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© Rana Javadi

© Rana Javadi. (This image is not in the show, but the artist is.)

Photoquai‘s mission : to highlight and make known, artists whose work is previously unexhibited or little known in Europe, to foster exchanges and the exchanging of views on the world.

The 2009 Photoquai biennial is directed by Anahita Ghabaian Etehadieh, an Iranian gallerist and founder of the Silk Road Gallery, Tehran – the only space in Iran dedicated to exhibiting photography.

Photoquai shows the work of 50 contemporary photographers from around the world, unknown or little known photographic talents in European terms, who come from Latin America, North America, Asia, Oceania, Africa and the Near and Middle East.

© Nomusa Makhubu

© Nomusa Makhubu

Presumably, Photoquai will propel debates about diversity and representation. I desperately wanted to write something important about Photoquai.

It is a photo-festival hell-bent on avoiding the usual names and well-worn paths of sight and (re)appreciation. But …

As part of my due diligence (sat on my arse, browsing the web, dipping into sources) I was stopped in my tracks by Colin Pantall’s “rant”:

Even 10 years ago, if you wanted to see somebody’s work, you had to buy the book or look in a magazine – which made buying a book or looking in a magazine that much more exciting and attractive. Now you just link to it and see it twittered and facebooked and blogged in a random stream of pictures that you have neither the time nor the will to linger on or contemplate. You can pretend viewing pictures like this is worthwhile in some way, but it’s not and it doesn’t allow for intelligent comment or insight to appear.

The idle, rapid-fire online viewing of photography has it’s knock on effects to writing about photography. Both are debased. I am as guilty as the next person.

So why should you listen to my opinion when I’ve not left my desk in the hour since I became aware of PhotoQuai? Read the following reviews from people who actually went and stood in front of the prints.

Jon Levy of Foto8 gives a pretty anemic description of his preview tour, but is ultimately thankful that new events are still blossoming despite the “undoubtedly harsh” climate for photojournalism.

Diane Smyth at 1854, the BJP blog, first has an overview of Photoquai. Smyth then provides a description of an “unusual exhibition in the Pavillon des Sessions at the Louvre. Portrait croises pairs a selection of 40 images from the Musee du Quai Branly’s extensive archive with indigenous sculptures and artworks from around the world.” Personally, the curatorial premise of this exhibit seems problematic – mainly because the pairings would seem to devalue the original meanings and conditions of production, if not strip them completely.

Marc Feustel of eyecurious loved the ambition but was “pretty disappointed” by the quality throughout. He felt guilty for criticising a small, brave, new-festival-on-the-block but couldn’t forgive the “photographers who should be tried for Photoshop crimes against photography.”

If you look through Jim Casper’s LensCulture gallery, you’ll sympathise with Feustel’s point.

© Daniela Edburg

© Daniela Edburg

© Nadiah Bamadhaj

© Nadiah Bamadhaj

Conclusions:

Iranian photography gets special attention on the 30 year anniversary of the revolution, and the approximate 20 year anniversary of the end of the Iran/Iraq war.

Afghanistan photography inevitably remains within the implications of its ban during Taliban rule.

Only a few well-known names are knocking about, noticeably Abbas Kowsari.

Pablo Hare is the darling so far.

© Pablo Hare

© Pablo Hare

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