Pictures copyright: 2007, Peter Marshall unless stated otherwise.
All pictures here were taken with a Fuji FInepix F31fd digital camera. .

FotoArtFestival Bielsko-Biala 2007

A rather poor picture of the Prezydent Hotel where we had lunch

Lunch in the Prezydent



 Joan Fontcuberta and Sarah Moon

At the Press conference 
Misha listening to the speeches - which were in Polish 


Alex deep in thought   

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FotoArtFestival 2007

A group of photographers including Alex ten Napen, Misha Gordin and Joan Fontcuberta were already at the Prezydent along with some of the guides when we arrived and we joined them at the large centre table.

By the time we had eaten, it was almost time for the press conference, and we strolled across to the Galeria Bielska BWA where it was to take place, waiting as usual for an age at the crossing for a green light. We met up with Jose as we walked into the gallery

Nothing much was happening when we arrived, and there was time to look at some of the work on display there.

Seven Deadly Sins

On the lower floor were the large panoramas of the 'Seven Deadly Sins' created by Lukas Maximilian Huller (b 1969, Austria) and a team of collaborators, including Etienne Tombeux from Belgium who was here in Bielsko. These were inspired by the work of Heironymus Bosch, and also used as references many works from film and photography of the 20th century.

We stood in front of them for some time trying to work out exactly how they were made - and later Etienne's presentation supplied most of the answers.

Clearly the intention is very different from Bosch, whose work although it displays a very real fascination with the underside of this world and their possible extrapolations in hell is essentially religious in nature. These works are eclectic and essentially amoral, postmodern images where any glimpse offered into a moral dimension is through our own oversated rejection or revulsion at their emptiness.

They are clever, superbly realised, witty and I love them. But they are also partial, parodic, showy and essentially trivial. I like that too, but it ain't life.

Shout; Doubt

Misha Gordin's work is powerful stuff too, which I think reflects the torture of the soul under totalitarian regimes - such as he grew up under in Latvia, leaving for the USA after 28 "years of disgust with communist authorities". He is clearly a master of photomontage in the darkroom - as yet he has not felt the need to try working on his images with computers.

I found the presentation of his work on screen more powerful than seeing the prints on the wall - and I'll perhaps say more about his work when I come to that on Sunday afternoon.

Imaginary Landscapes

Joan Fontcuberta's work which generally challenges and investigates the nature of photographic truth, also arose out of growing up under a totalitarian regime - Franco's fascist Spain.

I've written in another place about some of his earlier work - in particular the incredible history 'Fauna Secreta' created with Pere Formiguera documenting the research of the imaginary German biologist, Dr. Peter Ameisenhaufen.

His 'Landscapes without Memory' is to me rather less interesting. These computer generated landscapes may be impressive, but despite the use of photographic paper for output they are not photographs. It is more a rather sophisticated painting by numbers.

Their production is also a process that involves consderable intervention by the operator as well as an initial file. Using as he did a digitised version of a famous picture as an input file, the choices and parameters required by the rendering software could actually produce a very wide range of different outputs rather than the single possibility he presents.

I'm not sure why - perhaps the limitations of the render design - but the black and white versions in the catalogue - which were also shown in the opening presentation at the festival - seem considerably more realistic than the colour prints on the gallery wall. The reason why this should be is actually a question I find more interesting than those posed by the project overall.


I think to truly appreciate Sarah Moon's work Circus you need to look at the whole work, either on film or as the series of images that were displayed around the room with text in French. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story "The Little Match Girl", but re-written by Moon. I think of her still images very much as frames from a film, and they display a powerful sense of mood, enhanced by the dark tonalities and degrees of unsharpness she gets from the often deliberately maltreated (distressed) Polaroid black and white negatives.

There is a fine interview with her by another great photographer, Frank Horvat, on his web site, and you can find more of her work on the Howard Greenberg Gallery site (click the Artists tab and look for her name). On the same site you can also see the 34 images from Circus - click the Exhibits tab and then 'Previous' and look for her Circus show which was there in Dec 2004-Jan 2005.

Press Conference

I'm a little embarassed to be told to sit at the front during the press conference with all the photographers invited for the festival, although the sofa I'm on, between Misha and Jose, is comfortable enough. Opposite us on a similar sofa are Jose, Sarah and Alex, with the others up on side of the platform behind me, and a room fairly crammed with photographers and journalists in front of us.

The kind of introductions each of us gets are probably pretty embarassing, but since they are almost entirely in Polish perhaps less so for most of us. I'm told what was said about me was complimentary, and it certainly gets a good response. But what really attracts the attention of the photographers is that I get out my little Fuji and take a few snaps myself of the proceedings.

Later come questions, though fortunately not many, and we are all invited to speak, but like me most of the others decide that discretion is the better part. Then someone asks if any of the photographers have taken pictures in Bielsko, and Inez mentions me, and I have to get up and say something.

Something like how pleased I was to be back in Beilsko-Biala again, and how 2 years ago I had come with my pictures of a derelict post-industrial London, only to look out of my hotel room onto a similar scene and realise that I was bringing 'coals to Newcastle', and that I was pleased that my room this time had the same outlook.

And of course to say what a fine festival this was, with a great atmosphere - very much thanks to the great efforts of the person standing up in front of the room (gesturing at Inez.) It was another of my remarks she failed in translation.

After the press conference we had an hour or two spare before the opening ceremony. There was still a little light and I decided to continue my walk around Bielsko.


(continued on next page.)




FotoArtFestival Diary 2007

Peter Marshall

Bielsko-Biala, October 18-28, 2007

FotoArtFestival Diary 2005
FotoArtFestival2005 on the Wayback Machine

FotoArtFestival - Official Site