Photomonth in Krakow is fast becoming one of the main photography events in Europe, and deservedly so. Now in its 5th year, the festival takes place during May in the beautiful city of Krakow (Cracow), Southern Poland. Anyone making the journey to Krakow during May will not be disappointed by either the Photomonth festival or the city itself. It really is a must see.
I am a regular visitor to Krakow and have been lucky enough to attend three festivals and have seen at first hand the festival go from strength to strength. The festival is now well established, supported by a number of big name sponsors, attracting exhibitions from renowned world famous photographers as well as encouraging young photographers.
The festival has been well received and enjoys very favourable critical acclaim. The festival isn't resting on its laurels, as it continues to be innovative, seeking to explore more performance exhibits and interesting venues whilst keeping a good balance of traditional and modern photography.
Photomonth in Krakow 2007- basic facts:
- 5th edition of the Festival
- 45 exhibitions
- 30 venues
- 120 artists from 15 countries
- 30 accompanying events (movies, workshops, lectures, portfolio reviews)
- 70,000 visitors (300,000 including the outdoor exhibitions)
- Special Guest country- Germany
- Guest Curator - Mark Power / Magnum Agency
- Festival Director - Tomasz Gutkowski
The festival itself takes place during May in various locations across, Krakow, Poland. What I love about the festival is the diversity and the large number of exhibitions in imaginative and atmospheric locations.
Imagine, the festival will be the only opportunity to the enjoy the antique interiors and faded splendour of Goetz Palace in the former Okocim Brewery, as well as the former workshops of the Emalia (Enamel) Factory of Oscar Schindler made famous by Stephen Spielberg, locations which are normally closed to the public, private apartments as well as a host of enchanting cafes and galleries. Other more unusual presentations featured an exhibition within a large dome tent pitched within a room and pictures in the form of one of those photo flick books, which you flick through, hung on the tiles within the disused toilet cubicles.
One of the galleries, the Camelot Gallery, which thanks to the efforts of its owner Weronika Łodzińska is fast becoming one of Krakow's most important photography galleries featuring a photographic library, reading room, and a photography shop. Camelot Gallery serves as the festival office.
The festival consists of almost 50 individual and collective exhibitions. In addition, there are a number of associated events such as presentations of film and slides, documentary films, lectures, workshops, discussions, book launches and a bookshop, as well as portfolio reviews.
Of course, there are many exhibition opening parties and concerts. There is also an extensive off programme list of events and exhibitions.
Each year the festival features a special guest country which, for 2007, was Germany. Last year's festival featured Hungary and discussions are already taking place to finalise next years guest country. It is hoped to feature Japan in 2008, however time constraints make it more likely to be the Czech Republic next year followed by Japan in 2009.
Time required to visit
Krakow is a compact city and the vast majority of the locations can be visited on foot from the centre of the old town. That said, the festival programme suggests that visitors allow the following timescales:-
All Exhibitions - 4 days
All Exhibitions, excluding off programme - 3 days
All Exhibitions, excluding off prog. and German Presentation - 2 days
I personally spread my visits over three weeks, but I am sure a long weekend would give a sufficiently rewarding taste of the main exhibitions as well as allowing time for the many tourist attractions in and around Krakow.
The programme, which is free and available from the festival office as well as a number of venues across the city, provides a comprehensive guide including a detailed location map, showing the numerous venues.
The vast majority of the exhibitions are free, however a handful charge a nominal admission fee of between 2 - 8 zloty ( 30p - £1.30 ). (exchange rate currently 6zl - £1). The already reasonable admission costs can be reduced further by purchasing a Pass for 15 zloty, (£2.50). An excellent illustrated 200 plus page catalogue, in Polish and English, is also available for 35 zloty (£5.50) . Both the pass and catalogue can be purchased together for 45 zloty (£7). I think the prices and value for money is incredible for the quality of photography on display, the total cost would barely cover the entrance to a single major exhibition in the UK.
Full festival information is available here.
The 2007 Photomonth in Krakow
The appeal of the festival is in the quality and diversity of the photographers and the unique venues. The icing on the cake for 2007 was the inspired use of the atmospheric former workshops of Schindler's factory to exhibit a number of works on the theme of military conflicts, under the title Theatres of War, as featured in a recent Guardian article. The use of rented private apartments provided a more intimate alternative.
The full 2007 programme is available online or as a Word document download.
The main exhibitions for 2007 included the following headliners from the programme:-
|August Sander (1876-1964) - Face of our time. A classic of German photography. His work, People of the 20th Century presents a unique portrait of German society in the days of the Weimar Republic. Divided thematically according to the class membership of the individual subjects, as well as by their place of residence, the collection consists of over 800 photographs.
|Tomas Agat Blonski - We are.... Exhibition by a Slovakian photographer comprised of refined, large-format, hand-made, portrait prints of chickens raised by the artist's Polish family. The project questions the relation between identity and the very definition of portrait photography.
|Jacob Aue Sobol - Sabine. An unusually intimate documentation of the Danish photographer's sojourn in Greenland, which unexpectedly for the artist became a love story without a happy ending. The project resulted in the publishing of a book that was nominated for the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize in 2005.
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin - Ghetto. The result of many years of documentation of ghettos in their various forms and functions. The exhibition, produced especially for the festival, presents selected fragments from a broad range of materials.
Marek Gardulski - The 54th Year. A cycle of 365 self-portraits taken every day of the year.
|Aneta Grzeszykowska - Portraits. The exhibition presents portraits of non-existent people generated entirely by computers. The illusion is so flawless that the faces seem familiar to the viewer. The artist plays skilfully with our expectations regarding photography. Other work, Plan from this artist which I found very fascinating and unusual is worth a look.
Martin Parr - Autoportraits. Series of self-portrait made by possible the most celebrated UK's contemporary photographer.
Anders Petersen - Mental Hospital. One of the most intriguing contemporary photographers presents a cycle of works dealing in an uncommonly personal way with the subject of the mentally handicapped.
|Przemysław Pokrycki - The Rites of Passage. Premiere exhibition by one of the most promising Polish artists of the younger generation. The project documents a cross-section of Polish families. Christenings and communions, weddings and funerals serve as occasions to reveal the variety and variability of perennial sacraments.
Photographers are given the opportunity to take part in a portfolio review which is assessed by a panel of international photographers for a £25 fee.
Visit the website, www.photomonth.com for further information on the 2007 Festival.
Budget flights make getting to Krakow cheap and easy, accommodation is available to suit all tastes and budgets, from hostels, beautiful private apartments to world class hotels, and importantly they are almost all very centrally located.
The city itself is perfect for a weekend or short break as the central market square and old town layout make finding your way around very straightforward.
Krakow has a wealth of photo opportunities at every turn, great food and lively cellar bars. There is a café culture where you can sit in the market square, people watch and enjoy temperatures of 30c plus in summer. For music lovers there are many live music and jazz clubs and a constant classical programme of events.
Check out http://www.cracow-life.com for more information on the city. Krakow is a city full of surprises, overflowing with culture, wonderful architecture and history. The legacy of Jewish Krakow features strongly in recent history, follow the trail of Schindler's list, visit the old Jewish district or take a 50 minute trip to visit the stark and infamous Peoples Museum in the Polish city of Oswiecim, better know as the Peoples Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau.