PhotoIreland Foundation - Sharing Ambition Across Borders to Make Great Art
11 July 2018

PhotoIreland Foundation - Sharing Ambition Across Borders to Make Great Art

PhotoIreland Foundation are members of two Creative Europe European Platforms - the Futures Photography Platform and Parallel Platform. As members of these platforms, they are responsible for the selection of Irish artists to join platforms networks, helping them with transnational engagement, dissemination and promotion of their practice. PhotoIreland Foundation also participate in a curatorial role towards exhibitions in Dublin (for 2019) and promote Irish artists with their unique and extensive photobook collection at International events.

We asked Julia Gelezova (General Manager) and Angel Luis Gonzalez (CEO) of PhotoIreland Foundation about their foundation's projects and events, and the impact their involvement in both Platforms has had on their organisation and selected artists.    

1. How does PhotoIreland Foundation engage with and promote Irish Visual Culture and Irish artists?

PhotoIreland Foundation fulfills its remit to stimulate a critical dialogue around Photography in Ireland, promoting the work of local artists internationally, with a series of events and projects that run throughout the year, in Ireland and abroad. We want to enrich the Irish ecosystem with much needed new voices, new curatorial approaches, facilitate much deserved new opportunities, and invigorate the Irish photography scene.

On a daily basis, the foundation runs a venue in Dublin’s Temple Bar, where visitors have access to an Art bookshop, a very active gallery space, and the foundation’s specialised photobook library, The Library Project. The venue is an essential resource to support local artists, galleries and publishers. It acts as a space for dissemination and research on new and current practices and discourses.

Three events mark our yearly calendar of events. Notably, the PhotoIreland Festival, which runs every May in Dublin, invites local audiences to discover international contemporary photographic practices, estimulating and expanding the ambition and network for local artists. Celebrating the printed matter in all its forms, the Halftone Print Fair every November evidences a diversity of printing approaches within the Arts in Ireland; it encourages photographers to experiment beyond the traditional printing techniques. In addition, the foundation runs How to Flatten a Mountain, a 12-day residency aimed at lens based artists in collaboration with Cow House Studios (Wexford) and the Office of Public Works OPW - the output of which is exhibited at Rathfarnham Castle during PhotoIreland Festival.

Similarly, we inform the world about new works by Irish photographers through major publishing projects. Responding to the tourism industry surrounding The Library Project, Greetings From Ireland offers visitors a collection of postcards with a personal and distinct view of the island. Beyond the mere beautiful, 40 artists represent a more diverse, mundane, and perhaps real Ireland.

Initiated in 2013, New Irish Works is an open search for the latest photographic projects in Ireland. An invited international jury ensures a balanced selection out of an open call submission. In the first edition, 25 artists participated in 7 exhibitions throughout 3 cities around Ireland, with a joint publication listing all works, all as part of PhotoIreland Festival, and travelling to Paris and Madrid later that year. The second edition highlighted 20 artists by launching a series of solo publications and presenting their work at The Library Project every month for a whole year, between July 2016 and June 2017. The call for 2019 was recently announced and the format will be announced later this year.

Alongside these projects, PhotoIreland Foundation offers artist development programmes: one for emerging artists the Professional Development Programme; and one for established artists the Professional Support Programme. These programmes are a key component of the Critical Academy, a new space for research and development born last year as a response to the lack of certain critical activities in our sector. Another key component of the Critical Academy are the Seminars, a carefully programmed set of talks, workshops, and events. 

Internationally, we work hard to grow our creative network of partnerships, making sure we remain relevant and informed, and planning ahead with ambition and openness. From Riga to Melbourne, we promote and disseminate Irish work internationally with our photobooks collection, and with our professional contribution to their programmes. Joining the international festival and fair circuit since 2010, we continue the promotion of Irish talent, and the search for new practices abroad, and we do so actively searching for solutions beyond our miniscule budget.

Last, but definitely not least, the Creative Europe Programme has become a new avenue for our modest organisation to connect with larger and more established organisations. We are now able to cooperate, exchange, and create together with them new opportunities for artists, and thus for audiences. In 2015, we joined Flâneur – New Urban Narratives as our first EU co-funded and very ambitious project. Since then we became involved with not one but two European Platforms of Photography, representing Ireland in both cases.

2. PhotoIreland Foundation is a member of two Creative Europe funded platforms: Futures and Parallel. Can you tell us more about them? 

Both platforms focus on aiding the artists with developmental and networking opportunities, they do so through very different processes, and yet they both are excellent in their specific roles.

Parallel Platform is run by the experienced Lisbon-based team behind Flâneur – New Urban Narratives, Procur.arte. Parallel focuses on emerging artists and emerging curators, with the aim of deepening engagement between organisations and artists past just exhibiting their work. The platform involves international professionals to mentor the curators and artists through the whole process, formulating engagement between artists and curators through organising exhibitions together. This results in a wide new network for the artists and curators, and a number of exhibitions and showcases throughout the year.

In the first cycle of Parallel, we put forward emerging artist Mark McGuinness who underwent a mentorship programme with the platform, exhibiting his work in Lisbon and Derby, and will be showcasing it further in Arles and in Zagreb.

