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New York Photo Festival Review

Text and Photos by J.P. Regalado

New York Photo Festival Kick-Off Party, PowerHouse Arena

Only in its second year, the New York Photo Festival has emerged as a formidable forum for the world's photographers to discuss ideas and issues relevant to contemporary photography. Co-Founders Frank Evers and Daniel Power breathed "the art form and celebration of photography to life" around the twin pillar concept of "Ideas and Discovery."

The concept is simple—hand select 4 world-class curators each year to curate a show around a theme of choice. This year, William A. Ewing (Director, Musee de l'Elysee), Chris Boot (London-based publisher and editor of photography books and former Director of Magnum Photos in NY and London), Jody Quon (Photography Director, New York Magazine), and Jon Levy (Director, Foto8) were strategically selected to curate the 2009 Photo Fest.

David Sherry's work from Jody Quon's show "I don't really know what kind of girl I am"

Virginie Otth, from William A. Ewing's show "All over the place!"

image courtesy of the New York Photo Festival

Amidst the inundation of Flickr, and image proliferation en mass via the internet, William A. Ewing's show entitled "All over the place!" was particularly poignant. Ewing cleverly mimicked the current photographic landscape's "messy diversity" by literally having his show at 4 separate venues. Images selected successfully reconciled photography's past and present—Unseen images from the vaults of Austrian photographer Ernest Haas' vault were juxtaposed next to the cutting edge digital mythologies of Swiss photographer Virginie Otth.

New York Photo Festival Awards

Panels discussions entitled "Blogging in the Photography Community" and "Artist-Publisher: Mass produced for Mass Dissemination" extended the idea-logue to address the economic crisis, creative survival, new strategies for image proliferation. A "New Documentations" panel tried to answer the questions—Is photography getting redundant and boring? Are photographers doing what's expected? With the ubiquity of digital cameras who is the observer and the observed? Overall, panels conceptually reinforced the fact that antiquated photographic paradigms are quickly fading and must make way for new and emerging forms of expression.

Tim Hetherington's "Sleeping Soldiers", from John Levy's show "Home for Good"

image courtesy of the New York Photo Festival

For example, British photographer and filmmaker, Tim Hetherington, employed a three-screen triptych to realize a multimedia photographic vision. He shot the photojournalistic piece during his 6-month stint with U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Entitled "Sleeping Soldiers", Hetherington synthesized the moving and still image seamlessly, immersing viewers into an emotionally charged dreamscape.

Portfolio Review Pavilion

Finally, a new human element was injected into the festival this year with the Review Pavilion. Established photographers attended workshops and presentations, and could have their work reviewed by industry professionals. Meanwhile, at the PowerHouse arena, a rolling projector screened audience submitted images via internet in an area dubbed, "We are all photographers!"

Keep an eye out for next year's festival. 2 curators have already been slated for action. Amidst the segmented and disparate directions that photography seems to be trudging through, the New York Photo Festival is the super glue that keeps the photographic community inspired and on its toes. Forward thinking and thought provoking, this year's festival gave attendees a concentrated peek into the world of contemporary photography. "As an idea, this festival is about contributing to the larger conversation about contemporary photography and the arts," says Daniel Powers, festival co-founder, "I expect to remain very active in photography and visual media in all of its manifestations for a long time to come.

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