ANTWERP.- I hate nothing more than sugary photographs with tricks, poses and effects. So allow me to be honest and tell the truth about our age and its people. (August Sander, 1876-1964)
In the above quotation, Sander was venting his irritation at what he saw as the dominant style of photography in the early part of the 20th century. Sander critiqued that photographers seemed too concerned with pursuing the same artistic strategies as painters (such as heavy reliance on landscape imagery and Rembrandtesque lighting) rather than working with the unique features of the modern medium of photography. For Sander, subjects photographed in this manner were misleadingly transformed from their actual reality: the young farm boy became a prince and the servant girl a court lady. As a response Sander endeavoured to work with the specific characteristics of photography. Without the intervention of special effects or equipment such as filters or retouching, he sought to create images that emphasised his belief in the capacity of photography to relay truth, through documentation.
Though photography has arguably expanded its field from documenting subjects to perhaps more abstract, conceptual and altogether more subjective manifestations, the above thoughts on the nature of the medium serve as an appropriate departure point for a festival concerned with its contemporary uses.
An artistic climate in which technological progression has forced photography to enter a (relatively) new phase of its development, namely the digital, the medium itself is faced with the possibility to re-evaluate its means and modes of production. Through self-critique and self-reflection it is possible for photography to do this. What is the medium-specific character of photography? Why do artists choose this medium and what forms of meaning can photography produce in a contemporary art context?
'Sugary Photographs with Tricks, Poses and Effects' will attempt to raise and explore some of these questions through the bringing together of over 50 international artists and artworks across 8 different locations and through the facilitation of debate surrounding contemporary photography and its uses and contexts.