Isabella van Marle is one of the five judges in the Professional Competition of the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards and is Fair Curator at the photography fair Unseen Amsterdam.
As a jury member, Van Marle is very keen on reviewing conceptual documentary projects which treat relevant social issues with a refreshing visual language.
How did you become involved in photography? What does it mean to you?
I have always had a great interest in the arts. I grew up in a family where my mother, an art historian, regularly took me to museums. I developed a personal interest in the arts, and photography became important to me. I started reading about photography, visiting photography exhibitions and started experimenting with photography myself. I consider myself an amateur photographer and love taking pictures with my analogue camera. Since I have been working for Unseen I have been able to explore the medium of photography further, and started working with fantastic international galleries and talented artists pushing the boundaries of the medium. It is exhilarating to witness the growing relevance of photography and how artists continuously challenge the medium.
You are Fair Curator at Unseen. What are your main responsibilities? What do you enjoy doing the most?
I am responsible for selecting the galleries and the artists they bring to Unseen Amsterdam. Unseen’s Advisory Committee decides which galleries are exhibiting at the fair. At the last edition of Unseen Amsterdam, 53 exhibitors presented works by more than 140 artists from all over the world. I am always searching for emerging talent and aim to present high-quality projects and showcase diverse approaches to the medium at the Fair.
I enjoy working closely with the artists and galleries in the lead up to Unseen Amsterdam. Of course, the best part is when everything comes together in the Gashouder, a former gasworks factory where the Fair takes place. I think it is really special that the vast majority of artists showcasing work is actually present at the fair and I love meeting them and all gallerists in person. It is very satisfying to work on cultivating an audience for the work of talented artists and to show our audience the breadth of the medium.
In order to discover new artists and galleries, I read, research, visit exhibitions and galleries and am fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to different art fairs and photography festivals. Discovering new talent is rewarding. I feel fortunate to be invited to do portfolio reviews and join juries where I get to discover artists that are not yet represented by galleries.
I am also excited to be working on Unseen Platform, Unseen’s new digital venture dedicated to launching new inspiring and cutting-edge projects of international artists, maximising their visibility and connecting them to new audiences.
How do you believe will the fair develop further?
At Unseen Amsterdam we showcase the latest developments in contemporary photography, presenting works by emerging talents and new bodies of work by established artists. Unseen Amsterdam has become a real meeting place for the photography community. Each year we look forward to growing and offering a more in-depth and varied programme. Through the various components of Unseen Amsterdam we aim to showcase different aspects of contemporary photography, reach new and more diverse audiences and challenge the eye of the visitor.
We find it important to show our audiences how accessible the medium is, but at the same time we hope to surprise our visitors by presenting new talent, introduce new elements and exhibitions and respond to socially relevant topics.
Photography is an attractive medium to collect and we try to encourage young audiences and more established collectors to discover emerging talent and in turn support these artists. As we are relatively young, I believe the fair is still developing, and we are always aiming to increase diversity and include different voices within the community. We are reaching out to new territories and always looking for new ways to collaborate.
In addition to Unseen Amsterdam, what exhibition or event is on your “must-see” list?
Lagos Photo Festival is definitely on my list, I would love to visit the festival in this vibrant and cultural hub in Nigeria. Some other events that are on my must see/wish list:
- Organ Vida Festival in Croatia
- How to secure a country exhibition - Salvatore Vitale in Fotosiftung Schweiz
- Format Festival in Derby
- Contact Festival in Toronto
You are one of the judges in the Professional Competition of the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards. What entries are you particularly keen to see?
I greatly look forward to discovering the projects submitted for Professional Competition of the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards. I am particularly interested in the entries that fall under discovery, creative, landscape and documentary. I am very keen on reviewing conceptual documentary projects, treating relevant social issues with a refreshing visual language.
From your experience, what makes a photography series great?
When reviewing the work of artists, I keep a few components in mind: consistency in the work, quality of concept, well-executed techniques, strong visual qualities, and social relevance of the topic. I also believe the concept should be translated to the viewer without the necessity of a text.
What advice would you like to give to the photographers entering the Awards?
I would like to advise the photographers to present their work in the most professional way possible. This is a good chance to show their work to experts within the community. They should provide a description accompanying their work, written in a manner that doesn’t over-complicate the work. Participants should think of how they would like to present themselves as an artist, and aim for consistency in the work they present.