Amsterdam: UNSEEN photo fair

A few hours ago, I got back from the Unseen Photo Fair in Amsterdam. I got on the train this morning from Dusseldorf to arrive at the gates when they opened up at 12:00 and wouldn’t leave till 18:00. My feet ache and my back is killing me (I really need to stop buying books!) but man – It was AMAZING!

Seriously – if you have a chance to visit the fair tomorrow or over the weekend – DO SO! If not: keep on reading as I’ll attempt to share some of the best work the fair has to offer this year:


I started off at the ‘fair grounds’ end of the whole thing, as I came walking down from Central station. The Photo Fair is housed over several buildings at the Westergasfabriek and passing the Kallenbach Gallery I couldn’t stop myself from wandering in. Their current display has been curated to fit the photography theme and the works of Patrick Cooper, Bram Spaan and Francisco Reina really caught my eye.

Since I had made the first stop already, I decided I might as well pay a short visit to Gallery 33 a couple of doors down the road. Here, the art was a little more illustration-inclined, although with definate photographic influences. The works by Atelier Olschinsky (both the cities and metamorphosen works) and Dan Matutina proved to have the biggest pull on me.


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Next, I passed the book hall. Never one to refuse looking at books, let alone looking at art books, let alone looking at PHOTOGRAPHY art books, I went in. The book hall itself is not very big, but the selected seller here have some good material. Most, if not all of it is new as there are many publishers present, and a few photographers are selling their own made / published wares.

I particulary liked the stands of Basboek, run by Bas Fontein, who finds new and humerous ways to interpret the things most of us mortals would call failure. The stand of Geirmundur Klein was special for the man’s obvious love of his photography, and the way he chose to express it in his handcrafted limited edition sets of polaroids. Apart from that, his image sets of crematoriums caught my attention – I’m always game for a slight bout of morbidity – the clean lines, perfectly accentuating the depressing architecture are enough to send anyone into a swift downward spiral.


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After looking at the books I took a little break a queued up to have my photo taken at the Inside Out photo project. The little trailer-like contraption spits the image out in a mere minute or so and I have to admit I was quite impressed by the picture quality. The images are then pasted to floors and walls (some folks took them home) to become part of the on-going project.

“The INSIDE OUT project has travelled from Ecuador to Nepal, from Mexico to Palestine to New York and is next headed to Amsterdam. Visitors are invited to have their portrait taken in a mobile photo booth and instantly printed on poster-scale format to then become a part of the exhibition and an ever-growing, global artwork. You will become the artwork, your face the statement.”


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Then, finally, it was time for the main event: the galleries and their display of yet-to be discovered photographic talent or works of known photographers that had not been displayed before. Just a little part of me was hoping for a slightly rubbish show so this part would not have to be this long, but (thanks goodness) – I had no such ‘luck’.


At Peter Lav Gallery (Copenhagen, Denmark) I spotted the black and white works of Adam Jepessen. I was actually surprised to learn that the 3 smaller images were not made by an alternative printing technique, but by photocopying and oil paints. The larger work was fully built up with photocopies and pins. Regardless, the looming dark tones set the sombre mood fantastically.

At Galerie Conrads (Dusseldorf, Germany) the slightly hidden works of Sascha Weidner, pigment prints on paper are beautiful in their coloration and execution, even if I might not find the subject matter amazingly powerful or surprising.

At Galerie Bart (Nijmegen, the Netherlands) I found myself surprisingly interested in the works of both artists on display, Yvonne Lacet and Femke Dekkers. I normally won’t go for anything too cubistic or abstract, but these images seemed well-conceived and perfectly executed. I later heard that the white paper shapes used by Yvonne are actually tiny!

At Seelevel Gallery (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) I spotted the three cubist nudes by Koen Hauser and had to look at them twice to be able to fully admire the clean lighting and editing done on them.

At Pobeda Gallery (Moskow, Russia) I really liked the polaroid-like images by Anna Skladmann, frivolous and casual in their nature, reminding me (and I am sure a lot of other people) of the joyfulness of childhood and of days gone by in general.

At L A Noble Gallery (London, UK) I had the best time with two lovely ladies who showed me the works of Anne Leigniel, even letting me have a look at some more of her fascinating works on their computer (thanks again!). Anne’s photographs are deceptively simple, photographing used artists’ cloths on a single nail and the images being greatly enlarged. The cloth, and the degree to which it has been used, varies per person, just as the way it is offered to the photographer (somtimes, even washed and folded!) presenting us with an indirect portrait of the original owner. Correct me if I’m wrong, but these images do work best in a set or series, and they had four up for this fair.

At Galerie Alexs Daniels Reflex (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) there were a few amazing images on display by Hisaji Hara, the operating table in the display box being my personal favourite, possibly of the whole fair.

