various Slovak celebrities by Filip Vančo, though surprisingly, the most popular with the viewers were the individualized portraits of roosters and hens by Tomáš Agát Blonský. Slovak photography was also represented by several solo exhibitions, such as the premiere of the color documentary photographs of contemporary Slovakia by this year’s winner of a grant from the Institute for Public Issues, Lucia Nimcová, whose characteristically feminine perspective compared favorably with the competition of her predecessors Martin Kollár and Jozef Ondzik. Other Slovak work deserving of mention was the experimental color series by Soňa Sadloňová, which exploited luminography and light projections. Czech photography was represented by an extensive exhibition of modern landscape photographs by Pavel Baňka, Infinity, aesthetized fragments of nude male and female bodies by Tomáš Ruller, and a solo exhibition by Dita Pepe. Both in her photographs of women, featured in the first issue of Fotograf, and the brand new self-portraits with men, Dita Pepe has created a multi-layered contemplation of the change of identity as well as a kind of sociological survey of various archetypes of our society. A part of the exhibition of digitally manipulated photographs featured in the first annual In Out International Festival of the Digital Image traveled from Prague to Bratislava. One of the In Out curators, Pavel Vančát introduced the project with both a lecture and a video projection. Polish photography this year caught one’s attention mostly in the sensitive, impressionistic photographs of Anita Andrzejewska, with its masterful work with the subtle nuances of gray tones, rather than the newer advertising photographs of Ryszard Horowitz. Horowitz’s sophisticated, computer manipulated photographs showed an increasing tendency towards kitschy, superficial effects that tend to dominate over the freshness and inventiveness of his earlier work.The program of the 2003 Month of Photography, as in other years, featured exhibitions of world-renowned photographers. Among the most attractive was the retrospective of Duane Michaels (USA), author of original sequences that capture, in their fusion of staged photographs and poetic texts both real and metaphysical, stories with motives of intolerance, aging, sexual desire, life after death, or the relativization of the acuteness of human senses. Robert Doisneau, a no less well-known French author, was represented primarily by optimistic photographs in the style of humanistic photojournalism. These often revealed the humorous aspects of everyday life, but in comparison with the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, more sophisticated both in terms of content and composition, which was shown in Bratislava last year, the superficiality of the first plane of Doisneau’s work made it look slightly archaic. More recent work was represented in Bratislava by the staged self-portraits of Florence Chevallier (France), who brilliantly exploited the psychological aspects of color and visually attractive compositions with deep shadow, in order to achieve a symbolic expression of the moods and nuances of her relationship with her husband, or the extraordinarily powerful and strongly colorful photographs of Marcos Lopez of Argentina, whose work ironically reflected the commercialization and globalization of the Latin American lifestyle. In addition to this, the well-organized two day evaluation of portfolios and the presentation of various photography schools, allows us to say that last year’s Month of Photography in Bratislava brought less discoveries and essential exhibitions than the previous year, yet in the overall history of the event, it was doubtless one of the better.

Vladimír Birgus