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

FotoArtFestival Bielsko-Biala 2007

We woke on Saturday to a light covering of snow
 Sarah Moon (right) gets ready to speak



Sarah Moon, Nina and Naomi Rosenblum

Sarah Moon and Inez Baturo


Snow on the gallery roof


A fine building opposite the Galeria Bielska BWA 



 Naomi Rosenblum looks at Walter's pictures on show.


 Nina Rosenblum and Naomi




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FotoArtFestival 2007

Saturday morning I wake up, go to the window and everything is a little white. However it is a busy morning and my alarm didn't go off, so I don't have time to take any pictures of Bielsko in the snow, but have to rush down to get breakfast in before the start of the 'Authors Marathon.'

Sarah Moon, who will speak first is just about finishing her breakfast as I arrive, and we all wish her well as she leaves the table.

I walk to the Banialuka Theatre where the events are scheduled talking to another couple of photographers; we are in a smaller hall there and walk in to find it already crowded. Fortunately some chairs are found for us at the side of the hall, as more people keep arriving.

By the time Sarah starts her talk, first showing a short film she made about herself for an event the USA, the theatre was packed with many standing. The film was short, rapid moving, with her fast-talking poetic commentary and a rather poor sound system making it hard to follow even though it was in English. But as with her work, what came over was a strong feeling of atmosphere and mood, and the details were probably unimportant.

The questions that followed brought out much of the outline of her career and her methods of working. Despite her appreciation of the things that digital can do for her, especially in making films and DVD, her photographs are all made on film, using Polaroid neg/pos material, which is shortly to cease production.

She is leaving immediately after the presentation, and at the end I go to say goodbye. We embrace and hope we will meet again somewhere, and I photograph her with some of the many others who want to speak to her before she leaves.

Naomi Rosenblum asks me what I think about the screen in the hall, which has obvious ripples across its surface. She isn't happy about projecting documentary photographs or Nina's film on to it, and I suggest she asks Inez if it can be made flat.

The only solution appears to be to move proceedings into the larger theatre that was used for the opening, but this leads to a considerable delay. The next item on the program, a meeting about the Union of Polish Artist Photographers (UPAP) goes ahead as planned, but after that there is a gap of a couple of hours before the programme can restart.

I'm sufficiently interested to find out more about UPAP to remain in the meeting, but more than half the Polish audience were apparently students who had only come to see Sarah Moon and although the hall was still decently full, there was plenty of space.

The meeting was chaired by Witold Krassowski, the Vice President of the UPAP, and was to explain some of the reasons behind its change to the Association of Polish Art Photographers (APAP), as well as outline how this might channel European Union cultural funds to photographers. I hope I have the important details right - but it was a little hard to follow even in English.

The UPAP was celebrating its 60th anniversary, and had been used by the communist regime to control photographers. Through it they supplied money to photographers, but when the communists lost power the funding stopped. The organisation carried on continuing to try to work for photographers, running galleries, exhibitions and projects etc.

Moving to the new organisation, the APAP would mark a decisive break from the old communist model. The aim was to make the APAP much easier to join and to attract more young photographers. It would also continue to support artists' rights, and provide a mechanism for recognising individual photographers as artists which would give them access to European cultural funds.

I ask what they mean by artists' rights am a little disappointed to find they seemed only to have copyright in mind. Our right to that was secured long since (although it would be nicer if some countries - such as America - adhered more closely to the Berne Convention) although I appreciate there can be some problems in actually getting the payment due.

I'd hoped what was intended was a campaign to secure moral rights, and in particular the right to be recognised - and attributed - as the author of the work, along with a recognition of the integrity of the work which should prevent images being cropped or otherwise altered without the photographer's consent.

Its always easy to think that the grass is greener on the other side of the hill. Earlier, I think someone had asked Sarah what could be done to raise the profile of Polish photography. I think probably he meant on the international scene, but certainly inside Poland photography appears to have a much higher profile than it does in many other countries - such as the UK.

Here we don't really have any organisation that stands up and represents British photographers rights. We have several organisations that each represents different sectors but no overall body. Which is perhaps why the UK body that distributes cultural funds has been so effectively able to shaft photographers.

Of course photographers do occasionally get some funding, but the great bulk goes to galleries and other organisations - funding curators, other gallery staff and premises - and and only small amounts trickle - often through them - down to the photographers.

(Part of the problem has always been that the total amount for visual arts in general has always been relatively small, and that for photography a small fraction even of that, with huge amounts of subsidy going into opera etc.)

Until I got a small commission - funded by a local authority and a Regional Arts Council - in 2001, the total amount of public funding I had received in almost 30 years as a photographer exhibiting and publishing work had been less than 1000. And more of that money came from the Poetry budget rather than any Photography budget, despite my never having published a single verse!

This year I've taken part in 4 exhibitions in public spaces in the UK, including one show of 24 pictures from 'My London Diary' and another which I curated. Two, possibly three of the venues get some public support, but for various reasons I've not qualified for any direct public funding.

Back to Poland. After the UPAP/APAP meeting I went to the gallery next door for some coffee, which gave me the opportunity to talk to Mitra Tabrizian and her husband, who I'd met at the opening the previous day. I'm not sure that what we said changed my ideas about her work, but it did tell me more about her working methods and gave me a little more insight into her way of thinking. She was to give the next presentation, and they left to make the final presentations.

A few minutes later I decided to go and take my place in the hall, but found a crowd still waiting outside. I stopped to talk to Naomi and Nina, and their volunteer Eva came up to tell us we had at least an hour to spare. They decided to go and take a look at Walter's show - as although I'd already seen it, I would welcome another look.

So five minutes later I was going with them around the show, sharing their delight at how well it had been displayed and lit, and being delighted to hear some of the stories behind some of the pictures, as well as sharing my appreciation of the work.

While in the Ksiaznica Beskidska we also went round the Michael Kenna show. Again, I'd already seen this - and written in my diary about it - but was gratified to find that we seemed largely in agreement about the work.

It was a mood of agreement that continued as we sat in the theatre and listened to MItra's presentation, and when after a listening to it and a number of questions a move to the Prezydent for lunch was suggested we were all ready.




(continued on next page.)




FotoArtFestival Diary 2007

Peter Marshall

Bielsko-Biala, October 18-28, 2007

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