The Censored Exhibition: Interview with Maja Dyrehauge Gregersen and Claire Gould
Text by Kala Herh
The extent to which photography has been defined is being expanded; Scandinavia’s largest photography event is blurring the genre boundaries and breaking traditional characterizations. Based on an open call, The Censored Exhibition is an up and coming platform that presents selected fine art photography by contemporary artists from around the world. The showcase, exhibited under the umbrella of the Copenhagen Photo Festival, illustrates the openness of photography. Musée Magazine learned more about the exhibition through conversations with the festival’s staff: managing director, Maja Dyrehauge Gregersen and juror and curator, Claire Gould.
Maja Dyrehauge Gregersen serves as head of the Copenhagen Photo Festival and has done so for the past five years. During that time, the festival has exponentially expanded and reached a broader audience.
MUSÉE MAGAZINE: The festival has a clear ambition of making Copenhagen an international frontier for photography. Where do you see the value of that ambition, and what makes Copenhagen the epicenter for those values?
MAJA DYREHAUGE GREGERSEN: Over the last ten years we have experienced to an increasing degree that being a uniting platform for the two main genres fine art photography and documentary photography, is a unique characteristic for us and very fruitful for us as a photography organization but also very inspiring for the festival’s professional participants. I really think this is at the core of the festival. We also have the advantage of being located in a very popular European capital, full of culinary high standards, large international festivals, a beautiful cityscape and really great art institutions which probably in itself makes it attractive for the photographers to have their work presented here.
MUSÉE: The festival proposes that ”Life is nothing more than 25 pictures each second.” What does this mean in terms of the goal of the festival and the relationship to photography that seeks to be made between artists and viewers?
MAJA: The phrase refers to the fact that it takes 25 pictures per second to make a moving picture. We draw a parallel to life by saying in a witty way that life is like moving pictures, consisting of single moments like movies consists of single pictures. It is the smallest unit we have and it is what life is made of. In short: photography is about life.
MUSÉE: What is the expected outcome of panel discussions and artist talks?
MAJA: 1) To give the photographers and lens based artists the opportunity to tell about their work. Because they really deserve the attention. 2) To make the audience wiser, more inspired, more aware and more critical about identity, society and vision than they were before they entered the festival. 3) To underline that we all have a relation to photography.
MUSÉE: This will be the tenth year of the Copenhagen Photo Festival. How have the goals and attitudes of the festival changed in the past ten years? What do you feel the festival has achieved?
MAJA: The festival was much smaller to start with and the ambition was to celebrate photography in a much wider sense than we do now. It was also an open event, possible for everybody to become part of the official program. The last four years we have narrowed the scope to fine art photography and documentary photography and the entire program is being selected via an application process. Since 2016 we have had a very clear ambition to gain international attention and bring the international scene to Copenhagen. And I must say that we are very happy to have experienced a hugely increasing international interest from photographers and lens-based artists worldwide. More than 600 photographers applied to become part of our festival center this year, which I think proofs that there’s a genuine interest in being presented specifically at Copenhagen Photo Festival. At the same time it is and has always been very important to us to be a platform that appeals to the broad audience, by presenting our exhibitions in industrial locations and in the urban space, where people come. Because we all have a relation to the media and the world is floating with pictures so we as a festival need to help strengthening people’s ability to discuss, analyze and use photography by presenting state of the art once a year.
Claire Gould has been curating group and solo exhibitions at the Helsinki Art Museum (HAM) since 2005. The UK native spent the last twenty years studying and working in Germany and Finland. This year she is among Balder Olrik and Elisa Medde to select the works for the group exhibition in Photo City.
MUSÉE: What is the goal of the The Censored Exhibition? As a juror of The Censored Exhibition, and as a Curator, what do you look for when making choices?
CLAIRE GOULD: The Censored Exhibition presents a selection of international fine art photography based on an open call, and showcases it to a broad audience. In addition, it aims to introduce the selected artists to a network of art professionals and potential collectors.
My co-jurors were visual artist, Balder Olrik, and Managing Editor at Foam International Photography Magazine, Elisa Medde. Before meeting we devoted time to independently review the hundreds of online submissions. Familiarizing oneself with the works before discussing them with co-jurors is both essential and enriching. An open-mind is also key, as the final selection of works should naturally evolve from our long discussions and mutual deliberations. In this overly-photographed world, creating a photograph which withholds the first impression is challenging. This year many of the selected entries succeeded in embracing essential qualities of the medium whilst conveying current tendencies, subjects, and also highly personal narratives in a concise and original manner.
MUSÉE: Beyond being a juror on The Censored Exhibition, what other projects have you recently be working on?
CLAIRE: In the past years I have been curating many solo exhibitions of photography-based art including Taryn Simon, more recently two Finnish artists, Ulla Jokisalo and Ola Kolehmainen and in 2018 a major exhibition by Gilbert & George. Aside from other exhibition projects, I am currently working in the HAM curatorial team for the new Helsinki Biennial which will be launched in 2020.
MUSÉE: How does being on the jury for The Censored Exhibition differ from your work as a Curator at HAM?
CLAIRE: In some regards it does not differ much to work in the museum. Each year at HAM we have an open call for our HAM gallery space which typically attracts young and emerging artists. In the same way (as for The Censored Exhibition), colleagues and myself will first look through the hundreds of submissions individually and then also reside and over several days before making a final selection. However, for other exhibitions the processes and curatorial processes are so diverse depending on the scale and budget of the shows.
MUSÉE: Working in the realm of photography, what is your fondest memory?
CLAIRE: My fondest memories from my work mostly include meetings, or conversations, with artists. What immediately springs to mind is one of my encounters with Gilbert & George in Helsinki. It was autumn and they were captivated by the various colors and tones of the leaves, but also the local Art Nouveau, or Jugenstil, architecture. So I took them on a short walk to see some of my most beloved places. En route they were so engaged, taking in the minutest of details and discussing them enthusiastically with each other. They never took photos but just spent the time observing and absorbing the details around them. Being able to share this experience and places with them, but also to experience how they attentively perceived the world around them, will remain as one of my fondest memories.
The Copenhagen Photo Festival — with its main categories being Framing Identity, Framing Society and Framing Vision — runs until June 16. Click here for more information.