This summer, the Austrian edition of the La Gacilly festival returned for its sixth year, with a program dedicated to history, commitment, and poetry. Let’s take an overview.
In the city’s gardens, the focus is on the East. The first exhibition centered around Afghanistan creates a powerful dialogue spanning several generations, offering perspectives on the lives of a country scarred by war and subjected to different occupations but demonstrating great resilience in daily life. Various perspectives are presented, including those of Hungarian photographer Paul Almásy, French photographer Véronique de Viguerie, and AFP photojournalists Shah Marai and Wakil Kohsar.
Further on, Iranian photographers Maryam Firuzi and Gohar Dashti use staging to evoke their homeland. The former explores Persian identity, while the latter alludes to the Iraq war in a stunning series titled “Today’s Life and War,” where a couple experiences the normality of everyday life within a devastated landscape. Gohar Dashti also presents three projects, touching on the power of nature reclaiming its place among the remnants of war, exile, and how each person seeks the landscapes of their homeland in their adopted country.
Among these “Visions of the East,” mention should also be made of Sarah Caron’s work, especially her exploration of Pakistan, a country she traversed extensively to meet its inhabitants and experience its wild nature. Fatimah Hossaini, on the other hand, celebrates Afghan women in their constant struggle for freedom. A retrospective also pays a beautiful tribute to photographer Abbas, who passed away in 2018. Each photograph reflects his unique sensitivity and poetic composition.
The second major theme of this festival is “The State of the World,” extensively explored by photographers from all horizons, all addressing the same question: what kind of world awaits us tomorrow? Jérôme Blin questions the aspirations of rural youth, while in the heart of the rose garden, Stephan Gladieu stages his plastic scarecrows in one of Africa’s most polluted countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo, which he describes as an “ecological disaster.”
Iranian photographer Hashem Shakeri’s series “Terres de sables” draws attention to the situation in the Sistan-and-Baluchestan province, once the country’s granary, now shaken by an unprecedented drought and deserted by its population. In these soft, completely sandy landscapes, each color stands out intensely, reminding us that life continues, albeit with difficulty. Also noteworthy is Gabriele Cecconi’s work, which addresses the Rohingya Crisis from an ecological perspective, documenting the disastrous consequences of the migration of nearly one million people on the ecosystems of Bangladesh, their host country.
One of the most poetic offerings of this edition is Chloé Azzopardi’s series “Écosystèmes.” The French photographer explores our relationship with nature in a “futuristic and metaphorical” fable. With a special sensitivity, she reconciles species, nature, and culture, long separated by Western thought.
As a side note to the festival, on October 4th, an independent event in Vienna took place, also initiated by Lois Lammerhuber. Organized in partnership with several organizations, including UNESCO, the Austrian Parliament, the World Press Photography Foundation, and the International Press Institute, the Global Peace Photo Award was presented to Korean photographer Elrea Song for her project on recycling waste collected from the country’s coasts, transformed into still lifes with children as models. The colorful and hopeful result captured the hearts of the jury among hundreds of submissions.
La Gacilly Baden is a highly successful example of a traveling festival, attracting more visitors each year. On the last Sunday of September, over 9,000 people roamed the city’s streets. Could this serve as inspiration for other major European photography events in terms of mobility?
La Gacilly-Baden Photo Festival
From June 15 to October 15, 2023