Trust 2020

Curating for the Helphoto festival was an honor. The level of the pictures sent to the festival was superb. I was paying attention to what the photographers wrote about their series and selected those that were more consistent and representing the theme trust. Carine Van Greven

Another year has passed but the world is a very different place for this summer’s Helsinki Photo Festival. The superb photographs entered reflect the changing times. So many of the participating photographers powerfully address the economic, political and social issues we still face and struggle to resolve. From Global Warming to L.G.B.T.Q.+ Rights. Can art lead the way to action?

I hope so. Consider the work exhibited this summer. The images range from tender to surreal, confrontational to enigmatic. Society needs art, people crave it. We are fulfilled by artist’s work that, whatever the medium, makes tangible the thoughts and emotional we are unable to define and articulate ourselves. Art can clarify our objectives. Guide us to a common goal and its influence can be achieved with lasting grace and beauty.

After the Second World War photographers were placed on the frontline of social injustice as documented in the book “The Concerned Photographer”. It was a photographer’s unspoken obligation to call out the wrongs of civilization. By the 1970s art photography entered a Neo-Classical period identified as New Color. It was a return to the purely aesthetic approach of personal vision.

Today there isn’t a single person in the world who’s life has not been affected by the global pandemic. There is a place for aesthetic vision and social responsibility. Nan Goldin didn’t objectively reveal the lives of Lower East Side youth, she made it more potent by showing her life among them. It’s hard to imagine this viral disruption won’t be evident in art and photography. The 2021 Helsinki Photo Festival will undoubtedly be a significant showcase of that work. Curt Richter

The Helsinki Photo Festival has the vision to push boundaries by searching unconventional ways of exhibiting, bringing photography to the streets, and presenting a thought-provoking body of works. The festival’s different exhibitions and events are based on cross-cultural interaction between artists, city space, and audiences. This year HelPhoto presents diverse interpretations under the theme ”Trust”. 

The selected artists portray different situations, on varying scales. They open up diverse world views, realities, and beliefs. Some works narrate intimate and personal stories that underline trust as the core of all human interaction and some comment current political, economical, and social constructions. The relationship between people and their surroundings, life, death, and religion come up. There are works that play with the audience’s judgement and tempt their imagination, while others are more conceptual. Most of the photographs appeal to our emotions and senses.

Trust is the most topical theme in current, unpredictable, and devastating times. More than ever we need to have faith in each other, to (re)build communities. Helphoto aspires to bring people closer together by bringing these different stories from all over the world to Helsinki. Trust is overcoming prejudice and fear. It is the core of all human interaction, even though the risk of betrayal is always present. Trust calls for courage and courage for trust. I do hope the audience can have even surprising art encounters while going on with their everyday life. Memorable, perhaps even poetic encounters, that bring a smile to one’s face or interrupt the usual train-of-thought. Karoliina Korpilahti

TRUST is an incredibly suitable theme given the times we currently live in. Can you trust in politics? In photography? In the physical touch of your friends? What can you (still)  trust, in other words?

– Art will always find answers to questions that seem irresolvable. The photography featured in the open call for artists for the theme by the festival presented a very diverse selection of ways to address this difficult topic. In some series, hope and even – trust – was graspable and close to being re-established. Going through the artistic works was a truly enriching and inspiring experience. Alexa Becker

I am very delighted to have been part of this edition of the Helsinki Photo Festival as curator. I am very surprised by the diversity of subjects and artistic approaches. It’s like a large spectrum which allows us to be aware of what going on in the world, sometimes in regions which are at the margin of cultural centres and metropolises.

« Trust » is a central focus in life all time and in our world today, people feel every day insecure, threatened by  the degradation of the ecosystem, the loss of  social links and  the rise of extremism.

Thanks Rafael for giving me this chance to enjoy all these artistic experiences with many references to literature, philosophy, anthropology… Abdelghani Fennane

Looking for quality and searching for the outstanding in such a diverse and exciting pool of submissions as for the Helphoto Festival is not an easy task, as every project is interesting and the photographer always has a fascinating story to tell! Still, connecting to the theme of “Trust” is not as easy as it seems. All photography is in a sense about the trust between the photographer and the subject as well as with the viewer. Some photographers focus on people showing trust in each other, some work with the subject to establish a sense of shared understanding while others aim to challenge their own intuitive trust of the medium. And I always fall in love with projects where this sense of trust shines through the image. Truly great photography creates a bond between the artist and the viewer. And photography at its best gives us images where we instantly recognize the photographer´s trust in us to understand and recognize the human nature of wonder and belonging that they have experienced, and need us to share with them. Stig Marlon Weston

