Where there’s a will, there’s a way
During the exhibition of contemporary Slovenian photography, The Most Beautiful Place on Earth, we interviewed Barbara Čeferin. Barbara Čeferin, is the leader and owner of the extremely interesting and active gallery on the art scene in Ljubljana, Gallery Fotografija. She is a photographer herself and she began her journey as a photoreporter of a Slovenian daily newspaper Delo, she was a permanent contributor to the magazine Mladina and the editor of photography in the magazine Jana. Today she exhibits in her own gallery, internationally represents other photographers and sells photographs.
Several days ago in gallery Klovićevi Dvori the exhibition of contemporary Slovenian photography, The Most Beautiful Place on Earth, opened in co-organization of the Croatian Photographic Union and Gallery Fotografija. The exhibition introduced many interesting, but unfortunately unknown Slovenian authors, to the Croatian scene. How did this collaboration come to pass and how would you as one of the collaborators on the project describe the situation on the Slovenian photography scene?
More than a year ago Sandra Križić Roban called me and suggested we make an exhibition of Slovenian photographers in Zagreb. That’s how it started. But because it was very late that we found out that the project of the Croatian Photographic Union in collaboration with Gallery Fotografija and Klovićevi Dvori got financial aid, we in fact had very little time for real work and preparation of the exhibition. It meant we had to do everything in only four months, from May to August. The work was hard and intense, but also very productive because we had a truly expert team and we can really be proud of the result.
I was surprised by how little we know each other. Working in my gallery and bookstore I noticed many visitors from Croatia, and Slovenians often visit exhibitions in Zagreb, but there is still so much about each other that we do not know. That is precisely the reason why I believe that these kinds of exhibitions have an extremely important role in connecting us. The photography scene in Slovenia has really gotten lively in all aspects over the last several years. Unfortunately, some of the “key players” like Emzin, who had been organizing exhibitions and the award for the photograph of the year for over twenty years, had to stop working last year due to a lack of funding. On the other hand, there are always new players such as Slovenia Press Photo, which has been around for several years already and have now filled the gap left for giving out awards. This year’s Fotopub showed that it can promise the quality which was expected from that festival. Of course there is also the review Fotografija, and now Membrana as well as numerous exhibitions in galleries and museums: in Cankarov Dom, Gallery Photon with their festival Photonic Moments, The City Museum with galleries Vžigalica and Jakopič, Modern Gallery, Gallery P74, the People’s Gallery, with whom we often collaborate, and other galleries not only in Ljubljana but in other parts of the country. We simply must mention Kibla from Maribor and the gallery Stolp. Over the last few years photography inCelje also woke up. It is all a result of continued work on various levels of the photography scene over the last 10-15 years. Even though Slovenians still often study photography abroad, at that time some higher schools also started working. All together it resulted in a positive atmosphere.
In 2016 Slovenian photographers got a series of important awards outside of Slovenia, which brought international recognition. I will only mention Matica Zormanand Matjaž Krivic who got the first and second place in the category People of World Press Photo, Srdjan Živulović and his Pulitzer, and only a few days ago Jaka Gasar and Bojan Velikonja won at the 28th International Festival of Photojournalism Visa Pour l’Imagefor the Daily Press.
It seems that two phenomenons are present with Slovenian photographers, the first being their strong presence on the international scene, and the other an exceptionally large number of photobooks being published. Do you agree with that observation and what would you pick as the currently most interesting thing on the local photography scene?
Yes, I agree with that observation. The authors are aware of the benefits of publishing and presenting their work, on exhibitions and in books, so it is not unusual for them to do it at their own expense.
I got the notion that a lot of money is invested at the institutional level into education and in general into the presentation of Slovenian photography. Am I wrong?
No, you are not. As I earlier mentioned, over the last few years various art and photography higher schools have begun working in Ljubljana, Gorica, Sežana…
For a long time in Croatia there has been talk about the thankless and uncertain fate of publishing, the lack of profit in books, and then when I visited your gallery and bookstore I got a pleasant neighborly surprise. Almost all of the authors that I looked at, no matter their age and reputation, have at least one, and often more original photobooks, monographies and similar. What is your secret!
The time when big publishing houses made photography books is past. Now it is too expensive, at least in our region. We have self-publication and authors who publish the work of others along with their work, for example The Angry Bat (Matej Sitar), who sells all of his work abroad, Rostfrei publisher (Jaka Babnik), Artzine (Bojan Radovič)… And as for the secret, you will need to ask those brave young men, it seems they’ve found it. We have a saying “Kjer je volja, je tudi pot”( “where there’s a will, there’s a way”). More and more authors go to fairs and festivals abroad and collect new contacts there, thereby opening the doors a little with foreign publishers. I believe that right now the competition for the award of best photobook is active, organized by The Angry Bat by the photographer Matej Sitar. Foreign photographers may apply, so this is also an invitation to Croatian authors, the deadline is September 20th.
As an impartial observer, what impression did you get about contemporary Croatian photography, and what intrigued you the most?
Unfortunately, I do not really know contemporary Croatian photography really well. I am ashamed to admit it, but I still haven’t had the time to read Sandra’s book At Second Glance, which we have in stock in our bookstore. We also have books by some other Croatian authors (TošoDabac, ŽeljkoJerman, JasenkaBulj…).
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