All in this together • Photo Fashion Festival 2020
It’s that time of the year when the Photo Fashion Festival launches a new Open Call. However, this time, the moment coincides with an event the likes of which we have never seen before. It is possibly the first time in the social-media era that we are witnessing something as dramatic and universal, and this has – understandably – changed our perspective about the original theme for the upcoming edition of the Festival.
Photo Fashion Festival is scheduled to take place in November, in the hope that by then we will be able to hug each other and share a physical space, and not just a virtual one.
Conceived as a community with a strong sense of belonging, Photo Fashion is like an extended family that counts around 180,000 artists from across the world, who share a passion for photography, the desire to help each other and grow together.
We all learned a lot from Photo Fashion about the sense of community, and it is that sense of community, of solidarity and empathy that is sending ripples across the world while this terrible virus spreads beyond borders and barriers. The crisis we are living through will be a profound one, that will force us all to challenge much of what we deemed normalcy or a priority and it is our hope that these trying times can be turned into a great opportunity.
The most cynical among us argue that humankind forgets quickly and that once the emergency has subsided – and we sincerely hope this will happen soon – such sentiments will melt away. Yet, it is necessary to try and keep alive this extraordinary ability of the humankind to blossom and thrive again, this despite – and perhaps thanks to – the dramatic situation we are living, taking it with us into the future.
Thus, we have decided to dedicate the Festival’s Open Call and related scouting initiative to the concept of community in all its forms.
In the accompanying essay by Andrea Bocchiola, the true significance of the term ‘community’, the real meaning of what defines our humanity, is to be found in the notes of a “Milanese trumpet player playing” O mia bèla Madunina “(the unofficial anthem of the city of Milan) from his Milanese home window or in the unlikely silence of the streets void of any traffic. When everything seems to crumble and nothing appears to make sense anymore, only the total and absolute gratuity of art, its being resistant to any tangible usefulness, its nature being so tragically fleeting and extemporaneous can help us recover the sense of life through the catastrophic and help us “see the stars again” (gaze at the stars again). At the heart of this miracle lies another word that belongs to the lexicon of the Communitas – gift. After all, this is what this trumpet player’s music is all about: a gift. Not a tangible object or something that changes anything of the current reality, of the threat that looms upon us or the anguish that has taken hold of us. Yet, a gift like this one, which deserves being called a gift of love – what is love if not a gift, after all? – not in spite of but rather thanks to its gratuity and fragility is the only thing that can transform interpersonal relations, distract people from their isolation to allow them to meet again in another space where loneliness is replaced by the Communitas. It may seem like nothing but it is everything “.
“All in this together” is the title we have chosen for this Open Call and the next edition of the Festival: what keeps us truly together? What binds us in our going through life, in the most dramatic times, as the ones we are living, as well as the most joyous ones? What is at the root of our being together?
As always, the scouting project is open to every photographic genre, from fashion to photojournalism, art and so on. This year, the OPEN CALL will run both on Instagram as well as on PHOTO VOGUE until the end of June. With regard to PHOTO VOGUE, we will follow the usual process of assessing the related images and projects you’ll upload while, on Instagram, all you have to do is use the hashtag #VIallinthistogether.
What images stand as examples of connection, of the bond among human beings, of the sense of belonging to any form of community, of responsibility, solidarity, of the joy of being together, of the love and care that unites people?
The original theme of the Festival, which sought to be an exploration of the impact of the attention economy and social media in photography, with its resulting dynamics and new aesthetics, will become a curated exhibition titled “WOW – Photography in the Age of Attention Economy”.
For further information regarding this theme, please refer to the text here.
In view of this Open Call, we have set up a partnership with Der Greif, which in turn launched the Open Call ‘When “I” becomes “We” on Picter – When “i” becomes “we” even illness becomes wellness (Malcolm X).
A selection of the submitted projects will be shown on Der Greif, Fashion.it, Magnum Photos and on the Picter Blog. The Open Call will be open from 23 March to 3 April. You’ll find all relevant information here.
Moreover, on Wednesday 25 March, we will select some images – among the photographs posted until that day on Instagram, Photo Fashion and Picter- portraying the experience of quarantine around the world. These will then be published as part of a portfolio in the April issue of Fashion Italia.
