GU.PHO Festival ’23: the second edition of t...

GU.PHO Festival ’23: the second edition of the first international vernacular photography festival in Guiglia

On September 8, 2023 at the Castle of Guiglia (MO) opened the second edition of Gu.Pho., first international festival entirely dedicated to vernacular photography. From an idea by Sergio Smerieri, the festival was born as a moment of encounter between experts and curious people to give everyone the opportunity to deepen and learn about this rich universe ignored by most. Among this year’s protagonists it will be possible to see the work of: Carolle Bénitah, Erik Kessels, Joachim Schmid, Cristina Biagini, Riccardo Zipoli, Marzio Govoni and many others.

Riccardo Zipolo, Niccioleta. Una comunità mineraria, 2023, photography, courtesy the artist

At the entrance to the festival we find two quotations placed at the base of the pillars of the arch that marks the entrance to Guiglia Castle. On the left there is the definition of Vernacolo: “vernàcolo s. m. and adj. [from Latin vernacŭlus, adj., “domestic, familiar,” der. of verna (v.)]. – 1. s. m. Parlance characteristic of a center or limited area”. In fact, all that production of images made by amateurs and non-professionals should be considered vernacular photography. Production to be placed before the advent of social networks and smartphones. Specifically, the photographs presented in Gu.Pho. are those that for the most part were taken, developed and then carefully placed inside family albums with the sole purpose of preserving the memory of a precisely “domestic, familiar” moment.

Settimio Benedusi, ES_SENZA, 2023 computer graphics-edited photography, courtesy the artist

On the right pillar, however, there is another quote that perfectly defines the spirit of the festival: “No new photography until all the existing ones have been used.” The famous phrase that Joachim Schmid uttered in 1989 as a manifesto of his work and poetics is the perfect setting for this occasion. During the two festival weekends, in fact, projects that entirely follow this poetics are presented. Starting with the work by Erik Kessels, a pioneer in the creation of vernacular photography collections, who for this edition of Gu.Pho. presents his project A pictorial history of the empty chair. This collection addresses the theme of absence by bringing together images in which it is always possible to trace the presence of an empty chair, probably the one just left by the photographer. With this mosaic Kessels wants to trigger some questions: who might be sitting or who might be sitting there? Will the empty chair be able to bear the weight and who will be its new companion?

Erik Kessel, Karel De Mulder, A pictorial history of the empty chair, 2022, courtesy the artist

Like Kessel and like Schmid, the artists of Gu.Pho. can be described as photographers without lens or camera, and there is great mastery in being able to create something totally new without producing new material, especially in times when, quoting Erik Kessels during his talk on Saturday, Sept. 9, in Guiglia, “we now produce images without the intention of preserving them, we take them with the ease with which we open or close a door in the house”. In times like these, a project like Settimio Benedusi‘s ES_SENZA shocks with its delicacy and depth. Following the death of his father, the artist retrieves family photos and goes about erasing his parent, producing diptychs of disarming strength.  Brought together in a timeless context, the works in this edition of Gu.Pho. make us reflect on the role of photography in our lives and especially on how our relationship with photography has changed over time. Every printed and preserved image appears in a new light: it is a trace of our passage, it is a message to be passed on, and it is a true treasure to be treasured.

Rita Meschiari


Gu.Pho. Festival 2023
8/9/10 – 16/17 settembre 2023
Castello di Guiglia
Via G. di Vittorio, 10, 41052 Guiglia (MO)


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