Humor in photography
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The fifth festival KAUNAS PHOTO 08 touches another fundamental theme, which is humor in photography. In spring program, Australian photography has added a humoristic forecast to the coming autumn program with its omni-present features, such as joke, irony, paradox, absurdity, grotesque, burlesque. The listed subjects outline the contemporary photography with humor. We observe that this type of photography starts to clearly separate itself from photography addressed to mass markets. The dramatical constructs of photojournalism with pain, sorrow, conflicts of world-wide importance, sense of sports have already developed their standards of quality and became trusted cliches, that sell successfully to publishers and viewers, There is no need to change anything, because these standards are more like moulds for Eurovision Song Contest and never get old. The landscape of post-card “format” now lives a time of new technical transformations. The vector towards visual perfection and glamour does nor leave much space for personal inputs of an artist. On top of that, there is an Eastern European photography tradition of visual language related to human psychology, past time and memories, erosion of daily life, pleasure in melancholy and dullness. It seems like these did not escape from the viewfinder and became a new trend of photo fashion for the freshly born photographers, yesterday’s engineers, IT people, doctors and managers, who loudly join the photographic scene day by day. The fashion often is an idea, which rises from individual artists and then spreads into media. But can we consider style or tendency as an art when it just duplicates modules of present forms?
It would be too ambitious to state that only humoristic photography can be interesting and insightful. I still dare to say that especially in this kind of photography, no matter if created by genre method or staged method, we can more clearly read what makes the back-stage portrait of today’s society. The break of the millennium coincided with transitory period of photographic technology. Photography was many times pronounced dead by art communities. And not less often it was resurrected overnight on every arrival of every new digital camera hitting the market with its more performing CCD. In the race for eternity of image, improved photographic paper and inks are now able to sustain the image for longer time that ever, but the images are printed less and less often. In the background of the technical survival of photography, millions of images are scanned, but a lot more of them are just being shot, saved and deleted, and not always reviewed. In the abundance of photos we have been almost failing to notice that the image of man in photography was changing considerably.
Contemporary witty genre photography looks like resistance. It is anonymous at the maximum, but full of time marks, recognizable symbols, which enable generalizations, suppose personifications. Another trend in photo art, attracting more and more photographers or artists who use photography, is conceptualization or dramatization which helps to create trite symbols, stereotypes, images of new vizualization – as an contrast for politically correct attitudes and traditional values.
The Interned is flooded with funny, strange and often obscene imagery:caricatures, photographs, videos. TV programs are made by changing grotesque to burlesque and vice versa. TV news agenda might be playing with subjects as with toys. For example news about down-to-earth problems in a nursing home for old people in Lithuania, suddenly changes into a subject about a dull life of an old monkey in nursing home in California. Humour is really everywhere , all the time, mostly when it can reach the maximum of audience. There is nothing wrong in that. Still, there is a tiny thing to observe. Neither the editors of Internet portals, newspapers not those newspapers of TV news really suffer of the responsibility for the “wrong” point og view in pictures. The address to look for responsibility is mostly the photographers, who photographed the “wrong person”, in “wrong”time, or maybe the way the “wrong” person behaves was too”wrong”. What if we stage party pictures, where someone could image he/she could recognize him/himself ?..Poor photographers…
Today’s humour in photography resembles to Ezope’s language, which provides multitudes of versions to be read between the lines.While reading those lines, we not necessarily laugh. But once we read those pictures, we definitely face the unveiled reality, where emerges social of maybe personal criticism. Criticism? It is not pleasant, but important , like the opposition. In Soviet years in Lithuanian, humour photography was often presented along with cartoons, which were creating nice tandems, but reducing the documentary weights and consequently, draining the charge of the image to flat laughter, leaving no space for social, moral or other criticism.
Humour in photography today resembles to a decisive battle for last territory of photographic creation, free of politics, commerce, fashion. This territory is open for individual point of view and possibilities to suggest values. It is a challenge for photographers, and a vast space for interpretations and discoveries for us, viewers and lovers of photography.
It started out on May 20, 2008 with an unexpected large spotlight on Australian Photography, an exhibition of fifteen outstanding Australian Photographers’ works, exposed in three venues: Fujifilm Gallery, F Gallery and Communication development museum. Max Pam’s works, along with those of Rennie Ellis, Graham Miller, Brad Rimmer, Mike Gray were subject of discovery for Lithuanian public. Since only several Australian photographers were able to travel to Kaunas, festival director Mindaugas Kavaliauskas produced an exhibition of portraits of Australian photographers, that he had created in Fotofreo festival in Frementle (Western Australia) just a month before the grand opening of Australian photography overview in KAUNAS PHOTO 08, inaugurated by the Ambassador of Australia H.E.Howard Brown.
