Photography is an expression of one's visualization, rather than just click and shutter. There is not a lot of space in Nepal where photography is respected as one's art of telling stories through pictures. So, to create a platform for the photographers, Photo Circle was established in 2007as a resource center for thiscreative endeavor. It organizes as international photo festival, the only one of its kind, called Photo Kathmandu, the idea of which was inspired by the ChobiMela in Bangladesh, Dhaka. Naini Tara Gurung, the festival director and co-founder of Photo Circle, brought the concept of the festival to Kathmandu.
Any art practitioner is always concerned with not just making beautiful things, but also something relevant to his or her own life. Whether an artist belongs to a liberal or conservative society, or he/she is from a developing or developed country, these socio-cultural forces influence an artist. The people present in the festival will be having a conversation about an artist trying to figure out his/her relationship to the world and the way of expressing what they feel.
One of the main things about Photo Kathmandu, or Photo Circle itself, is that they believe photography is a powerful tool for telling stories, especially for issues with social implications. The festival is attended by various international artists, communicators, and writers. Photo Circle aims to present stories from Nepal to the outside world.
Photo Kathmandu takes art outside gallery spaces by showcasing them on the gallis, hitis, bahals, andthe walls of houses, where they are traditionally seen. People walking on the streets of Patan will be experiencing this festival, either without knowing about it, or by visiting intentionally. The festival includes panel discussions between art professionals, where they will be talking about their motivation and the message they want to convey from their art and the process and techniques that can be resourceful for an aspiring artist.
The first edition of Photo Kathmandu was heldin 2015,for one week, followed by the second edition in 2016 that lasted for two weeks in Patan. The community was very happy, and Photo Kathmandu became a source of pride for them.Both editions enabled the public to see works from all over the world, along with art talks, slide shows, workshops, and portfolio reviews. This edition is going to be bigger than the previous ones, and will last for five weeks, from October 12 to November 16, 2018.
This year, the focus is onthe intersection of gender, sexuality, patriarchy, and power in the world that we live in. The biggest one is going to be the print exhibition that will be done in two phases. On the day of opening, there will be 12 exhibitions, in which one of the biggest will come from Nepal Picture Library, called the Feminist Memory Project. All the contributions and movements of women in various public spheres will be gathered and exhibited. Various instances of women being creators and artists are going to be presented, including recreation of Parijat, the author of SirishKoPhool. So, by making intellectualfemale figures visible, theupcoming Photo Kathmandu is also an initiative towards changing the narrative about the role of women.
Moreover, the festival will have two different exhibitions about LGBTQI issues. Since non-straight sexuality is criminalized in many places of the world, they have to hide their identity or suffer through social isolation. Among the two issues, one will be dealt by an Iranian/Swiss artist who is dealing with photographs by LGBTQI couples in Iran, and about people from this community who had to flee their country and become refugees in Turkey. The other one is by Robin Hammond, called "Where love is illegal", where he goes to various countries and photographs people in places where homosexual relationships have been sentenced. He goes to these communities and makes them active participants and allows them to give ideas on how they wish to represent themselves in the way that's best for them. There are lots of socio-cultural issues like these that stay hidden. Photo Kathmandu is also creating awareness among the public to at least start a conversation about these issues.
And, not just about the sexuality, there can be conversation about how the gender power structure works. There may or may not be discussion among families about proper marital or reproductive age and how girls and women should behave. These are the generational topics that people are possibly talking about. So, these photographs, conversations, talk panels, and guided tours hopefully would at least make people aware that these things are being taught all around the world.
Also, this year, a new program called South Asia Incubator 1 is going to be held at Photo Kathmandu. It is open for emerging artists, photographers, writers, and curators working with photography. Anyone from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Iran, Maldives, and Bhutan can participate. It will be a space for exchange and engagement between young practitioners and mentors from all around the world.
With all their effort in organizing different programs in this festival, Photo Kathmandu walks with a long-term vision to create a platform for Nepali artists. They bring in artists and photographers from all around the world and also give a place for aspiring artists to learn art from professional mentors in Nepal without having to go abroad.
For more information visit: http://www.photoktm.com/