by Dieter Debruyne

© Alexey Shlyk

Last Friday, 29th of April, The Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Ghent hosted the final presentation round for the Academy project of the 7th edition of BredaPhoto International Photo Festival. This year’s theme is ‘YOU’.

In short, the theme deals with how flexible and resourcefull some indivuals cope with the present atmosphere of society. Many see it as an opportunity to be creative and find unique solutions to survive. But self-sustainability is not always a choice! Nowadays a lot of governments cut fundings and for some people it has become a bitter necessity to be creative with the means at hand. BredaPhoto reflects on the up - and downsides of this trend. (More info from here)

In the past six months, the four curators of BredaPhoto visited the seven participating schools in The Netherlands, Belgium and new in the list Bielefeld (DE). The theme was explained and the students could freewheel on the theme for some time and deliver a project. The chosen projects by the curators were invited to showcase it in Ghent.

About last Friday: D-Day for the 51 pre-selected students, the longlist! Each got 5 minutes to pitch their idea. I’ve noticed that the tensions were high and were reflected on some of the presentations. Though, one showcase I will keep on remembering is the one of Kimmo Virtanen who was exceptional fluent and self-confident in bringing his project.

You could also clearly see the different identities and accents of each participating school. For example, KASK Antwerp is more conceptual than the others, KASK Ghent keeps the balance between documentary and conceptual work, while Breda rather focuses on the person and its surroundings. The Hague showed some interesting researches on minority groups…

Overall, it was a tough day to grasp every idea at once. The quality varied from poor to some exceptional gems. Below I’ve made a top pick of 5 photographers and their projects.

Jan Maschinski’s ‘Vortex’ visualizes the connection between the moment of self-reflection and a distinct gaze. In avoiding personal stories—the work is not about the carnal experiences of specific individuals— Jan Q. Maschinski is able to reveal hidden feelings and intangible oddities, which are the prime subjects of his pictures. The viewer discovers an image both hyper-realistic, yet improbable, which refers us to a distant past, while providing enough space for own associations.

© Jan Maschinski

Lisa Straatsma from The Hague did a thorough research on the so-called ‘Preppers’: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. We all know those kind of people from broadcasts on National Geographic Channel. They are the ones who are preparing themselves and their homes for the end of the world. They build bunkers, stuff them with supplies and medicines. The gasmasks are within hand’s reach! Lise even learned how to make her own water filter out of scratch. 

© Lise Straatsma, Deserted Cold War Bunker

© Lise Straatsma, Water filtration system made of cloth sand activated charcoal and gravel

'The Appleseed Necklace' from the Belarussian Alexey Shlyk focuses on his memories and nostalgic feelings from the mid-eighties. Belarus was then still a part of the Sovjet Union. Referring to his childhood passport with the hammer and sickle and the empty storeracks, Alexey approaches his on-going series at personal and political level – basing his photographs on the once predominant DIY culture in Belarus. His staged photographs refer to his memories and nostalgic to the things that he has seen and heard of in the past, events that he has participated in. He was talking about creativity, craftmanship, diligence and typical recycling that was natural to the people living in conditions of constant shortages. It was a time when one had either to find a way to “snatch” what he/she needed or to make out of the accesible materials. With this series, he’s trying to revive what once was a vital necessity, although today this lifestyle is more often seen in domestic decorations.

© Alexey Shlyk 

'Delusion. The Phenomenological Case of Sybil Isabel Dorsett' by Anika Neuss from Bielefeld deals with Identity-cleavage and Identity-forming. It projects Sybils (imaginary) alters into real persons and suggests their existence through photographs. For each picture the face of Shirley Ardell Mason (recreated from an old picture taken in 1941) was used as a template and blended in with the covered face of the photographic models by the help of a digital projector. The two selves involved in each image blend and thus become a new self. But whi is this Sybill? Shirley Ardell Mason was an American psychiatric patient who was reputed to have dissociative identity disorder involving sixteen alters. Each of them had distinct identities, looks, ages and gender. The disorder was a result of severe child abuse at the hands of her mother. Her alters kept safe the childhood memories and took over Shirley’s body and mind in everyday life if necessary. Shirley’s life was fictionalized in 1973 in the famous book 'Sybil' as well as in two films. Both the book and the films used the name Sybil Isabel Dorsett to protect Shirley’s identity. After her death in 1998 her life and illness became more exposed and much controversy about the truthfulness of the case came up.

© Anika Neuss

Caravan – bending and stretching the rules. Caravan is a mobile platform for artistic production. In January 2015, the founding members Pauline Niks and Jesse Cremers left for Stockholm with their renovated caravan. The house on wheels with even a woodstove was the ideal base for a six-month stay. People were curious and the neighbourhood where the caravan was located, was interesting. This interaction fed new artistic work such as pictures, sculptures, performances, etc… But in Sweden the duo was confronted with the distant ‘corporate culture’ of frims like Vasakronan who wouldn’t help them thinking about creative solutions for specific problems. As a reaction to this attitude Jesse and Pauline decided to organise the caravan as an enterprise as well as a home. In this way they offered an answer for the corporate culture of modern society. Caravan became an actual ‘brand’ with a corporate identity and logo and working clothes and so on. Everything what’s been made in and around the caravan since then, is a production of Caravan.

© Caravan

Other interesting artists were: Chantal van Rijt, Sjoerd Houben, Alexandra Polina, Axel de Marteau, Eva Beeftink, Shari de Boer, Wiosna van Bon, Casper Fitzhue, Lucie Marsmann, Erien Withouck, Eva Tol, Elena Bountouraki, Julia Free, Zoë Parton, Eva Kreuger and some those will be further contacted for an interview or article on Urbanautica.


Breda Photo Festival
The Netherlands