Thursday, 11 February 2016

Gazebook Sicily: On Creating Your Own Art Space!

Last month Amelia Jones wrote this in an article on the lack of representation of people except wealthy white males in the regular art world.

She ended with this quote:

For artists, she believes that we have to work at creating our own art spaces and our own art worlds. She suggests that artists open up their own pop up galleries, if for only a few months. "Blitz the media. Create your own art space. Don't wait for all the conventional art world people to figure out what you are doing. Create your own networks."

It's an idea that we should all take to heart, that rather than (or as well as maybe) moaning about the lack of representation, why don't we actually get together and use our charm, our energy, our dynamism to create something. This is both true of those who are less represented in the art world, but also true for those who want to start up an event that goes beyond the traditional. That's the thinking behind Gazebook Sicily, the first beachfront festival that had its first edition in 2015. Started by three young Sicilian photographers, Teresa Belina, Melissa Carnemolla, and Simone Sapienza, Perhaps 1,000 people attended the first festival. Despite being funded on a shoestring, and relying on the goodwill of bemused locals in the resort town of Punta Secca, the festival was a greatly enjoyed success and attracted speakers including Tony Gentile, Lina Pallotta, Mark Power and Max Pinckers, showed work by #DYSTURB, Guy Martin, and Lua Ribeira as well as running a series of workshops by Mark Power, Alex Bocchetto and Tiziana Faraoni..

This is how Teresa Belina tells the story of Gazebook Sicily.

I went through various stages in my love for photography; I started with a solitary love that was consumed by obsessive photograph of whatever met my eye, and then I discovered the different genres of photography and that's when I chose the documentary photography as the genre I was most interested in.  
Then I began to attend festivals and met the people who make them; from these trips I came home full of energy and new ideas to share with friends with the same passion and these passions gave birth to new collective ideas. What could we do to show work, how could we make a festival happen?
Sicily is a singular and complex place, but very special I think. The food is unique, it has an infinitely rich history that takes in a multitude of great civilisations, and the people are passionate and filled with a life you do not find elsewhere. 

But it didn't have a photobook festival. It was on the wave of these thoughts and following the exciting experience of working together with Simone Sapienza and Melissa Carnemolla organizing another festival (Ragusa Photo Festival), that the idea of Gazebook was born.

I had the idea and it was like the uncorking of a bottle of champagne. There was an explosion of energy and ideas from Simone and Melissa. the idea of Gazebook was born. The next thing was to harness this energy and actually make it happen.

We decided to create a scientific committee of experts to help us choose guests and run workshops. This was fundamental to the success of the festival and also very educational in terms of organizing an event. 

The main obstacle of course was to find funding, and initially this was very limited. But I think one of our strengths is the optimism and positivity that drives us and so we asked help from all of our friends and acquaintances, and were a little bit surprised when we were able to find two main sponsors and got other practical help from everyone we asked
The intent from the first day was to try to do something new, as free as possible from any form of payment and rules to catch up with other European festivals that we followed from a distance but with great interest. This was the main reason that the choice fell to the photobook.
Gazebook festival was a dynamic and never boring festival. We had open-air talks underneath the lighthouse in the main square of Punta Secca, we had a range of paid workshops with people like Lina Pallota, Mark Power and Alex Bocchetto, and we had free portfolio reviews that are probably the most relaxed portfolio reviews you'll find anywhere in the photographic world.

There was some great work shown at these reviews and they cut across different levels, from enthusiasts to professionals. Whatt was nice is that everyone was able to perfect their knowledge by finding new ideas for their work and making important new connections. More than anything, Gazebook is a great place to meet people, to relax with people and to enjoy the food and drink of Punta Secca while also enjoying great company and great photography. 

Initially, the reaction of local people and tourists was sceptical, but as the festival went on the scepticism changed to curiosity and then to great enthusiasm. People were getting involved in activities and discussions they never would have thought to follow. It was incredibly satisfying to have created something new and interesting for Sicily, and to have it appreciated not just by people in the photography world, but also by the non-photography world of Punta Secca and Sicily.

We are the first event in Italy to dedicate an entire festival to the photobook and bring a large number of both Italian and foreign visitors to Sicily. We can't wait for the next festival in September.

The next Gazebook Sicily will take place from 9th - 11th September 2016.

Buy Tickets for Photobook Bristol 2016 here.

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