Fotofest – Birmingham Mark II?

I was a little surprised to see a picture by Vee Speers at the top of the press release for the Fotofest International Discoveries II show which opens today in Houston and continues until December 19.  Of course I really love her pictures, but I’d hardly call her a ‘discovery’ given the amount of previous exposure of her work, not just the The Birthday Party, first shown in Australia in 2006 which is now on show in Houston, but also previous work including ‘Bordello‘ which first shown in Italy in 2002.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

I first met her at Birmingham at Rhubarb Rhubarb in 2007, though she first attended in 2005. In 2007 her pictures were on the wall of the room where I was looking at portfolios, one of several fine photographers selected for the show ‘Otherlands‘, though I’d seen her work previously in magazines. Surprisingly Birmingham doesn’t get a mention in the Fotofest release, although it was most probably there she met the senior curator of Fotofest, Wendy Watriss, who was a fellow reviewer.

© 2008 Peter Marshall

Chinese artist Wei Bi’s re-staging of his 80–day experience in a Chinese prison — a sentence received for making a photograph. His large black and white photographs are minimal, showing a surreal relationship between near expressionless guards and disoriented prisoners. One of his images appears at the top of an earlier press release.

Alejandro Cartagena, born in the Dominican Republic lives and works in  Monterrey, Mexico and at Houston he is showing large-format brilliantly coloured images of the dramatic and ever-expanding suburban development of the area. He has shown work widely in Mexico for around 5 years as well as contributing to international group shows. I particularly like some of the ‘NewWork’ on his site.

Minstrel Kuik Ching Chieh was born and raised in a Malaysian fishing village but she studied photography in southern France. You can see her work, including RRose which is being shown at Houston on her blog.

Christine Laptuta produces work about the mystery of land, “its ambiguity, disruption and rhythm.” She chooses to represent ordinarily vast landscapes in multiple printed miniature platinum/palladium contact prints.

The constructed landscapes of cities are focus for Rizwan Mirza‘s photographs. His shadowy nocturnal images reflect the tension between the mysteries of darkness and the lighting.  Born in Liverpool he studied with John Blakemore in the early 1990s and also came to Rhubarb Rhubarb in 2008, although the previous year he showed at various galleries and festivals including PhotoEspana, Madrid, Spain. His work was also on show – not in FotoFest – in Houston in 2008.

Born Tokyo 1948,  Takeshi Shikama has been showing his black and white photographs of trees since 2004, and “The Silent Respiration of Forests” first appeared in a Tokyo gallery in 2006.

Working between Seoul, London and Paris, Korean-born MiMi Youn was one of the three winners of the Lens Culture – Rhubarb Photo Book Awards in 2008 along with Kurt Tong who divides his time between China and the U.K and has photographed a little-known and officially banned element of ancient Chinese funerary practice; Joss Paper or “Spirit Money.”

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