KRAKOW: Photography in crisis?

Every year, the first warm days welcome red and yellow dots on the map of the city – the dots that signal the beginning of Krakow Photomonth Festival. Brimming over with excitement, we wait eleven months to finally grab the program and follow the dots – which traditionally mark festival venues such as galleries and exhibition spaces – to immerse ourselves in high-end events related to photography. Organized since 2002, the international Krakow Photomonth Festival has been one of the most significant cyclical cultural events in Poland and worldwide, with the number of editions only confirming its success. Works by recognized photographers, photojournalists and amateurs can be admired not only in museums and galleries, but also in a number of atypical venues such as cafés, pubs, streets and various nooks of Krakow.

Agnieszka Dwernicka, the artistic director of the Festival, states:

"We want to open the eyes of the audience to the reality that surrounds them. That is why some of the projects are being displayed in places other than galleries – somewhere outside where they can be run across by accident."

“Crisis? What Crisis?!” is the main theme of the 14th edition of Krakow Photomonth Festival, taking place from May 12 to June 12. The Main Program is curated by Lars Willumeit, German independent curator and social anthropologist. The already very popular ShowOFF Section will be part of the Festival, as well as the next edition of the Portfolio Review with the Griffin Art Space Foundation award. Besides going to exhibitions, it is worth taking part in Masters Series lectures, meetings with curators, guided tours of exhibitions, and workshops.


photo: Filippo Menichetti, Martin Errichiello, No tittle 1, 2015


Crisis? What Crisis?!

The point of departure for discussion induced by the Main Program is a conviction that crisis is no longer a temporary state or an anomaly, but a characteristic feature of everyday reality, a permanent state with which we have to cope with in every sphere of our existence: the private, the public, and the global one. Photography has not escaped crisis either – it continuously makes attempts at finding its place in the epoch marked by the overproduction of images. The unceasingly changing landscape of the media has forced creators – journalists, reporters, and artists – to reach for new forms of communication with the viewer, as well as to use source materials in a creative way. The time has come when they have to redefine their culture-shaping roles.

"The exhibitions presented during Krakow Photomonth, each alluding in their own way to global, social, and political problems, have their own stakes in telling of the problems of the contemporary world; they are reflections upon the function of photography"

says Lars Willumeit, curator of the Main Program of the 14th edition of the festival.  

The artists invited to take part in the event employ various strategies to address or comment on these problematic phenomena. The list opens with world-renowned photographer Paul Graham whose project New Europe has become especially applicable in the face of the way-too-visible crisis of the so-called European values. A wider and more global perspective on the issue comes from Swiss artist Yann Minegard who refers to the notion of the Anthropocene – the first geological epoch in history to originate as a result of human activities. The project, completed between 2009 and 2013, presents something that is usually hidden from the public eye, namely the ways of collecting, storing and classifying biological specimens and digital information. Mingard took pictures in twenty-one different locations and arranged them into four sections: Plants, Animals, Humans, and Data.


photo: Yann Mingard, Deposit


Another, private perspective on the phenomena is being presented by brilliant Polish artist Aneta Grzeszykowska whose work revolves around the subjects of incompatibility that exists between individuals and the roles played by human bodies. Her exhibition will be displayed at MOCAK and so will be the exhibition of a rising star of world photography, the youngest Magnum nominee in history, Max Pinckers. During this year’s festival, he will present the project in the form of a story about love – the unhappy one, for it is forbidden by the Indian caste culture – and about universal aspirations to show happiness. The author supplements his own images with newspaper cuttings, notes or artifacts taken from a wedding photography studio. This practice may be interpreted as an attempt to counteract the crisis in the classical documentary photography.


photo: Aneta Grzeszykowska


photo: Max Pinckers, Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty


The search for new forms of visual narration in the days of the crisis in traditional media is the leading motif of a collective exhibition curated by Iris Sikking. It consists of six projects undertaking such thorny issues as the heroine trade, genocide and migration, connected by the willingness to step outside the traditional, yet insufficient – as deemed by the authors, way of telling global histories. Photographs on the wall are as adequate a form of communication as radio recordings, YouTube clips or archival illustrations. The #Dysturb Collective takes a more radical take on the crisis in journalism by using exterior building walls and advertising media to make the inhabitants of Krakow confront the news that usually do not make it to the covers of magazines.


photo: Poppy, ACP Spring 2014


photo: Sputnik Photos, Lost Territories Phase Zero


A special feature of this year’s edition of the festival is a strongly marked presence of photography collectives. The first to open its latest project in Krakow will be the most world-recognized collective – Sputnik Photos. Materials gathered and created during travel preparations to former Soviet republics will form an installation that enters into a dialogue with the traditionally understood authorship and the autonomy of an image. Besides, the festival will held exhibitions by three research-artistic collectives – Swedish duo Klara Källström & Thobias Fäldt, Dutch-Spanish Werker Magazine and Italian Discipula – sharing a belief that the interpretation of a visual message depends on social and political contexts as well as the receiver’s beliefs. The three exhibitions will become a true laboratory in which the audience will be able to discover their role in the process of assigning meanings and the process of representation.



Young designers’ projects selected in the open competition will have their premiere as part of the ShowOFF section –  the second yet equally important part of the festival. Designers have been polishing their exhibitions under the supervision of renowned specialists in the field of visual arts: Kuba Bąkowski, a visual artist who creates photographs, installations and objects kinetically; Lidia Popiel, a photographer and lecturer at the Faculty of Photography at Warsaw Film School as well as the editor-in-chief of online magazine fineLIFE.pl; Agnieszka Rayss – a documentalist, co-founder of the Sputnik Photos collective; Simon Karstetter – the founder and one of artistic directors of “Der Grejf”, a multi-awarded magazine for photography and literature. Also, the group of curators includes Honza Zamojski, an outstanding artist, publisher and designer who, in collaboration with one of the ShowOFF Section winners, will design a photo book.  


photo: Zuzanna Szarek, TEL AVIV


For dessert

Accompanying events are a crucial part of the festival. It is especially worth paying attention to Masters Series meetings run by artists who will present their exhibitions in the Main Program, as well as other specialists such as photographer and critic Jörg Colberg, who will enrich the discussion of the festival’s main theme and tell the audience about photo books which continuously seem to be in vogue. Moreover, accompanying events include book premieres, workshops, presentations, film screenings and curator guided tours.

Krakow turns out not to be the only place steeped in photography. Another initiative is developing rapidly in Lesser Poland, namely Krakow Photo Fringe – an independent platform gathering proposals submitted to organizers by artists, animators, activists, galleries and everyone else passionate about photography. The success of two previous editions – during which more than hundred events and exhibitions were organized – encouraged the organizers to widen the scope of Photo Fringe so that it includes the entire Lesser Poland. This year, various events and exhibitions will take place in Zakopane, Tarnów, Wieliczka and Myślenice to name a few.

Krakow Photo Fringe is an open and democratic platform that gives a chance to take a closer look at photography in a broad sense – from the works of already renowned artists to the works that are being shaped from scratch by beginners, but often redefine  the fossilized approaches to different photographic forms.

There is one thing we know for sure – you’d better rush to Krakow and Lesser Poland to enjoy photography to the full!


Krakow Photomonth Festival 2016


Krakow Photo Fringe




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