At G/P Gallery (Tokyo, Japan) I was impressed with most work on diplay. There. I have said it. I must have a weakness for Japanese artists for I usually find most of what they produce in the visual arts more than interesting. Daisuke Yokota, Taisuke Koyama and Takashi Kawashima all had stunning work on display, be it all different. In spite of myself (normally favouring Black and white images) I would have to say that the colourful rainbow images by Taisuke Koyama were my favorite this time round.

At Michael Hoppen Contemporary (London, UK) I saw the works of Alberto Villar, which, if I remember correct, were part of the advertisement campaign for the fair. The works are great up close, good sharpness and contrast, without losing the same sort of icky clouding sensation when looking at some good ol’ taxidermy on formaldehyde. Again, a little morbid, and therefore right up my street.

At VU la Galerie (Paris, France) I was treated to a good bit of grey. I never shy away from a good bit of grey, and certainly not if it’s been made by Ester Vonplon. Please don’t snigger, I mean it. The textures within the images themselves reminded me of the wet collodion process – and the lack of contrast, combined with the bleak imagery, made me think of purgatory.

At Martin Asbaek gallery (Copenhagen, Denmark) The dreamy images of Astrid Kruse Jensen would not have been misplaced in a fashion magazine, the subdues, slightly darkened tones setting a mildly depression tone.

At Galerie Esther Woerdehoff (Paris, France) we are offered bleak, snow-capped mountains, a shimmering of the black rock in the distance. An acute sharpness to these images by Michael Schnabel really makes them radiate!

At Flowers Gallery (London, UK) I spotted a couple of images by Esther Teichmann, from the series Mythologies and again, it were the subtle tones that attracted me. The soft, feminine images might have helped a bit too. The image ‘Channon’ by Mona Kuhn was simply stunning. A fine art nude in subdued tones and shadowplay. What more can you ask for?

At Galerie Wouter van Leeuwen (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) I loved the dye sublimation prints by Michael Wolf, and truth be told, they were pulling quite a crowd – in as far as that was possible in the fairly narrow display booths. From the subtle tones to the recognisable but slightly absurd scenes – beautiful!

At NextLevel Galerie (Paris, France) it was ‘On her skin #1’, by Asako Shimizu, with its beautiful colors and serene setting that really caught my eye.

At Gun Gallery (Stockholm, Sweden) they seemed a little unprepared as when I asked for their details, they could not provide me with a flyer, card or businesscard, but offered to write me their details on a little note. Don’t let in deter you to check out the work of their artist Julia Hetta though!

At Gallery Taik Persons (Berlin, Germany) the recent paperworks of Maija Savolainen are a beauty to behold. As thoughtful creations that challenge the way we percieve photography as a medium of representative truth they are not actually horizons or sunsets, but pieces of transparent paper photographed in folds on angle. Simple yet stunning.

At Kahmann Gallery (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) the four works of Schilte and Portielje were doing remarkably well, with apparently 3 out of 4 sold already by the time I visited them. The works are stunning, though not very large and very painterly in execution.

At Galerie Les Filles Du Calvaire (Paris, France) the inverted images labelled ‘black screen’ were quite interesting, although I would have liked to know who made them!

At Aando Fine Art (Berlin, Germany) I first noticed the haunting landscape images of Kim Boske, before admiring the grand images of nature that Bae Bien-U produced. Both artists manage to convey an image of nature with a power of it’s own, one that man would do good to either fear or respect.

At Kuckei + Kuckei (Berlin, Germany) the finely detailed scenes by Guillermo Srodek-Hart were nice, but the image of the Town Barber was definately the best for me. I love the way the focus seems to be on the chair and the shop, but then you see the barber standing behind the chair, in the mirror. Not quite there, but not quite absent.


Also there (no image included in the gallery – sorry!) was Sipke Visser. He is working on a photography project that includes mailing out images to random strangers, and (sometimes) receiving mail back from them. He collected his works so far into a book – and is currently still going on it, taking images at the fair as well.


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Lastly, I’d like to share two final initiatives from the photo fair. Have fun if you’re going and share your thoughts!


‘Visually impaired is a series of touch-sensitive photography of blind or children with poor eyesight. Upon touching the image, it becomes visible, but only temporarily.

The Tintype studio (Arjen Went and Manon Navarro) with Alex Timmermans: Alchemist. The man, the legend! He is making tintypes and ambrotypes for fun and profit – go and have your image taken in this antique craft. But beware! The process will take some time, and it might get busy so book yourself in to avoid dissapointment.

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  1. […] hope everyone’s had a brilliant weekend – maybe some of you even managed to go see the UNSEEN Photo Fair in Amsterdam? As I had borrowed my mum’s car for the weekend to bring a pile of stuff to […]

  2. […] hope everyone’s had a brilliant weekend – maybe some of you even managed to go see the UNSEEN Photo Fair in Amsterdam? As I had borrowed my mum’s car for the weekend to bring a pile of stuff to […]

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