For this iteration of our series In Conversation, we spoke to Virginie Lamarche, curator and co-founder of the FotoFilmic travelling exhibition and photobook.
Burrard Arts Foundation: What is the history of FotoFilmic, both the organization and traveling show? How long has it been running, and as co-founder, what was the process and vision that led to its creation?
Virginie Lamarche: Fotofilmic started as a single Vancouver-based exhibition in 2012, and has since grown and evolved into a much further reaching organization at the center of an exciting partnership network with supporters all across the US, as well as in Europe, Asia and Australia. Fotofilmic projects outwards from its Vancouver base to partner, present and engage all around the world through traveling exhibitions, touring workshops and other academic event series.
BAF: Any aspects of FotoFilmic’16 that you are particularly excited about?
VL: Besides integrating a book component into our exhibition format, we’re always very excited to bring our work and that of our jurors to new world audiences outside of North America. This started with FotoFilmic’15 traveling to Seoul, South Korea in March last year, and FotoFilmic’16 continues that expanded tripartite exhibition trajectory by taking our 30 exhibitors to Melbourne, Australia in October for its third and final instalment at the Monash Gallery of Art. This unique international articulation is crucial to the FotoFilmic DNA and keeps on growing, with FotoFilmic’17 upping the ante next year with a fourth date – Thessaloniki, Greece, following Paris, France.
BAF: Are there any components that are new this year?
VL: In the early fall of 2016, we soft launched the FotoFilmic//PULP Gallery space on Bowen Island as both a show room and HQ for FotoFilmic operations. In anticipation of this, FotoFilmic’16 saw the beginning of an important new component of our traveling exhibitions in the form of accompanying photo-book collections, expanding the presentation of our exhibitors from the print to the page whenever possible.
The ongoing Fotofilmic’17 edition has pushed this innovation more formally with its call now accepting book submissions, something that was not the case yet with FotoFilmic’16. There are, however, a number of great, international books already following the FotoFilmic’16 exhibition that visitors will be able to browse when visiting the show at BAF. This excitingly creates a larger context of reference for viewers to peruse our exhibitions, something we felt could be beneficial, as FotoFilmic exhibitions present only single works from different photographers.
BAF: What was the process like of creating the shortlist that was submitted to the panel for judging? To what degree were you involved in that process?
VL: FotoFilmic’16 was the fourth edition of our global juried traveling exhibition call. Its short-listing process hasn’t evolved significantly since the first edition launch in December 2012.
As co-founders and co-directors of FotoFilmic, Bastien Desfriches Doria and myself are also the main curatorial team behind all FotoFilmic shortlists. The vision behind each short-listing process is in fact quite complex, and demands keeping important artistic, programmatic, and socio-political, to put it broadly, tabs in clear sight while accounting for all the other constantly moving parts and variables that submissions embody in order to strike both the rich diversity of practices, works, traditions and materials charateristic of the FotoFilmic mandate, all while building a certain overarching aesthetic coherency able to color each edition specifically and speak universally to a wide range of audiences worldwide.
It’s definitely a challenging endeavour, but as it repeats itself through each call, and through each edition, that curatorial process creates a track record that somehow makes it easier to manage.
In the end the rewards are always much greater than the challenge, and there truly is nothing else like it out there with such a global, open-themed focus on film-based and analog practices today, and that is something our jurors always enjoy tremendously.
BAF: What is FotoFilmic’s connection to British Columbia (through the Vancouver show and the Bowen Island gallery)? How were the other two cities Fotofilmic’16 is being exhibited in chosen?
VL: FotoFilmic was born in Vancouver in 2012 and has developed invaluable ties to the city and region in producing, presenting and programming its curatorial and exhibition activities. Each show is produced entirely locally, working with various local printing and framing partners, as well as several local prize sponsors such as the Vancouver Biennale and Beau Photo.
As for the choice of exhibition venues, each new FotoFilmic edition traditionally follows part of a common itinerary in always presenting its exhibition in Vancouver and one of the US coasts; past editions have shown in New York and Los Angeles. Since 2015, a third destination has been added to the yearly exhibition itinerary, with dates in Seoul, then Melbourne, to be followed by Paris and Thessaloniki, Greece in 2018. Aiming broadly at connecting with new world audiences, the choice of new exhibition itineraries follows a set programming goal starting with a region, such as Asia, the Southern Hemisphere, or Europe, and then narrows down to identifying fitting partnering institutions whose own programming can resonate with FotoFilmic’s vision.
BAF: FotoFilmic’16 aims to talk about “film-based photography and its rich lineage of physical craft and recording methods in the context of today’s global digital culture”. What’s your opinion on the rising prevalence of digital photography, and is the show intended to make a statement on that topic?
VL: FotoFilmic strives to produce a clear and unencumbered vision, away from the many stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding photographic culture today. Through its programming, it seeks to re-center the role, place and experience of the photographer – in other words his or her practice – as the most defining aspect of artistry. Many still believe the final print or screen image to constitute the logical grounding for any objective artistic evaluation, a somewhat problematic judgment if allowed to trickle down solely into forming opinions about photographers’ worthiness. FotoFilmic, on the contrary, firmly trusts that good work develops over time, maturing over the years as photographers navigate often challenging economical realities in the background of artistic existence. This is especially crucial today in the context of digital publication where astronomical amounts of imagery find their way to a global audience, often rid of their provenance, intention, and means of production. Curating practices then instead of free floating images starts to make a lot more sense.
For many reasons, which are too long and complex to list here, the materiality of film and other analog recording media seems to provide photographers with a more grounded direction to grow and evolve in their practice. There is of course also a core epistemological narrative underpinning FotoFilmic’s discourse, inviting further reflection on how a set of finite, physical tools might engage photographers in more rigorous, articulated, or ethical creative experimentations.
Importantly, FotoFilmic has no stake in entertaining a purist or nostalgic approach isolating traditional silver-based photography and its many predating non-silver processes from the realm of digital photography. We do think positively of digital technology in general and do not wish to contribute to a “versus” debate. To the contrary, FotoFilmic always wishes to encourage integrative perspectives presenting unlimited options to photographers to choose from today.
Ultimately, all FotoFilmic exhibitions bear witness to these views in their perspective on contemporary film and analog photography.
BAF: What kind of thoughts or feelings do you hope guests will take away from the show?
VL: Excitement. Inspiration. Hunger. I would like guests to head out with the resolute will and ambition to work more and enjoy every aspect and reward of being an artist. It is a precious privilege not accessible to all in life.