The fourteenth edition of the Fotografia Europea Festival revolves around human relations, both individual and collective, from sentimental relationships, which are more private in nature, to social ones, which naturally mostly take place in the public sphere. Bonding. Intimacy, Relationships, New Worlds has been curated by the Scientific Committee of Fondazione Palazzo Magnani and offers a vast range of perspectives through conceptual visual stories on the exploration of bonding within a millennial context. The exhibitions are open through June 9 and taking place in different locations of the city of Reggio Emilia (Italy) and accompanied by a rich program of events, conferences, screenings and more.
Since 2006, Fotografia Europea uses photography as a tool to reflect upon the complexity of contemporary living. The 2019 edition has its starting point in the literature and philosophy of the 18th century, especially focusing on the images and legacies of one of the most celebrated novels in history, Dangerous Liaisons by Choderlos de Laclos, contrasting but also merging with those of On the Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It touches upon a wide range of human relations and it explores them.

One can say that relationships start from the private sphere and subsequently expand over public relations, and it is well known how these relationships are, in contemporary society, subject to constant change of perspective. When moving towards the public sphere, the concepts of bonding and relationships leave the intimacy that underlines interpersonal relationships, giving way to social and political behaviour. Bonding always goes towards the other from within one’s self. From ‘me’ we move to ‘us’, and from ‘us’ we move to ‘all of us’, welcoming the other from within our horizon. By establishing these relations, we define the society we live in. “Our relation with machines and artificial intelligence forces us to further think and re-establish what we know: this is no more science fiction but everyday reality”, as Walter Guadagnini states.

These premises allow Fotografia Europea to frame endless conceptual and visual elaborations which, photographically speaking, once again reflect on the meaning of bonding in today’s society. The festival takes place in different locations across the city, both public and private, formal and informal. The exhibitions are accompanied by a rich program of events, conferences, screenings, workshops, portfolio reviews and site-specific performances. The program conceives more than twenty photographic exhibitions, but here you have the ones we’d like to highlight.

