Bringing together more than 50 photographers from Turkey and from all around the world, Fotoistanbul Besiktas International Photography Festival, who launched on September 30, meet the photography lovers for the fourth time this year. Photography is here celebrated with numerous exhibitions and side events such as panels, round table discussions, master talks, portfolio reviews and book signings. It is Turkey’s largest photography event. This year’s locations of the festival are mainly squares and streets of Besiktas, as well as Ortaköy Orphanage, many cultural centers and also galleries such as Art Galerim, Mixer, Fotoğraf Evi, Istanbul Fotoğraf Galerisi, O’Art, Gama and Fototrek. The Eye of Photography spoke with Attila Durak, Artistic Director of Fotoistanbul.
What would you tell us about Fotoistanbul?
Fotoistanbul International Photography Festival is the largest photography festival in Turkey that aims to create a special platform to join the East and the West, classic and modern, master and student; with the goal of making Istanbul –one of the oldest cities in history- a regional hub of the international photography scene for years to come. In spite of the unrelenting turmoil the region is currently experiencing, photography’s universal language is a safe zone for the community and communication; where the East and the West, old and new, oppressor and the oppressed face the sea of troubling events together, find common goals, and make connections. Istanbul is a distinct city that naturally forges an encounter between Europe and Asia, comers and goers; making it the perfect venue with its streets and public places to create this spirit of collective consciousness.
In addition to this mission, our main goal is the way our festival meet the audience. Since our very first edition in 2014, we intended to carry photography out to the street, moved from the walls, rules or financial motivations. We cared about integrating photography into the daily lives of Istanbulites and presenting it in ways that allow everyone to construct unexpected relationships with it and potentially having it viewed by millions of people outside traditional art locations. We chose to transform deserted spaces, squares and streets into exhibition locations alongside the galleries. For Fotoistanbul, Istanbul is one great natural gallery and Beşiktaş is its walls.
How did it begin and how much of it was realized up to this point?
Our dream was to create a sharing platform through photography in this city with a population of 20 million. I actually think that Fotoistanbul was a need before being a dream. A mean to enter the international scene for local photographers and a window through which the world can look at this region’s photography . A cultural bridge as the city itself. Our biggest aim was to present world photography to Turkish audience and looking at the first three years’ numbers, the result was above our expectations. Almost 100 of 160 exhibitions were from abroad, including the works of world renowned photography artists like William Klein, Josef Koudelka, Anders Petersen, Stanley Greene, Atta Kim, Nick Brandt, Antoine D’agata, Sandro Miller, Ruud van Empel and Andre Kertesz.
Do you consider Fotoistanbul’s as an achievement?
All exhibitions and side-events are free. Photography and art-lovers, regardless of income level, can be a part of the experience. The most important feature of our festival is it being in the streets, open to all with no closed doors. We have no limits in the way of displaying. All venues and locations can be a presentation setting for us as long as we can achieve and maintain quality. These please me a lot and make me really proud.
What do you take into account when selecting the exhibitions to present within the festival? What is your criteria?
We have two ways of selecting. 1. The curating team choose and invite works that will be in accordance with the story we want to emphasize. 2. The applications to the festival are reviewed and some are chosen by our curators. We care about the chosen photographs talking to each other and forming a sentence as a whole. We have no conceptual or thematic limitations. We like having novel and modern examples from all disciplines, we are especially interested in works relating with other forms of art. In brief, we are trying to gather good photography without limiting ourselves with styles.
What is your aim as Fotoistanbul?
Becoming a sustainable, lasting festival that is highly anticipated by the photography world and Istanbulites. Existing for many years to come. Even for a month a year, celebrating the art of photography in Istanbul. Being a good festival.
September 30 to October 22, 2017