Futures Platform is run by the uber-creative Amsterdam-based team behind Unseen Fair, Vandejong. Futures pools the resources and talent programmes of leading photography institutions across Europe in order to increase the capacity, mobility and visibility of its selected artists. By bringing together a wealth of resources and curatorial expertise, each talent selected by the Futures members gains access to an unprecedented network of professionals, markets and audiences. The platform also introduces them into a commercial market to encourage a sustainable practice for the artists, providing them with invaluable networking opportunities and showcases at the biggest photographic events in Europe. It makes an impressive use of their marketing know-how to support artists.

For Futures, we put forward five Irish artists, who will showcase their work at Unseen Amsterdam in September, 2018, allowing them to network and connect with all international professionals, and join a programme of events. They are Ciaran Og ArnoldBarry W HughesJamin KeoghMiriam O’Connor, and Roisin White.

3. What motivated you to become involved in each Platform?

Capacity building, adequate funding, and artform development. We receive capped funding from the Arts Council and Dublin City Council for PhotoIreland Festival once a year, but all our other ambitious events and projects receive no public funding. Working with Procur.arte in the Flâneur project, we learnt that that ambition could be shared across the border with other partners to make great Art work. The experience gained in terms of the EU administrative processes with such a complex project prepared us to work in other collaborations. In our bid to promote and ensure conversations about Irish talent internationally, European partnerships are crucial to achieving these goals.

We knew that Europe values what we do as it was the European Union national institutes for culture who first supported the festival at an early stage. Becoming funding members of both platforms was a very important endorsement of our achievements but our motivation was focused on taking these great opportunities presented to us to help develop Photography in Ireland and internationally.

4. Did you have to find and make connections with the other partners beforehand and how did you do this? Any advice for other organisations when seeking international partners?

It is important to build a base of relationships, to find out about your potential partners, what their aims are, do they match yours, do you match each other’s vision and so on. The only way to meet your future partners is to remain active, to attend events, both nationally and internationally. We participate in many events, such as fairs, festivals, conferences, jury processes, and others. Our CEO Ángel Luis González takes part on various juries, give talks and lectures, and likewise we invite International guests to participate in our events and our festival in various capacities.

This way we initiate conversations about future projects, exchange ideas and plans. It is really important to meet people face to face, so we really recommend attending events to make these connections, at least locally to begin with. Of course, email and social media are great ways to connect with people globally, and it is also a great way to begin conversations but should not be relied on as a sole way of networking, more as a conversation starter.

5. Did you seek assistance from your local Creative Europe Desk before you applied? 

Although we have big ideas and we do indeed have plans to coordinate a European Union project in the future, our core team is only two people; we have to be very realistic with our time and resources. We were very lucky to have been invited by both platforms and it is great to be recognised internationally for all our efforts and results we have achieved. As mentioned, we previously worked with one of the co-ordinators on a different EU funded project, and following the positive and productive experience, they invited us back for Parallel. So, in our case, we did not need to seek assistance from our local Creative Europe Desk for these particular platform projects - we have been however in contact ever since the festival started in 2010 and we recommend all organisations to do so.

6. What benefits has PhotoIreland Foundation’s involvement in the Platforms had for your organisation and for Irish artists?

For PhotoIreland Foundation it represents a great backing of our hard work and achievements the fact that other major European organisations and the EU see the relevance and validity in what we do. It is certainly interesting that we are members of not one platform, but two.

In practical terms, being part of the platforms supports our capacity building, helping us grow in the right direction and with adequate funding. There is a lot to gain from the marketing push that it represents too; a small organisation in the Western corner of Europe is playing on a level field with other key organisation, developing the artform in the make. But this is all about supporting the discipline and the artists, our focus remains there.

For Irish artists, it is hugely beneficial to be exposed to this new European audience, international experts, and new networks. They are creating new work in the process, receiving mentorship, support, marketing, exhibitions and a lot more. For both artists and for us, it is also about learning from other organisations and artists, strengthening our connections, exchanging ideas, and planning for the future together.

7. How do the Platforms engage with local and international audiences? Is audience engagement an important element for you?

Yes, it is an essential element for us, but also for the platforms and its members: we always keep audiences in mind. The two platform co-ordinators come from very different backgrounds, so it is interesting to see how they engage audiences in different ways.

Parallel, for example, created a complex structure that repeats every year in an overlapping manner, in cycles. During what are called Intersections, the old and the new cycles of the process coincide. This results in a large scale exhibition, alongside a variety of events such as talks and workshops, all accessible to the public. In addition, there are smaller exhibitions and presentations that take place throughout the year at key events in the Arts calendar.

The co-ordinators of Futures come from a marketing and branding focused background. They collaborate with the Unseen Fair in Amsterdam, one the biggest European photography events, to expertly focus on bringing new, unseen work to an international audience. They do it through exhibitions, showcases, talks, book markets, and other creative events in late September. Unseen pulls in a large number of international visitors, professionals, collectors, and artists alike, so it’s the perfect platform and time for exhibiting works and hosting events for such a large and international audience. Previous to this event, the partner members celebrated their own Future events presenting a selection of 5 artists each, contributing to the build up of interest in the main platform event in Amsterdam.

Thanks to Julia and Angel for a really interesting interview on their work! If you would like more information on Creative Europe funding keep an eye out for our Funding Workshop this autumn. Sign up to our newsletter (below) to keep up to date on funding calls, events and workshops

[Photograph: Work by Roisin White, selected for Futures Platform].