Launched in 2013, the FOCUS Photography Festival uses the enigmatic city of Mumbai as a creative space to display the works of shutterbugs from across the world, all tied together through one centralised idea. Crossover featured as 2015’s theme. “We always choose themes that are quite large, and broad enough to be interpreted in different ways,” we learn from co-founder of the festival Elise Foster Vander Elst, an arts specialist and founder of Asia Arts Projects, who started FOCUS along with photography specialist Matthieu Foss and architect Nic Antaki.
With 34 different exhibitions placed in a variety of venues from the streets of Mumbai to the art space Hive to Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum to galleries and so on, Crossover featured the works of over 170 talented and individualistic photographers from different countries. And with complete creative freedom, each lens shows a new interpretation of the theme, with every take as interesting and diverse as the next.
Photographer Vivek Prakash’s exhibition Composing My Family Portrait
Crossovers in Space, Time and Cultures presented by the education NGO Muktangan featured a series of beautiful family portraits created by students from the non-profit. “A lot of them were migrant families, so their portraits showed the crossover of where they came from, and where they want to go. They even featured layers of generations, so there would be a grandmother, parents and then the children, and they would hold a symbol of something they wanted to do. Like, a stethoscope if they want to be a doctor,” Elise explains.
Giving a whole new meaning to the theme is Bikramjit Bose’s Ungender, featuring portraits that look past the subjects’ sexuality or gender, and focus on their individualism. And giving a host of young, undiscovered photographers a stage, the BlowUp Bombay outdoor photography exhibit by Blindboys.org showcased crowd-sourced images exploring the intersection between the street and photography. While these are only a few of the 34 different exhibitions at FOCUS 2015, the entire lot bursts with unique points of view and unbridled creativity.
For the Call for Entries exhibition, it all started with a global call for work, and entries came shooting in from Japan, Poland, Australia, Mexico and more. With close to 130 different submissions, the jury of photo specialists went through the mixed bag to choose the 20 best ones.
“Learning is a big part of the festival,” Elise tells us, describing how it acts as a platform for young photographers who don’t have a space to display their work. While the 2013 edition put together a catalogue with a selection of photographs from the festival, as Elise explains, “It didn’t really reflect the energy of all the exhibitions. So this year, we took the time to commission new essays, collect interviews with the photographers and put together lots of images so that every single exhibition is represented.”
FOCUS Photo Festival’s 2015 photography book, which launches today, brings together photographers from across the world, connecting them through the theme of Crossover, and puts their intoxicating spirit of creativity on display for the world to see. And for a peek into the world of these shutterbugs, this video provides a glimpse of their concepts, processes and love for their art. So for all those who couldn’t make it for the festival last here, this photo-book is the next best thing, and keep your eyes open for next year’s FOCUS festival, themed ‘Memory’. We can’t wait for the interpretations of that one.
Watch the video featuring interviews with the FOCUS festival’s talented photographers here.
Words: Rhea Almeida