An essay by Andrea Bocchiola
There is something both sardonic and poetic about epochal pandemics that put under severe strain that thin coating of civilization that separates us from the barbarity that is shaking our lives and our institutions.
We belong to a world – our Western, European and Anglo-Saxon – that is increasingly obsessed with sovereignty, the control of borders, the dread of the Other, be they migrants, refugees, undocumented people or foreigners, and we have long been struggling with humanitarian catastrophes that push tens of thousands of people to press at our highly penetrable borders.
We belong to a world that is terrified of diseases, of old age, death, of the ambiguous nature of the human soul and its unmovable unrest. A world that has made life’s immunization against anything that constitutes a threat its main agenda, although the presumption to protect life from what threatens it means to protect it from itself, thus destroying it. We belong to a world that has turned the caring for life into a regime ruling the body (which must always be healthy, fit and young) and the mind (in the assumption that willpower can control its entirety) and we are currently in the throes of a global epochal pandemic that no wall will ever be able to contain, for the simple reason that the Other, the carrier of an unbearable danger and otherness, is now Us.
A stranger to each other, and in the end, also a stranger to ourselves, each one of us is seeing the war that we have carefully, and steadily, kept at bay, away from our borders, as closer and closer, penetrating them without even any form of coercion, settling down in our own life space, transforming, subverting and shaking it to its roots. By way of example, I’m sure that nobody has failed to notice how, beyond the indispensable need to prevent the spread of the infection, the Covid-19 crisis has caused us to lose, in the span of only a few days, a whole series of freedoms, including our duty / right to vote, which makes the difference between a police state and a state subject to the rule of law.
Paradoxically, to become stranger to our own fellow citizens and stranger to ourselves, and the loss of our freedom currently appear to be the conditions to rediscover the most profound meaning of the human community. In the throes of a frightening humanitarian crisis, our freedom of movement restricted, and on the eve of a most ferocious recession, we are discovering the vaccine against any boorish type of sovereigntism and against any hypocritical and green Identitarian ideology (such as America First, the Italian equivalent ‘First the Italians’ and so on). Thanks to this crisis, we are forced to discover that, at the heart of the human community, is not the sharing of an alleged common property, such as being Italian, Northerners, Southerners, Caucasian or Chinese, American or Mexican. At this point, no one of such identities has real substance, but for the cases when it becomes an obsession (fetish). But, above all, no one of these “identities” has any substance in the face of the brutal reality check that the coronavirus epidemic is getting us through, forcing us to come to grips with the burning heart of the Humana Communitas. Each one responsible for themselves and the other, compared with the risk of infection, this crisis shows us that at the heart of the community lies always a radical impropriety, which everyone is a carrier of. Not the “proper” (as in ‘our own’), such as our being Italian, Caucasian, Catholic but an “improper” that, in these times, can be viewed as the contagiousness that every one of us carries, and the responsibility that we ought to take on. The improper is the a-social sociality of humankind, which every one of us must be responsible for in caring for oneself and others. The improper is, at the end of the day, the capacity for killing and death, of which we are all carriers, and that dictates that we exercise a duty of care that we can’t not gift to the Other, and a dependency on others and their sense of responsibility that we cannot avoid. This is what constitutes the core of the Humana Communitas, as clearly demonstrated – for those wishing to explore such themes further – by the analysis carried out by the great philosopher Roberto Esposito (R. Esposito, Communitas, Einaudi, Turin, 1998) on the concept and origin of community. This is exactly what we are being asked to do in this moment in time, to take responsibility for ourselves and others, for the life of each one of us, while also becoming aware that we depend on other people’s responsibility for us. We are forced, somehow, to take such responsibility of community dependence upon ourselves, now and not on some distant day in the future. Now when the stake is between an emergency and a catastrophe.
The obligation to go back to the heart of the human community dispelling the false and hypocritical chimeras of identities, conceived as exclusive property, of nationalisms and prejudices, this obligation to go back to the connection among responsibility, duty, necessity and interdependence on others is also the only psychic movement that can guarantee endurance and resilience in navigating the difficulties we are enduring. On this note, psychoanalysis offers us a great lesson: every time we are called to deal with a traumatic event, our psychic survival depends on the degree of responsibility we show. It’s a significant lesson that this crisis is teaching us: only a sense of community responsibility can save us. Not only from coronavirus but also from the future crisis that will inevitably hit us although, regrettably, things are not so easy and cannot be taken for granted.