Lucie Khahoutian
The work of Lucie Khahoutian waves between collage and photography and illustrates the constant dichotomy of her own vision of the world. The Armenian visual artist, born in 1990 in Erevan, approaches the topics of binary influence of a childhood in a multicultural household. She enjoys blending Armenian traditional visual codes with a more European or Occidental environment, touching a wide range of themes, but also being very focused on religion, spirituality, and mystical matters. Every layer of her collages becomes a period of her life, a person met, a language spoken, a place visited or a mood she was in. The Tapestry In My Room is a celebration of the most important part of artists’ identity, being Caucasian women.
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Lucie Khahoutian, Official Portait, Georgia 2017, The tapestry in my room. Courtesy Lucie Khahoutian
Samuel Gratacap
Born in 1982, Samuel Gratacap graduated from the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts of Marseille in 2010. Intrigued by the reality behind the data on immigration, in 2007 he went to a centre of administrative detention where he began to portray people looking for a future, looking for what they call ‘luck’. Following the testimonies of these migrants, he moved to Lampedusa (Italy), then to Zarzis (Tunisia) and Choucha, on the border with Libya, and finally to Tripoli (Syria), where he continues his work on detention centres and day-workers’ collection points. Fotografia Europea’s theme is explained in his most social and politic view by Samuel Gratacap and his project Fifty-Fifty. An exhibition that brings its audience into a narrative where the relationship between visibility and invisibility plays out among those that live here, and those that find themselves here, for better or for worse.
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Detention center for migrants, Zawiya (2014) © Samuel Gratacap
Pixy Liao
“As a woman brought up in China, I used to think I could only love someone who is older and more mature than me, who can be my protector and mentor. Then I met my current boyfriend, Moro. Since he is five years younger than me, I felt that whole concept of relationships changed, all the way around. I became the person who has more authority and power. One of my male friends even questioned how I could choose a boyfriend the way a man would choose a girlfriend. And I thought, ‘Damn right. That’s exactly what I’m doing, and why not!’”, explains the artist about her self-portrait series questioning traditional gender roles (in China and beyond). The photographer keeps setting situations for Moro and herself to perform in front of the camera while defying the status quo of heteronormative relationships.
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Pixy Liao - It's never been easy to carry you. 2013
Horst P Horst
Horst trained alongside Irving Penn and Richard Avedon as one of the most eminent fashion and portrait photographers of the 20th century. The master of light, composition and atmospheric illusion, able to evoke a world of sensual sophistication, and who created images that transcend fashion and time. The show presents the milestones of Horst’s life and career: renowned photographs, like Odalisque, and shots for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, which made him a leading light of fashion photography worldwide from the 1930s to the 1950s. Also on display are Horst’s portraits of the Parisian artist community in the 1930s, a gallery of intellectual celebrities from Jean Cocteau to Salvador Dalí.
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Horst P. Horst, Mainbocher corset, Paris 1939, cm 40,5x50,5 cs. Courtesy Paci contemporary gallery (Brescia – Porto Cervo, IT)
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Horst P. Horst, Lisa Fonnsagrives-Penn, Vogue, June 1940, cm 80x105 cs. Courtesy Paci contemporary gallery (Brescia – Porto Cervo, IT)
Michele Natasi
Italian photographer and researcher in the field of architecture and its representation, whose research and reflections are dedicated to the transformations of contemporary cities and the spectacular forms of architecture in relation to the image. This time, Michele presents Arabian Transfer, which spotlights the transitory condition of six cities of the Arab Peninsula: Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai, Kuwait City, Manama and Riyadh.
“I favoured a more intimate and direct relationship with the cities and their inhabitants by spending a lot of time in the streets and urban spaces, without concealing the difficulty of urban conditions. Through the everydayness of habits, movements and faces, I have tried to bring out a sense of presence, showing how these cities are spaces in which people live and where, despite the extreme and paradoxical forms that characterise them, it is possible to recognise the contemporary global condition of which we are also part”, explains the photographer.
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Michele Nastasi, Plant Souk, Riyadh, Riyadh, Arabia Saudita, 2017.
Justine Emard
Justine Emard is a visual artist based in Paris who creates displays to explore the relations between our existences and technologies. She explores a crossing between robotics, objects, artificial intelligence and life, based on deep learning experiences and human-machine dialogues. Japan is one of her sources of inspiration since the relation with the objects is very special due to the animism concept of Shintoism. The exhibition is composed of five different projects: The Birth of the Robots, The Ice People, Reborn, Co(AI)xistence and Soul Shift.
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Justine Emard – La notte dei tempi – Co(AI)xistence. 2019 © Justine Emard – ADAGP
Kenta Cobayashi
Born in 1992 in Kanagawa (Japan), Kenta regards photography as to question what it is to capture ‘truth’ and draws an outline of this question through a wide variety of approaches. Thanks to digital manipulation softwares, every photographic shot has transformed itself into the basis for the production of a potentially infinite quantity of variations; a process of constant reimagining of reality. In this exhibition, Cobayashi collects a number of images drawn from different series, retracing the work carried out in the last years on the theme of generations, technology, artificial intelligence, time, science and science fiction.
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Shibuya Yellow, #smudge 2018 ©Kenta Cobayashi, Courtesy METRONOM, Modena
Giovane Fotografia Italiana
A project curated by Daniele De Luigi dedicated to the discovery and showcasing of the best emerging talents in contemporary Italian photography. Ropes/Corde showcases the work of Fabrizio Albertini, Silvia Bigi, Emanuele Camerini, Marta Giaccone, Luca Marianaccio, Iacopo Pasqui and Jacopo Valentini; projects that serve as a metaphor for different types of bonds. A rope can hold together things we do not want to be dispersed, help us remain tied to our travel companions, or it can a be a tool to sail through seas or climb mountains towards new horizons. It can save us or help us escape as well. But a rope can also close off a road, keep us anchored, tie us down, imprison us. Photography is characterised by a similar ambivalence: it can preserve our roots by keeping memories fresh, maintain bonds, but also trap us in identities and keep us in a past where places, people and relationships become, through images, idealised.
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Luca Marianaccio, 404notfound © Luca Marianaccio
Jacopo Benassi
Crack is a project born from the collaboration with the National Dance Foundation / Aterballetto. The project departs from the classical canon of photography as documentation of the theatre event, and instead proposes a real interaction between the two disciplines, starting with the shared theme of the body’s representation. Starting with the condition of the dancer himself, a Paralympic fencer, which questions themes of diversity, fragility, common conceptions around the body, its appearance and its essence. Benassi reveals both the canon and its rupture; precisely where the theme of the normative ideal of beauty is called into question and forced to its breaking point, it introduces not only a definitive break but also its recomposition in a new shape and starting from a new balance.
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Jacopo Benassi, Untitled-8

Jaakko Kahilaniemi

Born in 1989 in Finland, Kahilaniemi’s 100 Hectares of Understanding project is an attempt to understand the world around him and how man affects the surrounding world. As the artist states, “Finland is one of the most forested countries in the world. 71,6 % of the total area of the country is covered by forests – that’s over twenty-six million hectares. I own one hundred hectares. 100 Hectares of Understanding is my attempt to understand the forest area I inherited in 1997”, the artist explains.
“Recent explorations in the forest, and in the world of forestry have managed to provoke my interest towards this unfamiliar property of mine. I study what nature has to offer to urbanized people and I will try to create new ways of thinking and ways of experiencing and feeling the forest. (…) My photographs are testimonial, traces of my aspirations towards understanding and awareness. Photography, for me, is a gateway to the very core of my thoughts and imagination”, he concludes.
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Preserving Nature, 2018©JaakkoKahilaniemi