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[artphoto]image.festival - Bucharest, Romania
May 27-30, 2005
Report by Fred Baldwin and Wendy Watriss

On May 27, 2005, we arrived in Bucharest to participate as reviewers in Romania's first photography festival [artphoto]image.festival. The event is the inspiration of Rázvan Ion, Romanian energetic photographic artist/magazine publisher and creator of the avant-garde media art magazine artphoto. The festival, like the magazine itself, presents photography in the larger framework of new media, video and conceptual digital works.

Rázvan is one of the most recent impresarios -- arts juggler and entrepreneur -- to add yet another public photography spectacle to the world scene. He is a man of boundless energy, and he has pulled out of his hat a festival that combines photography and video media. He has pulled resources, staff, and good organization out of thin air and some corporate sponsorship. The result was a three-day event that gathered together 25+ photography curators and thinkers from all over Europe and some from the United States.

The event forged a new contact with artists and media art in Romania. In addition to 12 Romanian media artists and photographers, there were artists from Hungary, Austria, Germany, France, Slovakia, Holland, Croatia, Argentina, UK, and the USA. They had their portfolios reviewed by curators from festivals and arts organizations such as Rhubarb Rhubarb, Birmingham, UK, European Photography, Germany, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Russia, Museum at the University of Umea, Sweden and organizations in Italy, Hungary, Austria as well as a private collector from New York, among others.

The portfolio review was very well organized and based on what Rázvan had observed at Rhubarb Rhubarb (Link here) in 2004, that in turn is based on the FotoFest model. This has become the accepted mode of reviewing portfolios around the world. Reviews are organized in 20-minute segments, with reviewers seeing 12-15 photographers a day.

In addition to the portfolio reviews, [artphoto]image.festival provided three days of lectures and films at the French Cultural Institute on new media perspectives. The speakers included Dana Altman, Romanian-born scholar/writer and New York gallerist, British mixed media artist John Gotto and New York collector John Bennette.

There was an evening of French films and a mixed media exhibition presenting Romanian artists and well-known new media artists such as Lev Manovich and AES+1. The exhibition and events drew about 100 reviewers, photographers and public. These events were the warm-up for the fundraising photography auction the followed the last evening next day to create a profile for photo collecting in Romania and raise money for [artphoto]image.festival.

The Hotel Casa Bucur, the site of the portfolio review as well as our home in Bucharest is a charming 19th Century building, the former home of an affluent Rumanian family in pre-Communist times. The conversion from private dwelling to hotel required odd architectural decisions. To get from the elevator to our room it was necessary to navigate an obstacle course of little flights of stairs - down and along for 10 feet, and then up again - to get the rooms. The garden of the Hotel Casa Bucur was a magical place. Sitting with old and new friends, having a drink or a late snack under the trees, made the stay in Bucharest especially memorable - something that we are anxious to repeat. Even skeptical waiters seemed cheerful in this environment.

On balance, the first [artphoto]image.festival was a great success. We picked up several artists for FotoFest 2006 and will create special exchange programs with the Romanian event and Romanian artists. Bucharest is a place filled with energy, contradictions and challenges. The Romanian countryside is beautiful; it offers people the possibility of experiencing the rich and tumultuous history of Western and Eastern cultures coming together in Europe.

We look forward to reviewing portfolios again in 2006. Razvan and his enthusiastic staff have put another photography festival on the map of the world. Their passion, energy and intelligence have added a new bright star to the photography scene.

Photographs taken with Leica Digilux 2