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Circulation(s), the festival dedicated to emerging European photographers, opened its doors last week at Centquatre Paris – sadly only virtually for now. The cultural center remains closed to the general public, the only visitors allowed in are the elderly coming for their Covid jab (never was a vaccination center so artsy!) and the few professionals registered to explore the exhibition.
A successful example of a collaborative artistic event, Circulation(s) is led by the collective Fetart, bringing together professionals and passionate amateurs united by their love for art photography. Founded in 2005 by Marion Hislen, Fetart launched the festival in 2010. This year, its 11th edition is a special milestone, as Circulation(s) has joined the prestigious program of the European Month of Photography.
This edition once again abides by the guidelines set forth in the Circulation(s) manifesto: freedom of expression, innovation, transmission and emotions. The 29 young photographers selected by the jury, born and/ or working in Europe, have been given carte blanche, and the diversity in both themes and styles is testament to the creative vitality of the art photography scene on the Old Continent.
As I meander through the exhibition, with very few other visitors, I manage to spot a few themes that appear to have captured the interest of many artists: the lockdown, feminism, ecology and the role of images in our information society.
Many of the works exhibited revolve around the use of photography to document the strange times we are living, from the joyful snapshots of everyday life captured by British talent Bobby Beasley during the long months of lockdown in Hull, United Kingdom, to the visual diary kept by Portuguese artist Beatriz Banha, as she hunkered down with her grandparents in Évora, Portugal. Beasley’s white blooms, set against a bright blue sky, made me long for sunny days in the countryside.
Another common theme is the place of the woman in society, as depicted by Italian Chiara Cordeschi, Brazilian Nina Franco and Pole Karolina Ćwik. From different vantage points, the three question female struggles in balancing their multiple roles as individuals, mothers, professionals and one half of a couple. As a mother myself, I found Ćwik’s self-portraits with her toddlers particularly poignant.
A third fil rouge is the relationship between humans and nature. The angles here are probably the most disparate: from the tender portraits of a bird trainer presented by another Italian, Francesca Todde, to the French landscape wounded by inconsiderate tungsten mining depicted by the Franco-Belgian duo Castel & Mahoudeau. The viewer oscillates, in synch with the artists, between cautious optimism and despair.
On this theme, maybe as a result of the wanderlust I accumulated over the past 12 months, I was mesmerized by the fantasy travel brochures of the “All Inclusive” project presented by another duo, Loho (from France) & Lopes (from Switzerland), depicting intergalactic trips illustrated with pictures taken in the Alps and the Jura but made unfamiliar through the use of colored filters.
Finally, the use of photography to record history pervades the work of French author Benjamin Schmuck, presenting a reportage on voodoo rituals in Benin, but also that of Dutch talent Jesper Boot, portraying members of his family in the trappings of the politicians we see every day in the media. The work of these two photographers is at the antipodes (one uses images to document reality while the other questions the reality of the images themselves), but their point of view is equally valid in an era where, inundated with too much visual information, we sometimes have trouble telling the truth from the fake.
In the course of its existence, Circulation(s) has been a very effective launchpad for young talents. I hope that the vaccination drive, here at Centquatre Paris and everywhere else, picks up enough steam that museums can finally reopen and the public can explore in person, and not just from the comfort of their homes, the thought-provoking 2021 vintage of photographers selected for this edition.
Circulation(s) will remain open until May 2, 2021. It can be enjoyed virtually for now, also through a rich and varied program of online talks.
Lead photo credit : Circulation(s) Festival. © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong