Curators, not photographers, are the stars of the first New York Photo Festival. The poster says it all, four names, big black bold letters, it’s a curator festival, photographers only welcomed to drop by and admire. Situated all around the creators’ neighborhood (Brooklyn), Powerhouse and VII, the festival of “very important images” is a tribute to beautiful pictures on a wall. A kind of mix between fine art photography ( whatever that is ) and intellectually profound photojournalism. There is a lot of thought behind each image and sometimes you feel there is more thought than talent.
This type of photography, and the world around it, is in direct competition with painter or sculpture galleries that love to explain minimalism with grandiloquent words. It’s more about being seen than seeing. Sometimes I wonder what it has to do with photography besides the fact that it was taken with a camera. The motto here is, the more you wonder at what you are looking at, the more the picture is a success.
There is also a lot of ego in this festival. So much so, that one should bring a knife to cut through those excessive layers of self righteousness. It is as if photography by itself is not enough and one needs to become something, someone in order to make the images more interesting. Those poor images dangling on a wall seem lonely when no one is there to explain their “deep” significance. They are even lonelier after someone does. There is also a lot of vanity, this sort of social importance of who you know and who knows you that fill these rooms. A sort of gentrification of the photography world where you can feel pushed out if you are not in the know of who is hot and who is not.
Everyone and anyone wants to be included in everything while reserving the right to refuse any invitation. The group that becomes the most famously exclusive becomes the most popular. The NY Photo festival feels a bit like that. Even Darryl Lang has a hard time showing images on his daily video feeds. This festival is all about people who organized it, not really about photography.
If an image puzzles you as to why it was selected, don’t ask. You will be looked upon as a complete idiot and forever give up your chance of being part of those “in the know”. Sometimes you wonder if the photographers even know why they have been selected.
However, with all this said, it is a great idea to have launched this festival. Hopefully, it will mature to be wider instead of so eclectic. It will encompass other neighborhoods and different photography , and not try to transform photography into a religion with self-elected priests. It will maybe include more “reachable” images, so that those who are not in this business can enjoy it too. I do not know if it is an reverse effect of Flickr and other Photobucket that some seem to try to take photography out of the masses hands and create exclusive, by membership-only, temples. This festival sure feels this way to us, even if some amateur photography is being shown. It has this “us versus them” scent to it, as if to say : the crowd doesn’t decide, we decide.
There is much to see and probably more to hear and I do look forward to seeing more . To me, the more photography is celebrated, the better, even if I do not always agree with the way it is done. As a famous saying says, “taste and color are two things you should never argue about”. Kudos to the organizers.