The reason to start a photo biennale in Antwerp was simple, AntwerpPhoto director Kaat Celis tells Culture Trip. ‘We didn’t have one yet, so we created one’, she laughs. ‘In this smartphone world, everyone is basically a photographer, that’s why I feel it is important to recognise and support the people who do this for a living’.
AntwerpPhoto consists of four large photo exhibitions, all hosted in a historic building in Antwerp’s former harbour area, Het Eilandje. Thanks to the festival, the landmark pilotage building (Loodswezen, in Dutch) is open to visitors for the first time in years. The main exhibition, Iconobelge, will bring together the works of 34 Belgian photographers, ranging from analogue shots by former Magnum Photos member John Vink to a picture taken with an infrared camera by Sanne de Wilde and photojournalistic work by Tim Dirven.
Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn is presenting an overview of his work for the second exhibition on show, featuring pictures of music icons such as Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop and Kim Wilde. ‘We asked photographers from all over the world which one of their colleagues they would like to see do a big exhibition for AntwerpPhoto and Anton Corbijn was on the top of every single one of those lists’, remembers Celis. ‘That’s when we knew we definitely had to ask him’.
Corbijn went through his archives and selected over 400 images for his show, entitled 1- 2-3-4. The photographer found the experience of digging through his own work very sobering, he tells Culture Trip. ‘Some archived years I went through, I only found pictures that I thought were pretty bad, which made me feel not so great about myself, but then I would suddenly stumble upon a set of photographs that I had forgotten I even took and there would be some great shots in there’.
For most of his work, Corbijn uses either a Leica or a Hasselblad camera. ‘Around 90% of my work is still analogue’, he explains. ‘Only the printing is done digitally. I feel analogue photography is much more of an adventure, the excitement of not knowing how an image will come out is something I really miss when shooting digital’.
The top floor of the exhibition space is reserved for a selection of Michael Wolf’s pictures, a German photographer best known for his images of high-rises in Asia. Finally, a corner of the ground floor is dedicated to works by Narciso Contreras and Lizzie Sadin, the 2016 winner and the eighth laureate of the Prix Carmignac photography foundation, respectively.
AntwerpPhoto is at Loodswezen, Tavernierkaai 3, Antwerp until September 30, 2018. Entrance: 18 euros.