Peter Weigl, "Man with Snails," 1997.
photo: Courtesy of the Fotofo Agency
This year, the ninth time Slovakia has staged such a festival, viewers are being treated to an exhibition of new trends in contemporary photography, balanced by classic prints from the beginning of the 20 century. Landscape shots, documentary photos and nudes come in all artistic styles at Bratislava's main galleries and cafés this month, as well as in northern Slovakia's Martin, central Banská Štiavnica and the eastern town of Snina.
The Month of Photography exhibition began in 1991, when the French Institute organised a showing of photographs at the same time as a similar world-famous exhibition was held in Paris. Since 1992, the exhibition has been organised and curated by the Fotofo Agency of Bratislava. Event director and Fotofo boss Václav Macek is professor at film theory at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. The Month of Photography, he said, "divides the artists work into categories, such as world photography or eastern and central European photography."
The work of Annie Liebowitz, Helmut Newton and Jan Saudek graced the festival in past years; this year's offering includes world-famous names like Joel-Peter Witkin, the controversial artist combines the styles of Goya and Picasso.
Then there is Russian Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956), known as the master of the Russian avant-garde. Rodchenko hit his stride in the 1920's and 1930's, using unusual angles and points of vision, as well as experimenting with close-ups, light, double exposure and surfaces. A retrospective of his work was also staged at the New York Museum of Modern Art last year. Czech Ivan Pinkava's portraits of human figures are world-famous for presenting human individuals in theatrical way.
Also worth seeing in the world photography part of the exhibition are Roger F. Ballen's unique pictures of the ordinary citizens of South Africa. Other important names whose works are on display include the Croatian Tošo Dabac (1907-1970) whose series "People and the Street" was shot in Zagreb between 1930 and 1940.
Hungarian photographer Péter Korniss brings Hungarian and Romanian village life into focus, while Lithuanian Antanas Sutkisus uses a flat documentary style to describe the last years of totalitarianism in his country. His works are part of the Month of Photography's restrospective on contemporary Lithuanian photography. In other sites around Slovakia, the 'sensitive and dreamy' nude photographs of Swiss Philippe Pache are sure to attract notice in Snina.
The event introduces the work of five women, including American Ernestine W. Ruben (nudes) and Melinda Kovácz ("frightening and joyful pictures"). Student works are also much on display, as two Slovak art schools, the Academy of Fine Art and the Academy of the Performing Arts, both celebrate their 50th anniversaries this year.
The highlight of the Slovak part of the festival is a series of documentary and press photos taken over six months between November 17, 1989 and June 30, 1990, showing the nation's first democratic elections after 40 years of communism, as well as the visit of the Pope.
Slovak press photographer Andrej Bán is also worth a peek for his shots if life in Slovakia 10 years after the revolution. For a contrast, visit the exhibit of Bohumil J. Puskailer's work celebrating the 'Golden Age' of the 1960's. Young Slovak photographers like Martin Tiso and Helena Šišková also get their share of space, but viewers may find their intentions harder to comprehend.
The photographs were selected by Slovak and national curators around the world. Macek said that The Month of Photography had a council which tried to incorporate important and successful artists from various countries, and which sought the advice of professional curators and gallery directors.
The event is supported this year by the Ministry of Culture and Fuji Fotomat, and is co-organised by the Milan Šimečka Foundation. Next year, the tenth Month of Photography festival will join a global exhibition called The Year of Light, which will tour the globe. Moscow and Bratislava have been chosen to represent the work of eastern and central Europe.
Tickets are available at the exhibition sites. For further information call the Fotofo Agency, Tel.: 07-63 83 15 29, or contact Profil Gallery, Prepoštská Street, Tel.: 07-54 43 04 59.