Unseen Festival and Huis Marseille

The two exhibitions I saw at Huis Marseille during the 2015 Unseen Festival were remarkable in their intensity.  Both were by photographers who are deeply embedded in their subjects and give special attention to the everyday where you find beauty, humour and sorrow.

‘Emmy’s World’ by photographer Hanne van der Woude sees a young photographer spending five years with an older married couple and their brother.  In so doing she shares with us their loves, joys, sorrows and losses.  The work gives special attention to Emmy, the 83 year old last remaining survivor.  This premier exhibition is a moving portrait, a true and unique document and a life affirming project.

Emmy's World, Hanne van der Woude
Emmy’s World, Hanne van der Woude
Emmy's World, Hanne van der Woude
Emmy’s World, Hanne van der Woude








‘Time Flies’, a broad retrospective by Finnish master photographer Esko Mannikko, was also presented at Huis Marseille during Unseen 2015.  The self-taught photographer observes events and details in everyday life and tries to find the beauty in every little thing.  His work is painterly and a significant analysis of everyday issues as he photographs the remote and most northern reaches of Finland, a place where he grew up. There is fishing, farming, hunting and existing as the photographer focusses on the marginalised communities.   To add to the attention and truth there is no manipulation or post production on the images despite their rich painterliness.


Time Flies, Esko Mannikko
Time Flies, Esko Mannikko
Time Flies, Esko Mannikko
Time Flies, Esko Mannikko

Unseen Photo Fair 2015

Unseen is a well-designed, energetic, cool and high quality anti-fair that champions the very best new photography by emerging artists and photographers.   This forth edition was exciting, inspiring and successful and I have been lucky enough to attend every year.

Unseen is truly international bringing together over 500 international artists and their galleries, institutions, academies, artist-led spaces, the public realm and collections.  It is a space where risks are taken, fresh new work can be seen and where the work of established artists can help elevate the work of an emerging artist.    There is no vintage photography and not a lot of large work and so work is affordable and accessible.










This year the Talks Programme was a must with leading international speakers, curators and collectors talking on topics as varied and relevant as ‘The Ins and Outs of Collecting’ to ‘What Is the Relevance of a Photographic Institution.’  The Photo-Book Market was beautiful independently published photo-books from all over the world and the public realm commissions were fun, experimental and topical.

Unseen takes risks, brings people together and is a celebration of creativity in photography.



Jan Hoek, Panorama Carland
Jan Hoek, Panorama Carland
The Embarrassment Show , workshoped and curated by Erik Kessels

Life, Reality and Archive at Arles 2015

At Arles 2015 it was often the smaller and quieter exhibitions that were the most compelling and memorable.

‘North Korea, A Life Between Propaganda and Reality’, a show by Dutch artist Alice Wielinga, was a multi media exhibition in a beautiful derelict church on the edge of town.  North Korea or The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is one of the most remote, controlled and isolated countries in the world.  Citizens are not allowed to travel, there is no internet connection beyond the nationally controlled intranet and the flow of all information is government controlled.

The emerging artist has created highly politically engaged and yet beautiful work using official imagery distributed by the government as part of her photo composites.   Many of the works consist of 20-50 photographic images, drawn from the traditional utopian propaganda and her own documentary images which show the reality of extreme poverty, hard labour and barren landscapes.

The work explores the reality of people’s lives and living conditions against the idealised vision as the exhibition de-constructs and represents documentary photography in a powerful multimedia installation.

north korea






‘Vernacular’ three series of photographs from the Jean-Marie Donat Collection was also cleverly exhibited in a small church.  Donat has collected over 10,000 photographs, scouring the world for the curious, repetitive and often bizarre photographs that tell a story or history.

The Polar Bears featured in one series in the exhibition provide a snap shot of German history as Germans pose with fake polar bears.   The bears themselves are odd but once you see the 200+ photographs side by side it is the characters hugging them that become our focus.  Holiday makers, party goers, children, families and Nazi soldiers amongst them.

Also shown in the same venue were ‘Blackface’, a series that shine a spotlight on American history of the early 1900s featuring white men, women and children with black faces and ‘Predator’ a series featuring the looming shadow of the photographer.  These photographs are not about the subject but the histories that in repeating and retelling in quantities signify something other than themselves.  The series become disturbing and disconcerting.   The photographs exhibited are almost all fictional and yet the way in which they are displayed and the quantity makes us question this.

ARLES - VERNACULAR! THREE SERIES FROM THE JEAN-MARIE DONAT COLLECTION https://www.rencontres-arles.com/CS.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=ARLAR1_213_VForm&FRM=Frame:ARLAR1_241    TEDDY_39.tif







Thierry Bouet’s ‘Personal Affairs’ was exhibited in the main arena of the railway sheds.  A portrait photographer who is based in Paris in this project he shows a different type of reality.  Found through researching and trawling the French version of ebay the photographer makes work featuring the object for sale and the seller as vignettes.  The sellers are not so much looking to make a profit or recoup investment but are seeking to find someone who will love what they once loved.  The photographs show a sincere and poignant attachment between the rare objects and the people selling them.

The photographs as an exhibition have a sense of community and are collaborative.  They have a sadness, an unfulfilled desire, disappointment and an insight into the seller’s lives and lifestyles.  The sellers pose with objects including an unused family coffin, a handmade plane, a horse, a pair of skis, a folding caravan and dog trophies.   This is a comment on sentimental connections with objects and real life eccentricity not on materialism.

horse personal affairs