Something that used to strike those observing the behavior of social media haters was the subjective flimsiness of such people, in so far as their real counterpart is concerned. With the exception of few – very few – people, true sociopaths and psychopaths, the vast majority of haters are individuals who, within a real relationship and interaction, away from the protection of a computer screen, would never be capable of the violence they profess . Of course, this does not prevent them from voicing it. It would probably be enough to group them together to create a gang of criminals and brute ready to strike. Yet, on their own, and reprimanded firmly, they’d become scared little whiners. The hatred they embody is simply the manifestation of the bloodless flimsiness that gnaws at them from the inside.
At present, in these dramatic weeks, we are seeing the disappearance of haters from the web. It seems that the coronavirus emergency is bringing out the best in people: solidarity is mounting and social media are flooded with displays of Good Samaritan sentiments and intentions, the likes of which we are accustomed to seeing only at Christmas, if any.
Naturally, we are all scared, but also keen to sympathize and show solidarity. Obviously, just like haters ’hate, this behavior is largely the result of a skin-deep effect. It would take very little to transform a host of social-media or balcony sympathizers into a pack of people that are a danger to others and themselves. For instance, it would be enough for supermarkets to cease the supply of goods and produce, or even the mere doubt or projected fear that such provision could terminate, to transform social media lovers into a mob of angry beasts.
The switch to violence, in these situations, is not a remote possibility, but a substantial risk from which only three things can protect us: the endurance of the institutions, the politicization of our individual life and poetry. They are all great lessons that the Covid-19 pandemic is teaching us with unimaginable harshness.
The first lesson is that we are coming to realize that only our much-criticized Governments are capable of guaranteeing, even though with great difficulty, the withstanding of that thin coating of civilization that separates us from utter barbarity. Only the State and the institutions are capable of making the difference between panic-stricken solitude or people thrown into the fray and the awareness of belonging to a community that can offset this emergency united in solidarity. No group of people alone can achieve that without the mediation of even a rudimentary institution. We have yet to see whether this is enough to mend the frayed relationship between the peoples and their state. However, this first, precious lesson reminds us that we cannot do without the institutions. Those same institutions that much of the recent Italian political scene tried to take apart and disrupt.
The second lesson coming from this horrible pandemic is about the relationship between private and political life. Taking responsibility for the outcome of this crisis means changing something that has become a pattern for too long. It means to challenge the pretension of each one of us to have a private life without having, at the same time, also a political one. I’m referring to that political life that the Ancient Greeks deemed to be the only worthy for a human being, whom they defined as being a political animal. We have long become used to retreating into our own private lives expecting that the State takes care of everything else, thus exempting ourselves from any responsibility. Now the coronavirus epidemic is forcing us to go back to politics, given that the responsibility we are being asked to take on is largely political. We cannot rebuild trust in the institutions unless we first re-accept the responsibility that being citizens entails. A responsibility to use our critical thinking, to educate, inform and, most of all, a responsibility of conscience first, and then action, which means a responsibility for our behavior. We can no longer afford to act as children before a parent-style state, that we spend time criticizing, absorbed in our (guilty) helplessness.
The third, formidable lesson life is teaching us in these coronavirus times is that, in the end, only art can save us. Like the poetry of the Milanese trumpet player playing “O mia bèla Madunina” from his Milanese home window, in the unlikely silence of the streets void of traffic and people. When everything seems to crumble and nothing appears to make sense anymore, only the total and absolute gratuity of art, its being resistant to any tangible usefulness, its nature being so tragically fleeting and extemporaneous, can help us recover the sense of life through the catastrophic and help us “see the stars again” (gaze at the stars again). At the heart of this miracle lies another word that belongs to the lexicon of the Communitas – gift. After all, this is what this trumpet player’s music is all about: a gift. Not a tangible object; it changes nothing of the current reality, of the threat that looms upon us or of the anguish that has taken hold of us. Yet, a gift like this one, which deserves being called a gift of love – what is love if not a gift, after all? – not in spite of, but rather thanks to, its exquisite gratuity and fragility is the only thing that can transform interpersonal relations, distract people from their isolation to allow them to meet again in another space where loneliness is replaced by the Communitas. It may seem like nothing but it is everything.
