Photo Festival '13 in Kreuzberg - Take a look at the world

© Gael Turine, I am Talder Wölfe“

I just recalled the last week of my first edition for Berlin Fotofestival 13, At three different locations: Station Berlin in Kreuzberg, Global Music Academy in Gleisdreieck, and the Browse Gallery, just over the Marheineke-Markthallen, in Bergmannstraße.

In the first location was the so-called "Professional Week", which unfortunately lasted only a few days, while the exhibition "Berlin Calling - International Mobile Phone Photography Award" will run until the 13th of July, in different locations, including bars and cafes in Kreuzberg.

During the Professional Week numerous photojournalist or "reportage" works from every continent were shown, made by well known photographers as well as younger professionals.

© Rob Hornstra, The Sochi Projekt

A large section was dedicated to the project Time in Turkey, for the 25th anniversary of the Zaman Daily. 25 Photographers of different ages and backgrounds each submitted four pictures showing the different shades of this country which, particularly these days, is making us hold our breath due to what is happening right now in Gezi Park and Taksim Square.

Another very interesting work was The Sochi Project, made by Dutch author and filmmaker Arnold van Bruggen and photographer Rob Hornstra. During the past five years, they together documented the changes going through the town of Sochi, on the Black Sea coast, as it prepares to host the Winter Olympic Games in 2014.

© 1945 Jewgeni Chaldej

Very relevant was also a selection of historical reportages; such as Picturing Derry, documenting the street protests that rose in the northern Irish town in the 60s known as "The Troubles", and a series of pictures of war by photographer Jewgeny Chaldej, who during World War II accompanied the troops of the Red Army and took the iconic picture of the victory over the Nazis.

© Eamonn Melaugh, Picturing Derry

Extremely impressive is the work shown by Argentinian photographer Emmanuel Ortiz taken in former Yugoslavia in the 90s, portraying a region which he fell in love with, and later burst into deepest conflict under the lenses of his camera.

As this exhibition will already be over when this article will be published, if you missed it I suggest to anyone interested in reportage photography to go the Foto Festival web site and take a look at the exhibited photographers. I assure you there is a lot to learn from.

©1995 Emmanuel Ortiz, Broken Lights

But still, what role does photojournalism play today in our lives and in our times? This is the question that the Festival organizers asked themselves when presenting this reportage-focused exhibition. In a time where newspapers or magazines can now source cheaper images from mobile phones taken by amateurs, budgets are shrinking for professional photo-journalists. What kind of future is there for those who still want to do this job? As the Fotofestival Team wrote in the Welcome page of the catalog, "At stake is not only the economic existence of an individual photographer or a whole profession, we are jeopardizing the future of independent quality journalism which has so far been considered a necessary controlling mechanism for the persistence of democracy […] however, with bringing in a focus on multimedia and mobile photography […] we are also clearly saying: Yes, the times are changing and yes, we have to move on".

This statement shows a very aware position about these times. It is clear that there is a will to build up a dialogue between different fields of communication. It is no longer only about photography, but also about video, film-making, photo-editing, design, graphics, and new technologies; different worlds that must collaborate with each other in order to find a break-through and take information sharing on to the next level.

© Kai Löffelbein, Hidden Hong Kong
However, I personally think that it was slightly unbalanced to have an only five day exhibition of international professional photojournalism about very important issues of our times, and a month long exhibition within 20 locations of mobile phone photography; which is definitely interesting and at times surprising, but has a totally different purpose. I guess this decision has more to do with logistics and organization matters, and maybe next year things will be different.

Still, what I learned during the Professional Week, and what everyone should learn, is that photojournalism still has the same value that early travel photography had at the beginning of the last century: showing people the world beyond what they'd seen before, and this is what independent and professional photojournalism should do with us today (although it's true that there were also cases of war photographers "staging" their pictures). They should actually  show us what we don't get to see in the usual news. They should show us what those words that we hear in the news actually mean. For example: "dozens of children killed today in Syria". Words that we forget in a minute, or which stay in our minds but that we cannot even imagine their meaning, because they are so far away, and we don't really feel that those stories belong to us.

© Michael Biach, Lunik IX

It is more difficult to forget a picture showing a person like you or I on the other side of the world struggling with problems that we can't even imagine; like people living in cages in Hong Kong due to increasing rents, as reported by Kai Löffelbein, or about the children living in the biggest slum of Slovakia photographed by Michael Biach. Do we really want to change the world? Then first of all we must take a look at it.

By Helena Falabino
Edited by Neal James
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