Photodistorzija in Porec, Istria

A few weeks ago I went to Porec a small village on the Istrian peninsula. A colleague, Jelena Blagovic, has a photographic exhibition entitled: Before Me. Her work is a series of wonderful interpretive images made from her mother’s love letters received between 1968 and 1981. They had been stored away for years and Jelena examined them as a way to “get to know a previously unknown part of her character and personality”.

When she first explained the project I was unsure how she would present them so they would not be mere literal copies of the documents. Before the exhibition she sought my advice and I was immediately impressed with the volume of the letters and her simple, yet sophisticated way of photographically interpreting them. There are about twenty images in the exhibition. Some have subtle parts of the image in focus that reveal critical words that describe the suitor’s feelings about their affection for her. With other images the minimal focus shows post-marks from different parts of Europe as the men traveled and worked in the armed forces. Considering the subject, the images are quite varied and sophisticated in their levels of meaning. Her lighting technique is simply using window light through shades.

This photo shows her mother and father in front of a letter he sent her that included an image of them both. It was sent about 1980. His letters, it should be mentioned, were some of the last love letters she received. When discussing the project with her father he was not interested in reading the ‘other’ letters.

Her exhibition was part of yet another biennale. They are every other year exhibitions that showcase work by artists. The first, and arguably still the most important, was the Venice Biennale . It started in the late 1800’s and followed shortly by the Carnegie Biennale (or the Carnegie International as it is known). The Carnegie Mellon foundation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (my hometown) has supported the arts and literature ever since its formation by Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon, whom made a fortune in the steel industry. Part of Carnegie’s fortune was used to build public libraries across the US.

There are now hundreds of biennales scattered around the globe. As with the Biennales of Venice & the Carnegie, they are made up of invited artists often representing different states or countries that present their best of current-working artists. The photodistorzija photo biennale is made up of mostly Croatian photographers with others from Eastern Europe and Italy. The procedure for being a part of this is to submit work for review and if accepted be included in either a group exhibition in a large wonderful hall or have a solo exhibition in one of the many galleries spread throughout the village of Porec. Based on that I would say that it is a regional biennale although, I would assume they would review work from all over the world if work is submitted and if the event was properly advertised.

What amazes me about so many museums I see away from the US is that they often converted wonderful villas with extravagant thick walls and decorative ceilings. The group exhibition was held in a converted church.

The individual exhibitions (three floors) were held in the Zuccato Palace that was the home of some rich guy named Zuccato. This image shows Jelena and her father documenting the exhibition.

Some of the work was extra-ordinary while others were quite ordinary.

Some works were displayed in unusual surroundings.

I tell my students that there are photo competitions everywhere and it’s a good way to get their work out there and make contacts. Years ago I entered a small competition in Colorado and the juror was the director of a fine gallery in NYC. He accepted my work into the show. Later I went to NYC and showed him my portfolio and was included in one of his exhibitions. So, the point is to get your work out there, build your resume and make contacts.

While I was in Porec I was told to be sure and visit the Eufrazijeva Bazilika (The Basilica of Euphrasius). It is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site and is built on the remains of an earlier tri-navel basilica that dates back to the first half of the 6th century during the period of Bishop Euphrasius. In the church you can see the excavated (holes in the floor) mosaics that remain. It was finished into its current condition in the 1600’s.

Worn Away

A Side Alter

Outside the Church

Also Worn Away

Ever Watchful

Turned Away Due to Insufficient Dress

Other Images from Porec