An autumnal meeting point for photo-lovers from all over the world, Amsterdam’s Unseen returns to the city’s western parts from the 16th to the 18th of September for its tenth anniversary edition. Set in an industrial former gas storage tank, the Gashouder, and its leafy environs, the fair is known for its bold embrace of experimental contemporary photography, foregrounding work by emerging artists and newer work by established names. Its tenth round celebrates its founding ethos, filling the circular hall with an abundance of different takes on photography presented by 70 galleries from 16 countries across the world, whilst also throwing a couple of new elements into the mix for visitors to discover.
As ever, the work shown by the galleries this year is international and rich in its many approaches to photography. Homegrown, established Dutch artists feature like Erwin Olaf, who is showing new work created in collaboration with renowned ballet choreographer Hans van Manen, and Paul Kooiker, whose surreal fashion images give a preview of his upcoming publication, as well as emerging photographers like Lisanne Hoogerwerf and Marleen Sleeuwits. Galleries from Mexico, India, South Africa, Iran and Morocco showcase what’s happening in photography on an international level, from the sculptural collages of Mexican conceptual artist Carlos Aguirre, Bharat Sikka’s brand new body of work that reflects on Indian youth culture and Moroccan-Belgian artist Mous Lamrabat’s imaginative portraits.
Circling around our current photographic landscape, two recent additions to the fair look backwards and forward. The section Past/Present puts a vintage body of work by Sri Lankan artist Lionel Wendt into conversation with the male nudes of British portrait photographer (and 2014 LensCulture Emerging Talent Award Winner) Laura Stevens. On the other side of the coin, this year’s fair marks the beginning of a new partnership with Unveil—an NFT platform launching at the fair, created by photographer Alexander Sporre for photographers. Describing a shared interest in the “practical and democratic advantages this digital world can offer to global talent to gain access to the market, regardless of their location or circumstances,” this collaboration carves out a space to explore the impact of non-fungible tokens on the medium’s future.
More discoveries await visitors outside the confines of the fair. For photobook-lovers, the book market is a paradise filled with this year’s new releases and classics from 67 publishers from around the world. For visitors wishing to refresh and challenge their definition of photography, the second edition of the exhibition Unbound brings together a constellation of 12 artists orbiting on the “outer limits of the photographic universe” to explore the different directions the medium can stretch and mutate into.
Selected by guest curator Damarice Amao, who works at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the 12 bodies of work on show at the Transformatorhuis are ‘unbound’ by a common theme or interest, chosen rather for their hybrid, experimental approaches that draw installation, film, sculpture, video and performance into photography to express complex, multi-layered realities. From Lucile Boiron’s fleshy, tactile perspectives on the body to Laurence Aëgerter’s monumental tapestry, woven in phosphorescent yarn its layers revealed by an intermittent UV spotlight, that brings to life the story of the Diogenes bunker in Arnhem during WW2—its layers revealed by an intermittent UV spotlight—the work on view activates the mind and body to transform looking into a sensory, engaging experience.
One last exhibition next door at the Westerliefde, the Meijburg Art Commission 2022, revolves around the pressing theme of ‘human connection’ with new work by five artists including Pixy Liao and Elliot Verdier. After several years of pandemic-related restrictions, this edition of Unseen promises plenty of ‘IRL’ photography experiences to enjoy on-site, but the festivities also spill into the city. Exhibitions will be taking place at many of Amsterdam’s top institutions including a solo exhibition of Jochen Lempert and a show of Nhu Xuan Hua’s work at Huis Marseille, Mous Lamrabat and Foam Talent 2022 at FOAM and an exhibition featuring the work of 16 African photographers at the Tropenmuseum, among many others.
Editor’s note: Unseen will take place between 16-18 September in Amsterdam. You can find more information on the fair here, and the city programme here.