Looking ahead to Fotografia Europea 2024

Permafrost #6 © Natalya Saprunova

The Reggio Emilia showcase is themed Nature Loves to Hide, with shows by Arko Datto, Lisa Barnard and Susan Meiselas

Fotografia Europea is a key player in the Emilia-Romagna photography scene, bringing cutting-edge international projects to Reggio Emilia each year. The 2024 theme is Nature Loves to Hide – an attempt “to capture nature by exploring how concealment and discovery are interconnected”. This means highlighting the fact that our species is part of nature, undoing the hierarchy that positions humankind above – and separate from – the world around us.

“All living things are connected to one another to form a ‘global body’ where boundaries dissolve or become inundated,” the curatorial statement says, quoting Daisy Hildyard’s The Second Body, an essay exploring the “uncanny global presence” that characterises our experience in the wider natural ecosystem. In fact, this 19th edition of the festival reaches deep into the past for its inspiration, citing Greek philosopher Heraclitus’ line that “Nature loves to hide”.

Boats bedecked with lights returning from a pilgrimage wait in the shoals for the tide to return so that they can head back home to their village. 2019 © Arko Datto
Delfos © Yvonne Venegas

“‘All living things are connected to one another to form a global body where boundaries dissolve or become inundated,’ the curatorial statement says, quoting Daisy Hildyard’s The Second Body”

The headline exhibition is Susan Meiselas’ Mediations, taking place at Palazzo Magnani – the organisational heart of the festival. The exhibition brings together works from the 1970s to the present day, allowing viewers to assess the full scope of Meiselas’ conflict-zone work but also to trace her 1970s urban documentary pictures from South Carolina and New York City. 

Within the 10 exhibitions taking place at Chiostri di San Pietro, we are especially looking forward to Arko Datto’s The Shunyo Raja Monographies, a show drawing on three series proposing different conceptions of the Bengal Delta, from environmental changes to migration. An image from his work in the Bengal Delta graced the cover of BJP’s most recent print magazine, themed Virtual Reality, where Datto discussed his process alongside artists Orianne Ciantar Olive, Nazanin Noroozi, Louis Quail and Mandy Williams. Matteo de Mayda’s There’s no calm after the storm also takes weather systems as its starting point, using wind damage to Dolomite trees in 2018 as a point of departure for speculative and often anthropomorphised interpretations of the human-plant relationship. Natalya Saprunova’s Permafrost centres eastern Siberian Indigenous populations in her landscape documentation. Their traditional dress and interactions with the harsh conditions create a unique spectacle, which eventually widens to incorporate scientists who have been investigating ocean warming in the region.

The Om Salvarech (Wild Man), a figure from Alpine folklore who, according to legend, acts as a mediator between man and nature.
Rivamonte Agordino (Belluno), 2022 ©Matteo de Mayda - There’s no calm after the storm (2019-2023)

Fotografia Europea also presents two artists selected from the Open Call: first is Marta Bogdańska, whose Shifters project began as archival research into animals who have served in the armed forces, normally as spies (the work is currently in the group show Only the future revisits the past at Melbourne’s Centre for Contemporary Photography). The other is Michele Sibiloni’s Nsenene, which traces grasshopper hunting in Uganda, a practice which lies “on a very precarious edge between past and future, tradition and innovation,” the festival says. Other festival highlights include Jo Ractliffe’s Landscaping – images from which saw the South African photographer nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2022 – and New Theaters of the Real, a group exhibition featuring Markos Kay, Katie Morris, and other artists exploring the potential of generative AI in image-making. Look out too for Lisa Barnard’s An Act of Faith: Bitcoin and the Speculative Bubble, which traces how cryptocurrency production relies on manipulation of climate conditions in Iceland for cooling and energy production.

Genesis Bitcoin and Altcoin Mining Facility, Iceland, 2017 © Lisa Barnard

Fotografia Europe is directed by Tim Clark (editor of 1000 Words), Walter Guadagnini (photography historian and director of CAMERA – Centro Italiano per la Fotografia) and Luce Lebart (researcher and curator, Archive of Modern Conflict). The festival is organised by Fondazione Palazzo Magnani, an arts foundation set up in 2010 to continue the legacy of its former owner, the collector and critic Luigi Magnani. It is produced in collaboration with the Municipality of Reggio Emilia, and takes place at various venues across the city from 26 April until 09 June.