I had been staying in Helsinki for a short time, but it was a great honor to be here for the first time for me as an International judge for the Helsinki International Photography Festival 2020. Looking at the submitted photographic works, my first impression was that the quality of all the works was very high, and the content was very diverse. From the submitted works, we can see the problems, history, life and ethnicity of each land. And I felt the universality and the difference. And I was deeply impressed that the photographic expressions draw them, and that the photographers seriously face them. The works I have chosen are those whose theme is universal across countries, ethnic groups and environments. Photography is a great tool that transcends language, transcends national borders, and delivers a strong message to the world. I think it’s important for photographers to universally express the personal problems they have and see. In particular, our planet, where the COVID-19 is currently outbreak, is full of feelings of blockage and anxiety. However, through the experience of judging at the Helsinki International Photo Festival, I was convinced that the possibilities of photographic expression were endless, and I could feel the hope for tomorrow. I am very happy to be able to participate in the screening of the Helsinki International Photo Festival by remote work, but I am very sorry that I could not come to Helsinki at this time. I believe that next time I will definitely be able to visit Helsinki. I wish for the success and future development of the Helsinki International Photo Festival 2020. And I wish the photographers good health. Naoya Yoshikawa

It was a huge joy being a member of HelPhoto´s curatorial team and I’m a great fan of the festival´s Open Call concept. As a curator it gives me a unique opportunity to spot amazing artists from all over the world. Going through more than 300 portfolios has reminded me of just how many passionate, talented photographers are out there. The artists that we have chosen for this year’s festival all want to share something important with us. They tell beautiful, sad, weird, touching, sometimes humorous visual stories of what it is like to be in this world. They offer us an opportunity to stop and reflect upon the state of the planet and the state of ourselves. It was a privilege to be part of a team that offers a platform where these amazing photographers can show and share their work. Marianne Ager

I am delighted that Helsinki Photo Festival continues to celebrate excellence in contemporary photography. The Festival’s admirable determination to connect curators, artists and photography enthusiasts in Helsinki despite the current difficulties and restrictions imposed by Covid-19 crisis is truly impressive. I came to the process of selection with the strong belief that the very best photography always has something important to say – no matter how apparently abstract or ‘difficult’ the subject matter. I am pleased to say that I found this quality again and again in the work that I reviewed. I was happy to be able to see great variation of professional and photo enthusiasts’ works alike and discover new talents who I hope to meet in due course. There were some real treats to anticipate here. I  look forward to seeing the exhibitions and wish the organisers all the best wishes for their great effort in this challenging time. Fariba Farshad

As a second year jury member I was pleasantly surprised that the level of photos and the series were so much better than last year. I was nearly shocked by the entries from all over the world. (What happened?) I guess the Corona virus played a role in this year’s catch. Maybe so that the photographers sitting at home in front of their computers decided that they would participate this year and really dug into the works they had been occupied with for the last year. Many series were top level and many singular shots rouse to a new exciting height. I could even detect some famous photographers (that I knew) were part of those who submitted their works.

It seems to be a new dawning of documentary stuff that digs deeper into the subjects. On the other hand there were also so called Free Artistic Work presented. If I might wish for something, it would be a more active participation from our Nordic countries. Sometimes it feels that if the venue is close enough the people get easily blind.

I’m happy that the topic this year was interesting enough to produce over all high-standard works. In the future I hope that we have an interesting topic that both serves expressive approach as well as more low voice artistic way of thinking.

I congratulate those who were chosen for the festival and encourage those who were not chosen this year. I’m sure that next year will be your turn. Stefan Bremer

Who could anticipate last year, when we had chosen Trust as a theme for 2020, that this will become a matter of primary importance and relevance. Trusting your government, policy measures, people around you and life in general becomes an undeniably relevant subject to ponder. I was truly surprised by the quality of the submissions, the wide range of subjects these incredible talented artists from all over the world had used to connote the theme. I monitored the submission process from the beginning to the end and could clearly see what a tough call it was for the jury to choose the winners, with so many outstanding talents in this call. And I’m very grateful to each and everyone of you, participants, artists and supporters, for making Helsinki the new photo capital of the north again!  Rafael Rybczynski