The 18th edition of European Photography kicks off today. European identity is the protagonist

The 18th edition of Fotografia Europea, an international cultural festival dedicated to contemporary photography, opens today. This year's common thread is European identity.

The 18th edition of Fotografia Europea, an international cultural festival dedicated to contemporary photography produced and promoted by the Palazzo Magnani Foundation and the Municipality of Reggio Emilia with the contribution of the Emilia-Romagna Region, opens today.The festival was created in 2006 to reflect through the medium of photography on the complexities of contemporaneity, following the lesson of Reggio Emilia photographer Luigi Ghirri, whose archive is preserved in Reggio Emilia.

Winner of the 2022 edition of the Lucie Awards in Los Angeles, the most coveted prize in the field, as the best Photo Festival of the Year, the festival involves different places in the city until June 11, 2023 with exhibitions revolving around a specific theme. Europe matters: visions of an uneasy identity: this is the chosen theme. Beginning with a reflection on the idea of Europe and the ideals that constitute it, the exhibitions will highlight questions about the current condition of the multicultural and globalized world we live in, a world in which Europe no longer exercises, long ago, the spiritual and material hegemony that for centuries it was recognized as having. The artists will therefore trace, through the medium of photography, the dynamic and uncertain lines of an increasingly mobile and varied identity, with the intention of making sense of the restlessness that runs through it.

The projects selected by the Festival’s artistic direction, composed of Tim Clark (editor 1000 Words & curator Photo London Discovery), Walter Guadagnini (photography historian and Director of CAMERA - Centro Italiano per la Fotografia), and Luce Lebart (photography historian, co-author of the seminal volume Une histoire mondiale des femmes photographes, curator of exhibitions and researcher both for the Archive of Modern Conflict Collection and independently) will refer precisely to this theme. It will be an edition characterized not only by the quality of the exhibitions but also by the level of the meetings, lectures, book presentations, and educational activities that will be organized during the festival (in this article, the Fotografia Europea 2023 exhibitions: from Sabine Weiss to Luigi Ghirri).

“This year’s edition of Fotografia Europea chooses the theme of European identity as the underlying theme of a series of exhibitions and events of great interest and prestige,” said Reggio Emilia Mayor Luca Vecchi. “I believe it will be as important as ever to participate, to form our own ideas and to confront all of us together on the most topical issue of the moment, but also to discover the other gaze that artists always know how to cast on contexts and events that involve us most closely. Europe was and still is a great political, social and economic project that led this continent, in the aftermath of World War II, to choose the path of cooperation and peace. However, from being a desirable and coveted ideality for the younger generations today that European identity is in many cases contested, divisive, and a source of cross-claims. The war in Ukraine that has been looming over our continent for the past year has further strained the dream of Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi, who in Ventotene, confined, wrote the famous manifesto: For a Free and United Europe.”

“At a time like the one we are living through, it was important for us to try to talk about Europe through the gazes of artists,” said Reggio Emilia Culture Councillor Annalisa Rabitti. “In particular, we wondered about the true nature of Europe, with borders that are now more uncertain and fragile than ever. Hence the title of the new edition of Fotografia Europea: ’Europe matters: visions of a restless identity,’ a journey to the margins of our continent’s critical issues and problems. It is a powerful, deeply ”political“ exhibition that has a profound look at the complexity of current events, at the world: the images we see is as if they give us a ”slap in the face,“ as if they provoke in us an awakening to put before our eyes the restlessness and criticalities that revolve around the idea of identity. For this reason and for the meaning it carries, I find this to be an important, unmissable and above all necessary edition that we could not fail to do.”

“How do photography and contemporary photographers stimulate responses to the challenges and situations facing European citizens? In our selection as artistic directors, this is the starting point for reflection on the existence of a common European identity, and how myth and memory shape or even strengthen our collective sense of belonging. Capturing the nature of Europe as a community inevitably presents many complex and difficult aspects.We therefore selected photographic projects that focus specifically on people and the theme of identity, addressing issues such as the politics of inclusion and exclusion and the presence of history and culture in this historical moment. Our intention has been to examine the relationship between various concepts of national identity and democratic community, as well as the multicultural realities of individual European countries, which aim at reconstruction, solidarity and alternative ways of living, seeing and understanding together.”

With Fotografia Europea, the exhibitions of the OFF Circuit then return to color the city. The project was born precisely from the active participation of citizens who, agreeing among themselves, set up exhibitions and organize meetings and events, in every corner of the city and the Province. In fact, the OFF Circuit is increasingly felt and loved both by those who organize it and recognize themselves in it, and by those who pass through the city and unintentionally come across exhibitions set up in stores, restaurants, bars, stores, historic venues, courtyards and private homes. About two hundred projects responded to this year’s call, and to these are added the nearly thirty works that will be exhibited in the province and the twenty produced by the many schools participating in OFF@School. “This year then, the festival is enriched by a double opening because the Fotofonia events, curated by Max Casacci, will not only take place on the opening weekend of April 28, 29 and 30, but also on the weekend of May 6 dedicated specifically to the OFF circuit, in order to enhance creative musical experimentation and to encourage the participation of visitors and tourists,” stressed Councillor Rabitti.

The director of the Palazzo Magnani Foundation, Davide Zanichelli, added, “once again this year the great and widespread photographic passion of the Reggio Emilia area is confirmed through the self-management of the many proposals of the OFF Circuit. In addition to the many initiatives in the historic center of Reggio Emilia, it is important to recognize how the municipalities of the province also respond positively to this opportunity. From the Social Theater of Luzzara, Guastalla, and Gualtieri, then passing through Castelnovo di Sotto and Correggio, to Canossa, then several events between Gattatico and Taneto, to Cavriago, Puianello di Quattro Castella, and on to Viano and its Castle.” A free and independent initiative that year after year has been able to renew itself and continues to do so in this edition, thanks to collaborations and collective events that increasingly push the Reggio Emilia OFF Circuit into a national context.

Also for the 2023 edition, the OFF Circuit is renewing OFF SCHOOL, the section aimed at schools of all levels in Reggio Emilia and its Province.There are about 20 projects presented by the schools, curated by the students themselves and exhibited in various ways: in the corridors of the educational institutions, in dedicated venues around the city, and again in a city-wide poster campaign, which will give visibility to the young students’ commitment to reflecting on the photographic media and their interpretation of this year’s concept.

In addition, the didactic department of Fotografia Europea, has scheduled an entire week (May 15-20) of meetings and workshops with established photographers, dedicated precisely to young people, at the Chiostro della Ghiara, which will become a point of reference for those who want to deepen their knowledge of themes pertaining to contemporary photography.

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The 18th edition of European Photography kicks off today. European identity is the protagonist
The 18th edition of European Photography kicks off today. European identity is the protagonist

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