The international Unseen Photo Fair, which took place in Amsterdam last Thursday to Sunday, is one of the biggest photography festivals in Europe. Presenting the most cutting-edge trends in contemporary photography, the fair acts as a platform for the discovery of young talent, hosting more than 50 leading art galleries and over 60 independent publishing houses, whose books are presented under the umbrella of the Unseen Book Market.
This year, several photographers from Russia and Ukraine participated in the festival for the first time, and the Unseen Book Market hosted a stand from St. Petersburg’s FotoDepartament Institute which showcased over 20 photography books by Russian authors.
“It’s a remarkable time at the moment — young photographers are representing the whole country,” said Nadya Sheremetova, curator and director of the FotoDepartament Foundation. “The authors self-publish their books, finance their own travel costs, and showcase their projects in person. There’s a feeling that we’re still in a vacuum inside our own country, that there’s little interest on the part of individuals and contemporary art institutions in these authors and their projects, or, indeed, in photography as a significant — and potentially, in certain respects, pioneering — art form. We’re hopeful that this event might result in a breakthrough for one of the authors, or at least foster awareness of photography in our country.”
Kirill Savchenkov grew up in a high-rise suburb of Moscow. In Iceberg he draws on his memories of skater culture, his friends and girlfriends, and the urban landscape where the city meets the forest.
The Ukrainian artist and photographer Sasha Kurmaz documents the results of collective creativity spawned over the course of the Maidan protests in Kiev — DIY constructions and “anarchitecture” used for self-defence during clashes with the police.
In Proposals, Russian photographer Andrei Bogush, who currently lives and works in Finland, investigates the conflict between digital and analogue.
Natalia Baluta’s project After a While emerged from her ruminations on the future and on the boundaries between contemporary art and science. She is from Moscow and studied at FotoDepartament in St Petersburg.
Muscovite Elena Kholkina’s Doorways straddles the gap between photographic book, sculpture, film and 3D model. With its unconventional page system, the book features no narrative, event-line or protagonists as such, merely a smooth flow of interlinked images.
Kirill Golovchenko’s Kotlovan (Foundation Pit) was inspired by Andrei Platonov’s novel of the same name, and specifically its protagonist, Voschev, a figure who can find no sanctuary or peace in his life. According to Golovchenko, something similar is happening in Ukraine — people’s thoughts are in a state of disarray, and everything that’s happening around them either bewilders or scandalises them.