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Design Bridge Visits: Unseen photo fair 2016

Amsterdam’s annual Unseen Photo Fair is an international showcase of emerging talents shown alongside ‘unseen’ work by established artists. It has become a leading industry networking event and must-attend attraction in the city’s busy cultural calendar.

Inevitably, many of the visual culture aficionados in our Amsterdam Studio were drawn to the fair and a few of us were enthused enough to share our highlights from it, demonstrating the breadth of disciplines and media that are shaping the global fine art photography scene.

My highlights: After All 2, Nicolas Feldmeyer (mc2gallery)
Feldmeyer’s spectral landscape immerses you in its shadows. Am I standing in the heart of a vast desert or the depths of subterranean cave? The glowing shape is both a presence and a vacuum, equally menacing and enticing. Is it a digital manipulation or physical installation?

His other works feature analogue illusions of “digitalness”, both at vast scale and as experiments in his kitchen, whilst his architectural background makes him adept at using modelling software. So, any answers are unforthcoming.

Meanwhile I’m still wrapped in darkness, staring at a bright rectangle…

Sylvia’s highlights: On the aesthetics of violence, Jan Rosseel (Ravenstein gallery) and Tweetbundles, Jan Dirk van der Burg
Jan Rosseel manages to capture an aesthetic graphic structure when scrolling through pictures of violence on the internet – of which only a small fraction of the picture is shown and the rest of the pictures are still loading. It scares you, as only a fraction of the violent image is already recognisable, yet the colour blocks are contrastingly peaceful.

Also memorable, though more tongue-in-cheek, are the ten Tweetbundles of famous and locally “famous” Dutch tweeters. Without their knowledge Jan Dirk van der Burg published their tweets and pictures. Apparently when confronted with the physical book vanity wins from the first sense of shame. My personal favourite is gangster Lionel aka Lexxxus the Don – don’t mess with him or his wifey – presented with a great sense of humour.

Brendan’s highlight: This is You, Albarrán Cabrera (Valid Photo BCN)
A collection of work entitled ‘This is You’ by Spanish photography duo Albarrán Cabrera most memorably excited my mind. What struck me about this work was not just their ability to compose such striking images, but the strength of the conceptual thinking beyond the lens.

When Albarrán Cabrera came into possession of some old negatives and postcards, they scanned the negatives to find family portraits taken around 40 years ago by an amateur photographer. The shots were underexposed, leaving the people in the pictures unidentifiable. Albarrán Cabrera observed, “The family could be any one. Those moments, that formed part of the photographer’s identity, could also be ours.”

They set upon curating their our own photographs along with the anonymous ones — unifying all of them using the same printing process — generating the identity and memories of someone who never existed. Through this exploration of identity and memory Albarrán Cabrera highlight that “when we look at a photography related to our experiences, our intangible and unreliable memories surrender to the printed image. The concrete photographs replace our abstract memories and our identity is certified by that set of photographs.”


This is a photograph I took at the fair, and you can enjoy more of Albarrán Cabrera’s work here.


Lead image: Unseen 2016 (c), Joyce Dekker 4. You can also read Brendan’s review of last year’s Unseen Photo Fair elsewhere on our blog.

by Alicia Mitchell

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