Contemporary Photography at Photolux

Contemporary Photography at PhotoluxUntil Dec 13: PHOTOLUX. Lucca. Admission (for all 28 exhibitions): € 22. For hours, visit

Like photography, built on the contrasting elements of light and shadow, the human experience would be incomplete without opposing tensions: good and evil, reality and fantasy, beauty and horror. In keeping with this philosophy, the dualism of “sacred and profane” is the theme of Lucca’s Photolux 2015. This international biennial photography festival is organized as a citywide itinerary of 28 exhibitions.

Located in a dozen venues tucked away within Lucca’s circuit of historic city walls, the event also presents a stage for competitions, discussions and workshops for enthusiasts and aspiring photographers.

This edition of Photolux offers a two-tiered journey: an interior path into the depths of personal self-exploration and a visual record of cultures near and far through the lens of international photojournalists.

What this year’s contributing photographers and artists have to offer is exceptionally unique and varied. Visitors will need at least an entire day to appreciate the exhibitions at Photolux.

Austrian born Ernst Haas, famous not only for his work with the Magnum agency alongside photojournalist greats as Capa, Cartier-Bresson and Bishof, was also recognized for his unique pioneering techniques in color photography. “The Creation” is a collection of Haas’ studies of the natural world from Iceland to Kenya, a celebration of nature’s endless beauty and design. His evocative color portraits of flowers, waterfalls, animals, volcanoes will trigger the eternal questions: where do we come from, why do we exist? Cortile Carrara, Palazzo Ducale.

Guest of honor, Brooklyn-born photographer Joel-Peter Witkin, pushes the limits with his violent images which often include corpses, body parts, and physically deformed people, painstakingly set up to recall religious episodes and classical art. Labeled a provocateur, Witkin describes his own work in these words, “In the end, why I do these works? For the glory of God and to inflame the souls of man. This is what I live for.” Villa Bottini, via Elisa, 9; open Monday – Sunday 10 am – 7:30 pm. Containing strong subject matter, this exhibition is limited to visitors age 14 and over.

Tuscany’s own Aurelio Amendola’s black and white imagery mirror the beauty of his subjects, typically sculptural works of the Italian Renaissance. Having devoted a lifetime to capturing the elegant volumes, subtle curves and harmonious tones of masterworks by such greats as Michelangelo and Donatello, Amendola’s latest focus has been on documenting the sculptural and architectural treasures of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. His new illustrated book on the Basilica will be presented at Photolux 2015. Palazzo Ducale, Cortile Carrara.

Andres Serrano is one of the most talked about protagonists represented at Photolux. His approach is often the subject of debates on freedom of expression through art. His work explores the intimate relationship between the sacred and the profane. Serrano’s collection comprises shocking images of religious themes, above all the very controversial “Piss Christ.” After some heated debate and to avoid possible offense to visitors, the festival’s artistic director, Enrico Stefanelli, recently decided that this award-winning piece from 1989 which depicts a small crucifix submerged in a container of urine, will not, after all, be a part of Photolux this year. Cavallerizza, Piazzale Verdi.

These are just a few of the artists represented at Photolux, a group comprising Bettina Rheims and Patrick Willocq (France), Kenro Izu (Japan), and Stanley Greene (USA). Their observations span the continents, from the Congo and Burma to remote areas of Europe and Jerusalem. Also participating in the festival are the winners of several competitions, such as the prestigious World Press Photo of the Year.

During the nearly month long festival, 10 two-day workshops open to all photography expertise levels will cover the following topics: visual storytelling, editing, portraiture and photo e-books. Leading these two-day courses are James Estrin, New York Times photographer and editor as well as National Geographic senior editor Kent Kobersteen. Also scheduled are book and editorial project launches, presentations and discussions on topics important to photo professionals today, including marketing and social media.

Several internationally recognized agents, producers, curators and editors will be available for portfolio review appointments as well. Both workshop participation and portfolio reviews require advance registration and payment; see online program for details.

A concert of jazz music, “Fra Spirito e Materia” (Between Spirit and Substance), is a special addition to the medley of images, meant to echo the festival’s theme of eternal dualism. The December 7 performance features Italian stars Paolo Fresu (trumpet, saxhorn, effects) and Dino Rubino (piano, trumpet) at Lucca’s Teatro del Giglio (9 pm).

Free guided visits (in Italian) are available on Saturdays and Sundays (11 am and 4 pm) for the World Press Photo 2015 and Joel-Peter Witkin shows. (kate magovern)