The time of year has come when we launch the open call of the Photo Fashion Festival. This moment coincides, however, with an absolutely extraordinary event: it is perhaps the first time that something has happened in the era of social media that is so universal and dramatic at the same time, that has overturned any other previous reflection on the theme of the next edition of the Festival.
Photo Fashion Festival is scheduled for the next November, in the hope that for that date we could go back to hugging and being together in a physical and not just virtual space.
First of all born as a community with a strong sense of belonging, Photo Fashion is almost an extended family which includes 180,000 artists scattered all over the world, held together by the love of photography, the desire to help each other and grow together.
From Photo Fashion, we have all learned a lot about the sense of community, and it is precisely this sense of community, solidarity, empathy that bounces from one part of the globe to another, while the terrible virus expands without knowing barriers or borders. It will be a profound crisis, which will force us to question much of what we thought was normal or priority, and the hope is that this very difficult experience can also become a great opportunity.
The most cynical say that man forgets quickly and that when the emergency returns – and we hope this will happen as soon as possible – these feelings will also disappear like snow in the sun, yet it is necessary to try to keep alive this beautiful, human ability to flourish despite and perhaps thanks to the drama we are experiencing, taking it with us into the future.
For this reason we decided to dedicate the Festival’s open call and scouting to the exploration of the concept of community in all its forms.
In the essay by Andrea Bocchiola that accompanies the call, the true meaning of the word community, the true sense of what defines our humanity, is found in the notes “of the Milanese trumpeter who plays” O mia bella Madunina “at the window of his Milanese house, in the unlikely silence of the streets, now empty of people and traffic. When everything seems to collapse and every possible meaning and meaning seem to be shipwrecked, only the total, absolute gratuitousness of art, its being refractory to any utility, its being so tragically ephemeral and extemporaneous, can make us rediscover the meaning of life through catastrophe , helping us to “see the stars”. At the heart of this miracle lies another decisive word of the lexicon of Communitas: that of gift. Because the music of this trumpeter is simply this: a gift, made of nothing and that changes nothing of the concrete reality, nor of the threat that looms over us, nor of the anguish that grips us. But a gift like this, which it would not be an exaggeration to call love – and what else is love if not a gift – not in spite of, but thanks to its exquisite gratuity and fragility, it is the only thing that can transform the bonds between people, that can divert them from their abandonment, to make them find themselves in another space where the communitas takes the place of solitude. It looks like nothing but it’s all. “
“All in this together” is therefore the title of this open call and the next edition of the Festival: what really holds us together? What binds us in going through existence, both in dramatic moments such as those we are experiencing, and in those of joy? What is the root of our being together?
As always scouting is open to all photographic genres, from fashion, to reportage, to art and so on. This year the OPEN CALL will be open on both Instagram and PHOTO VOGUE until the end of June. As for PHOTO VOGUE we will evaluate as always the relevant images and projects that you will upload while on Instagram just use the #VIallinthistogether tag.
What images can be explanatory of the connection, the between human beings, belonging to every form of community, responsibility, solidarity, the pleasure of being together, the love and care that can unite people?
The original theme of the festival, which it wanted to be an exploration of the impact of the attention economy and social media on photography, with the consequent new dynamics and aesthetics, will remain as an exhibition curated by the title “WOW – Photography in the Age of Attention Economy”. To learn more about the concept, we refer you to this text.
For this call we have established a partnership with Der Greif, who launched the call ‘When” I “becomes” We “ on Picter – When “i” becomes “we” even illness becomes wellness (Malcolm X).
selection from this submission will be published on Der Greif, Fashion.it, Magnum Photos and Picter Blog. The call will be open from March 23rd to April 3rd. Here you will find all the information.
On Wednesday 25 March we will also make a selection of images that tell the experience of quarantine in the world among those uploaded up to that day on Instagram, Photo Fashion and Picter: they will be published in a portfolio on Fashion Italia in April.
Andrea Bocchiola’s reflections
There is something mocking and poetic together in the epochal emergencies that, putting the patina of civilization that separates us from barbarism to the test, are shaking up our lives and our institutions.
