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February 23, 2017

Federica Chiocchetti Talks About Guest Curating JaipurPhoto 2017

Text by Huzan Tata

She reveals her passion for spotting connections between images and the challenges of curating a photography festival in India

What was the greatest challenge of curating a photography festival for a country you’ve never visited?
“To allocate the photo works across all the different venues, which I could only imagine from Google Street View and installation views of the previous edition. That is why the relation between travel and ‘the imaginary’ was one of the sub-themes I decided to explore. When you work with an unfamiliar foreign country and are presenting international artists through outdoor installations, you have to make assumptions concerning the audience. I usually aim to create a diverse and intriguing visual encounter of cultures. It is a matter of finding a balance between the architecture, history and culture of the place, the imagery and stories that will inhabit it and the eyes of an indefinite amount of people, which, willingly or unwillingly, will ‘land’ on those images and experience curiosity and further private or collective explorations.”

Any Indian photographers whose work you admire?
“I am not an expert on Indian photography, hence I am inevitably familiar with the most established names such as Dalda 13, Dayanita Singh and Pablo Bartholomew. Thanks to this adventure of co-curating JaipurPhoto 2017 with the artistic director, I discovered some other incredible gems too.”

As a critic and curator, what’s playing in your mind that’s different from the average viewer?
“It is very personal and it evolves over time. I question if a photo is ambiguous, or strange, eccentric, dark, humorous, nostalgic, irreverent, problematic…if I cannot fully grasp what is going on, or if it instills doubts, a yearning to do further research.”

What was the inspiration behind Photocaptionist?
“The desire to create a photo-literary curatorial platform that merges photography with literature. The project is loosely inspired by Bertold Brecht’s 1955 Kriegsfibel (War Primer) that introduced a new literary genre, the fotogramm (photo-epigram), where he combined poetry and news photography to unmask the true nature of war in a capitalist society.”

Are technological advances and photo-sharing websites affecting the quality of photography today?
“We are constantly bombarded by a great flood of unnecessary digital images every second of our lives. Instagram, like every social media platform, is a promiscuous space, where you can find both boringly terrible pictures of food or selfies, and artists using it in a very interesting way. Technological advances per se are not necessarily a good or a bad thing, they are just a fact, they are happening. It depends on how they are used. It’s a matter of craftsmanship and art for me.”

Do you collect photos outside of your work?
“Being a curator and promoting artists with both public and private institutions, I find collecting for myself a conflict of interest, but I adore consulting other people. I enjoy helping collectors find a narrative to follow based on their taste and interests. Collections that are coherently put together around a specific theme or a geographical focus, such as Latin American photography, are extremely fascinating. I am building a photo-text books collection for the Photocaptionist, which I hope will end up somewhere useful and accessible for people interested in image-text intersections.”

In 2017 you are looking forward to….
“Finalising my PhD, co-curating an exhibition in Tokyo with a lovely Japanese curator and teaching a course within the new MA/MFA in photography and image-making at the Paris College of Art.”

JaipurPhoto will take place at various venues across Jaipur from February 24 – March 5, 2017.

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