Amsterdam’s Unseen Photo Fair returns with new photography festival

Unseen burst onto the international photography scene in 2012, pitching itself as “a photography fair with a festival flair”. Organised by Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, along with arts organisation Platform A and Vandejong Creative Agency, the fair is back for a fourth year, and this time it includes a festival called Unseen, with exhibitions and events, such as Magnum Contact Sheets, held in various locations across the city.

Unseen Photo Fair champions emerging photographers alongside more established names, and newly commissioned work is a key component of the 2015 edition. Luke Norman and Nik Adam from Wandering Bears Collective have been commissioned to create a collaborative project with Charlie Engman, for example; each artist will make five images that will be reworked collaboratively and then put on show, to be presented in the Unseen Niches. Norman and Adam often rephotograph works by adding paint or other marks, and Engman often uses digital post-production and collage in his work.

Another highlight is a new project by Peter Puklus, who was commissioned by Unseen to produce the official artwork for the 2015 campaign. His images will be displayed on posters and other promotional material, and shown outdoors, in print and online. In addition, Puklus will create an installation of his work at the Unseen Photo Fair.

Based in Budapest, Puklus took a photograph of a sculpture by Hungarian avant-garde artist Joseph Csaky as his starting point; made in 1913, the object no longer exists, and the photograph is now the only known record of it. Puklus commissioned a new sculpture to be made based on the photograph, and added features from his own face. He then painted and built a set around the new bust, photographed it, and digitally manipulated the result.

“Csaky’s sculpture always reminded me of myself,” says Puklus. “The idea was to take it as a launchpad… I took the new plaster head and started to work on it, creating different environments around it. I then superimposed layers over the original images in Photoshop. The end result is a photograph, but many things have happened.

“I had a lot of freedom to create what I wanted,” adds Puklus. “Unseen shared just one guideline with me, which was for the work to be related to the idea of the human face or portrait, but this suited me as my work is always to do with portraiture.”

The commission is part of a bigger project Puklus is working on, The Epic Love Story of a Warrior, about “the fictional story of an imaginary family in central Europe in the 20th century”, he says. “It’s to do with historical shared memory. I’ve always felt photography is a starting point. The framed, square image is not enough for me. I’m interested in the entire space and time surrounding an image’s creation. I also need to feel the materiality of the image – I want to be physically involved in creating the work.”

As in previous years the main fair will be at an old gasworks, Westergasfabriek. This edition includes 54 galleries, the Unseen Collection of prints, the Unseen Book Market, and presentations in the Unseen Living Room. The Unseen Dummy Award, which champions unpublished photobook dummies, also returns, while ING | Unseen Talent Award will launch for the first time.

Unseen Photo Fair runs from 18 to 20 September. Unseen Festival, accessible with an Unseen ticket, ends on the 27th. More details here.

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