Dokfoto 2015 – Final Thoughts: Keep Calm and Charlie On.

DokFoto is an annual documentary photo festival in Oslo. The 2015 edition took place 6-.7. Feb. in Litteraturhuset Oslo. This is briefly what happened on day 1 and day 2 of the festival

The unofficial theme for this year’s festival was concern photography; photographers focusing on social issues and controversial news stories. Pictures someone somewhere would like not getting published. Sometimes this would be in literal terms, bodies of work deemed by magazine editors being too gloomy or having the wrong-gendered-editor. At other times it would be the audience throwing rotten tomatoes on Facebook because the subject-matter differed too much from what they expected. The amount of time and work the photog has put into the project doesn’t matter, nor do the beauty of the images themselves. If the world is a stage, then we’re all critiques as well as performers as well.

Multimedia projects
What surprised me 1 was the amount of beautiful multimedia projects. Almost every single photographer on stage had a piece consisting of music, stills, voice-over and video. And they were beautifully crafted, so much that none in the audience could remain unmoved by their impact. In a world were we see crappy youtube videos and silly cats all over2, just for the sake of drowning out the screams of war, injustice and our own caring. Actually having to watch something real, sometimes funny – sometimes tragical, was a wonderful (yet painful) experience.

Sim Chi Yin has a really good term for what she’s doing when she’s working; she’s hanging out with people. Sometimes in really small places, sometimes on rooftops drinking, sometimes in hospitals. That’s what she does and it’s honest. How does she do it? By knocking on doors, a lot of them, risking getting them slammed in her face.
Eugene Richards put it plainly; it’s the journalist’s job getting access. It’s a skill, not a personality trait. He himself had been painstakingly shy in his younger years, and seriously you would not have guessed that by looking at his pictures.

For a shy person, or a beginner, or whatever this brings hope. You don’t have to get a super-outgoing-personality and not-giving-a-s**t-attitude or risk being doomed forever3. There is skill, practice and learning involved in getting access. Including a tiniest bit of courage 4.

You’ll find a way. Just because Eugene Richards said so. The speakers had all kinds of experiences. A couple of people spoke of assignments as this necessary evil in order to survive. Others presented assignment work on the very same stage, and were proud doing so. Some were part-time photographers, some were part-time parents.

Crowd funding got mentioned, both Kickstarter and the now-dead Emphasis. So did grants.

Knock on doors. Ask. Everyone. Ask again.
This goes for publishing as well.
And is generally applicable to everything else in life.

At the end of his opening speech, which he preformed twice (yays!), Terje Bringedal5 captured a lot of the spirit of what we (the audience) where going to witness. “Keep calm, and Charlie on”; sometimes you step on people’s toes, sometimes you make people laugh, sometimes you get scared, and sometimes you just have to shut your eyes for a moment to be able dealing with everything that is going on. Keep calm and make good art.

  1. not really surprised, but I’m a still-image kind of gal. 
  2. perhaps just judging my generation here, sorry everyone. 
  3. DOOMED, just had to. 
  4. “I will try again tomorrow” – Mary Anne Radmacher 
  5. the master-mind behind Dokfoto . 
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