New talent stars at Paris’ Circulation(s) festival

“France has much more respect for photography than Britain,” says the Paris-based curator Susan Bright, who is acting as the ‘godmother’ to the Circulation(s) festival in the French capital this spring. “They have an equally rich photographic history to that of Britain, but they seem to respect their history more. The big art institutions have always collected photography, and seem more dedicated to it. They revere their heroes.”

The flipside, she says, is that French culture can be conservative. “They’re always putting on display another show of a dead man, one of the great French heroes. There’s often no contemporary contextualisation. He’s just revered. In that sense, France’s art culture can be very tight. It doesn’t take a lot of risks.”

Arguably, the mentality Bright describes is most prevalent in Paris, which didn’t have a festival or showcase for new talent until 2012, when Circulation(s) started up. Rencontres d’Arles, Visa pour l’Image or Hyères Festival of Fashion and Photography are all in southern France; in the capital, Paris Photo is the magnet and, as a commercial art fair, it tends towards the safe and the established.

But that’s exactly when Circulation(s) is so significant, says Bright. “It is a very progressive, very independent festival. It’s not part of the city’s art establishment. It’s dynamic, because the organisers are working way out on a limb. And by situating the festival in the 19th arrondissement, it brings a real lift to an area which isn’t otherwise culturally rich.”

Originally launched by local Parisians Marion Hislen and Valerie Lambijou in 2011, Circulation(s) takes place at the Centquatre, a building complex that once housed the city’s undertakers but which was brought back to life a decade ago as a cultural centre. “The venue is very special,” says Bright.

“It’s in an area that is more ethnically diverse. It is a vast arts centre and very dynamic. It feels very inclusive and accessible, and quite different from many other Parisian venues. It’s free to enter and is full of dancers, circus, yoga, theatre, music. It feels very community-based and refreshing.”

And this carries through to the spirit of the festival, she feels. “The organisation is small, women-led and quite amazing, frankly. They seem to pull off an enormous initiative on hard work and little money. They are all outgoing and open-minded. There is a good independent spirit behind it.”

The festival, which runs from 17 March to 06 May, is orientated around an open call, from which 16 photographers have been selected to show their work alongside 26 guest artists. This year, those photographers include several names which will be familiar to regular BJP readers – Igor Samolet, Louis QuailViacheslav Poliakov, Anna Ehrenstein, Dominika Gesicka (BJP issue 7857), and Çağdaş Erdoğan (who was recently released from jail in Turkey).

Girl who used to be © Olga Vorobyova

A further four have been hand-picked by Bright, who has chosen Susannah Baker-Smith, Giulia Berto, Julien Bonnin, and Vanja Bucan. In addition a gallery and a college are invited to show work; this year the gallery is Rodovid from Ukraine, and it’s showing Sergey Kammenoy and Olena Subach, while the college is the Rodchenko Art School from Moscow, which will present work from Arnold Veber and Olga Vorobyova.

In addition, there are portfolio reviews, screenings, discussions, an education programme, and the so-called Little Circulation(s), which is aimed at children. Last year the event had more than 56,000 visitors.

All artists have equal billing, which Bright says is key. “There’s a non-hierarchical feeling to the work displayed, and that changes the entire tone of the festival. It’s very accessible, it’s all about emerging talent, it’s very fresh – and that makes it a very different sort of proposition.”

Circulation(s) – European Young Photography Festival takes place from 17 March-06 May at Centquatre-Paris, 5 rue Curial, 75019 Paris

Sequences of truth and deception © Vanja Bucan
Relics © Julien Bonnin
Justin has discovered a disused garage near his art class in Roehampton and poses for a portrait next to the tree opposite. Hanging out here appeals to his “hobo’ outdoor sensibility. Although to many this might be a dirty den used by drug users, Justin has much more romantic notions of its use as a focal point for an alternative lifestyle. He is high on life and his mind is whirring with chaotic thoughts, excitement and a constant flow of ideas. Although it can be harder for Justin to stay within the confines of society’s expectations in this state, for me, it’s much better than the alternative, which can be a debilitating depression. Big Brother © Louis Quail
Lviv – God’s Will © Viacheslav Poliakov
Control@ Cagdas Erdogan
Tales of lipstick and virtue © Anna Ehreinstein
Herbarium © Igor Samolet
This is not real life © Dominika Gesicka
Promise me a Land © Clément Chapillon
Young adventurers chasing the horizon © Lucile Boiron
Aaron Drake, Medical Response Director, prepares stabilisation medications to be used during the initial stages of a cryopreservation. Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. August 2009.
Once a cryonics patient is pronounced legally dead, the response team place them in a bath of ice to start cooling the body. An automated heart-lung machine is used to keep the cells of the patient’s organs and tissues alive and restore blood flow needed to administer anticoagulants and medications. It is very important these processes are carried out correctly, otherwise perfusion (blood washout) and vitrification (insertion of cryoprotectant) may not be possible. The Prospect of Immortality © Murray Ballard
Young police officers in the Psycholgieraum of the MVD police school during an audio-visual relaxation therapy. Russian Fairy Tales © Frank Herfort
Cosmic surgery © Alma Haser
Tom Seymour

Tom Seymour is an Associate Editor at The Art Newspaper and an Associate Lecturer at London College of Communication. His words have been published in The Guardian, The Observer, The New York Times, Financial Times, Wallpaper* and The Telegraph. He has won Writer of the Year and Specialist Writer of the year on three separate occassions at the PPA Awards for his work with The Royal Photographic Society.