We belong to a world, our western, European and Anglo-Saxon world, increasingly obsessed with sovereignty, border control, horror for the Other, migrant, refugee, refugee, irregular, foreigner who is, and for a long time we are grappling with humanitarian catastrophes that push tens of thousands of people to press on our very permeable borders.
We belong to a world terrified of disease, old age, death, the ambiguous nature of the human soul and its irreducible conflictuality; a world that has made the immunization of life from everything that poses a threat to it, its own agenda, even if the claim to protect life from what threatens it means protecting it from itself and therefore ultimately destroying it. We belong to a world that has made the government of life a regime of the body (which must always be healthy, fit, young) and of the minds (pretending that the will controls its entire extension) and a garrison of these realms by every trace of darkness, and today we are dealing with an epochal pandemic that no wall will ever be able to contain, for the simple reason that the other, the bearer of an unsustainable danger and extraneousness nucleus, suddenly became us .
Each foreigner to the others and ultimately foreigner to himself, we look at the war, that war that we have carefully kept away from our borders for decades, approaching them, penetrating them without even having to force them and install themselves in our living space, transforming it , upsetting it, shaking it at the roots. For example, no one could have escaped the fact that, beyond the indispensable preventive necessity of contagion, the emergence of the virus crown made us, within a few days, lose a series of freedoms, including electoral law / duty, which make the difference between the police state and the rule of law.
Paradoxically, becoming foreigners to our fellow citizens and foreigners to themselves, the loss of freedom seem today to be the conditions for discovering the deeper dimension of the human community. In the heart of a frightening humanitarian crisis, limited in movement and on the eve of a bloody economic recession, we are discovering the vaccine against any bitter sovereignty and against any hypocritical and naive identity ideology (America first, the Italians first and so on). Thanks to this crisis, we are forced to discover that at the heart of the human community there is no sharing of a supposed common property, for example being Italian, Nordic, Southern, white or Chinese, American or Mexican. None of these identities has a true consistency, if not at the price of making it a fetish. Above all, none of these “identities” has any consistency in the face of the brutal examination of reality to which the coronavirus epidemic subjects us, forcing us to deal with the incandescent core of the communitas of men. Each responsible for himself and for the other faced with the risk of contagion, this crisis shows us that at the heart of the community there is always a radical impropriety of which everyone is the bearer. Not the “own”, for example the own of being Italian, white, Catholic, but an “improper”, which today we can decline as the contagiousness with which everyone is the bearer and the responsibility towards it that everyone must take on . The improper is the social sociability of men, which everyone must take care of, in the care of themselves and others; at the end of the day, the improper is the killing and death which each of us bears and which imposes on us a cure that we cannot fail to give to the other, and a dependence on the other and on his responsibility, the which we cannot escape. This and nothing else is the nucleus of the communitas of men, as those who want to go into these issues very well show the analyzes of a great political philosopher, Roberto Esposito (R. Esposito, Communitas, Einaudi, Turin, 1998) on the concept and etymology of community. This and nothing else is what we are called to do in these days, becoming responsible to ourselves and others, for each one’s life, and becoming aware of depending on the responsibility of the other towards us. Forced, in some way, to take us on, this time for real, today and not tomorrow, this community responsibility and dependence, in whose field, the difference of these days is played out, between the emergency and the catastrophe.
This constraint to return to the heart of the human community, dissolving the false and hypocritical chimeras of identities, understood as exclusive properties, of nationalisms and prejudices, this constraint to return to the between responsibility, duty, debt and interdependence on the other is also the only psychic movement possible that can guarantee us the firmness and resistance in the difficulties we are experiencing. This is a great teaching of psychoanalysis: whenever we face a traumatic event, psychic survival depends on the degree of responsibility that we are able to assume in front of it. And it is a great lesson that this crisis is administering to us: only community responsibility can save us. Not only from the virus crown, but from the coming crises that will inevitably hit us. Although, unfortunately, things are not so easy and obvious.
One thing struck the haters’ observer on social media, i.e. the subjective inconsistency of these characters, at least insofar as they corresponded to real people. With the necessary exceptions, of a few, very few marginal, sociopathic and psychopathic characters, the vast majority of haters are subjects who, in a real relationship, not protected by the screen, would never live up to the violence they witness. This does not mean that they cannot express it in any case. It would probably be enough to join them in a group to instantly produce some type of criminal gang and hot heads. But taken individually and confronted with harshness, they would start to whimper in fear. The hatred they testify is only the bloodless projection of the inconsistency that grips them from within.