Theme of KAUNAS PHOTO 08 is Humour in Photography. The main edition of KAUNAS PHOTO 08 starts on September 10 with one-man shows of award winners of KAUNAS PHOTO 08 Grand Prix competition and a resume of humour in Lithuanian contemporary photography in Fujifilm gallery.
Traditional Nights of Photography will be celebrated in cafes and restaurants of the central pedestrian street, Laisves Aleja, a formally prosperous street, which commerce is now shadowed by neighborhood of huge supermarkets. Laisves aleja – The Alley of Freedom will become a “model” for a documentary action “Freedom for Photography”. The alley will be photographed on September 11 by numerous photographers from Lithuania and from and from different countries of the world, which will depict life on this unique pedestrian street.
The final exhibition in Kaunas Picture Gallery, National M. K. Čiurlionis Museum on the theme of Humour, produced by our partner festival BACKLIGHT 08 (Tapmere, Finland) will be opened on December 18, 2008.
Guest country – Contemporary Photography from Australia, collective exhibition:
Max Pam, Emmanuel Angelicas, Rennie Ellis, Graham Miller, Brad Rimmer, Mike Gray, Caitlin Harrison, Mark McPherson, Julian Tennant, Cara Bowerman, Brendan Beirne, Andrew Jamieson, Mark Dundas (1972-2008), Glenn Lockitch.
Martin Kollar (KAUNAS PHOTO 08 Grand Prix Winner, Slovakia), Dow Wasiksiri (KP 07 Grand Prix Special Award, Thailand), Vojtech Slama (KP 07 Grand Prix Special Award, Czech Republic), Mauro Fiorese (KP 07 Grand Prix Special Award, Italy), Kazimieras Linkevičius (KP 07 Lithuanian Photography Award winner), Diane Ducruet (France).
Lithuanian Homour in Photography (Curator: Mindaugas Kavaliauskas). Photographers: Aleksandras Macijauskas, Romas Juškelis, Stanislovas Žvirgždas, Romualdas Rakauskas, Jonas Daniūnas, Albertas Švenčionis, Irena Giedraitienė, Algis Griškevičius, Artūras Valiauga, Darius Jurevičius, Ramūnas Danisevičius, Vytautas Michelkevičius, Jonas Petronis, Marius Aksijonaitis, Rimaldas Vikšraitis, Stasys Povilaitis, Mindaugas Kavaliauskas and others).
KP 08 Slideshows:
Annemie Augustijns, Anoek De Groot, Arlene Gottfried, Boštjan Pucelj, Bill Mcculough, Dalia Kleinaitytė, Darius Jurevičius, Dovilė Cizaitė, Yves Marie Quemener, Jan-Dirk van der Burg, Jeff Moorfoot, Kostia Smolyninov, Lilla Szasz, Marius Aksijonaitis, Martin Langer, Mike Gray, Stasys Povilaitis, Jean-Christian Bourcart and other artists.
Social-documentary project “Laisvę fotografijai!” (“Freedom for photography!”), aiming to photographically define the life of the central pedestrian street of Kaunas – Laisvės alėja. Separate catalog published.
Collective exhibition at Kaunas Picture Gallery of the National M. K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art:
Alfredas Simonavičius (Vilnius, Lithuania), Gintas Kavoliūnas (Vilnius, Lithuania), Feliksas Kerpauskas (Kaunas, Lithuania), Donatas Stankevičius (Kaunas, Lithuania), Mindaugas Kavaliauskas (Kaunas, Lithuania), Jonas Petronis (Kaunas, Lithuania), Ramūnas Danisevičius (Vilnius, Lithuania), Kazimieras Linkevičius (Marijampolė, Lithuania), Gintaras Dyfartas (Kaunas, Lithuania), Dow Wasiksiri (Bangkok, Thailand), Graham Miller (Fremantle, Australia), Romualdas Rakauskas (Kaunas, Lithuania), Darius Jurevičius (Vilnius, Lithuania), Lokey (Phoenix, USA), Glenn Lockitch (Sydney, Australia), Gintaras Česonis (Kaunas, Lithuania), Vojtech Slama (Brno, Czech Republic), Mauro Fiorese (Verona, Italy), Vytautas Stanionis (Alytus, Lithuania).
Catalog of the “Freedom for photography!” exhibition here >>
Catalog of the main program here >>
Web site of KAUNAS PHOTO festival 2008 here >>
KAUNAS PHOTO festival 2008 team:
Festival director & curator Mindaugas Kavaliauskas
Coordinator Rūta Varnaitė
Technical implementation Erlendas Bartulis, Donatas Stankevičius