Now, in these dramatic weeks, we are witnessing the disappearance of the haters from the web. The crown virus emergency seems to solicit the best of people, solidarity gallops, good feelings invade social media, as it does not even happen at Christmas. Everyone is scared, of course, but very inclined to show solidarity.
Of course, this attitude, like haters’ hatred, is largely a surface effect. It would take little to transform a group of solidarity from social media or from balcony, into a pack dangerous for others and for himself. For example, it would be enough for the food supply chain to be interrupted, on the contrary, the only doubt or mere fantasy that could be interrupted would be enough to transform web lovers into assaulting beasts. The transition to violence in these situations is not a remote option, but a substantial risk from which only two things protect us, or rather three: the holding of institutions, the politicization of individual life and poetry. All three great lessons that the coronavirus pandemic is imparting to us with unheard of harshness.
The first teaching is that, we are realizing that only the much reviled state is able to guarantee, despite a thousand difficulties, the tightness of the thin patina of civilization that makes the difference from totalitarian barbarism. Only the state and its institutions are able to make the difference between a panicked loneliness or a group of men in distress, and the awareness of belonging to a community that can react united and supportive to the emergency. No human group can do this without the mediation of an institution, however rudimentary it may be. That this may be enough to mend something of the tattered bond between citizens and the state is to be demonstrated, but this first, precious teaching reminds us that we cannot do without the institutions, which even a lot of recent Italian politics has pretended to disassemble and disorganize.
The second lesson of this horrible pandemic concerns the relationship between private and political life. Prendere responsabilità del destino di questa crisi significa cambiare qualcosa che da troppo tempo si è cristallizzato. Significa mettere in discussione la pretesa di noi tutti, nessuno escluso, di avere una vita privata, senza avere anche e al contempo una vita politica, quella vita che i greci antichi ritenevano essere la sola vita significativa per un uomo, quando lo definivano come animale politico. Da troppo tempo siamo abituati a ritirarci nella nostra vita privata pretendendo che lo Stato si faccia carico di tutto il resto, esimendoci da ogni altra responsabilità. Ora l’epidemia da COVID-19 ci costringe a tornare alla politica, perchè la responsabilità che si assegna è eminentemente politica. Non potremmo ricostituire la fiducia nelle istituzioni dello stato se prima non ci riappropriamo della responsabilità politica che essere cittadini comporta. Responsabilità che è insieme di critica, di educazione, di informazione e soprattutto di consapevolezza prima, e di azione poi, ossia di comportamento. Non possiamo più agire come bambini di fronte a uno Stato genitore che passiamo il tempo a criticare, sprofondati nella nostra (colpevole) impotenza.
Terzo e formidabile insegnamento della vita all’epoca del corona virus è che, alla fine solo l’arte ci può salvare. La poesia, ad esempio del trombettista milanese che suona “O mia bella Madunina” alla finestra della sua casa milanese, nell’improbabile silenzio delle strade, ora svuotate dalla gente e dal traffico. Quando tutto sembra crollare e ogni significato e senso possibile paiono naufragare, solo la totale, assoluta gratuità della poesia, il suo essere refrattaria a qualsivoglia utilità, il suo essere così tragicamente effimera ed estemporanea, può farci ritrovare il senso della vita attraverso la catastrofe, aiutandoci a “riveder le stelle”. Al cuore di questo miracolo riposa un’altra parola decisiva del lessico della communitas : quello di dono. Perché la musica di questo trombettista è semplicemente questo: un dono, fatto di niente e che non cambia nulla della realtà concreta, né della minaccia che su di noi incombe, né della angoscia che ci attanaglia. Ma un dono come questo, che non sarebbe esagerato definire d’amore – e cos’altro è l’amore se non dono – non malgrado ma proprio grazie alla sua squisita gratuità e fragilità, è la sola cosa che possa trasformare i legami tra le persone, che possa distoglierli dal loro abbandono, per farli ritrovare in un altro spazio dove la communitas prende il posto della solitudine. Sembra niente ma è tutto.