This yearly five day extravaganza has quickly risen to become one of the most exciting and can’t-miss events in the international fine art photography calendar. And being able to attend and witness the event for myself was a tremendous experience.
Given my background and my introduction to photography, these kinds of festivals make an impression on me. They create community among photographers, and they also help us develop artistically and professionally. And what’s even better is that I was able to exhibit at this year’s festival!
So let’s dive into EXP.22, its history, and my experience both as an attendee and exhibitor.
My journey to experimental photography happened gradually and organically. Being self-taught, I have always relied on trial-and-error to be my ultimate guide. It is such a fun and fulfilling practice, and the mistakes made along the way only go on to inform future creations.
During the COVID-19 lockdowns, I really pushed myself to explore as much as I could with photography — it helped keep me sane and grounded in those difficult times. It was around then that I focused on the interesting aesthetic choices I could make by combining photographic and printing techniques.
This personal experimentation led to Illusion, which was followed by Crossing Boundaries. It was here that I let myself go into new realms of my practice, with each step of the process unfolding in unique and often surprising ways.
The outcome was works that capture the colourful, vibrating experience of life itself. And I only could have accomplished that through experimentation. My willingness to step outside my comfort zone and try new things brought out a profound change in my work — so, of course, I wanted to try more.
I went even further with my next series, Saving Face, which brought together analog and digital photographic techniques. Blending film soup, exposures, printing processes, and other experimentations led to painterly works that pushed my art far beyond where I ever thought it would go. (Click here to read more about my journey with experimental photography.)
That’s when I decided to commit to this practice. It was around that time that I found an online group of international photographers working with experimentation, and decided to join them for their next festival.
The Experimental Photography Festival (@experimentalphotofestival) began in 2020, run by a non-profit cultural association of the same name founded by Laura Ligari (@lauraligari) and Pablo Giori (@pablo.giori). The organization brings together both photographers and photography lovers, allowing them to share information on equipment, technique, printing, and the profession itself.
With the festival, a large community of creators can meet in person and share what they know about this interesting and wild side of the art world. Experimentation is, by its nature, an individual act. But when we share what we’ve learned along the way, we help others grow as artists.
When it became clear that international flights were going to be allowed again, I bought a ticket for Barcelona to attend EXP.22.
The festival directors also had some exciting news for me in April. Isla Colectivo selected my work for inclusion in their Lux-e-trance La puerta de Saturno group exhibition. Here, a hypnotic hybrid of sound and image are brought together in an installation that drives the viewer deeper into the idea of the visual world itself.
I was deeply honoured that my works would be part of this extraordinary and one of a kind collaboration, and it made me all the more excited to attend the festival!
One of the signage displayed at the EXP.22 festival, BRYCE Watanasoponwong, 2022.
EXP.22 made a major impression through its scale. The event took place over five days — July 20-24, 2022 — and spread across several locations in Barcelona. In all that time and all those venues, attendees took in conferences, workshops, exhibitions, and parties.
The speaker list brought in a global set of experimental photographers talking on a variety of subjects, some in English and some in Spanish. (As an English speaker, I would have loved for more to be in the language.)
Artwork displayed as part of the EXP.22, BRYCE Watanasoponwong, 2022.
The sheer volume and diversity of the workshops was astounding. Topics included everything from taking a selfie with the sun to photo-embroidery and beyond. There were many eye-opening lessons learned, and I’ll definitely write more on the workshops I attended in the future. Suffice it to say that there was a lot of teaching and learning in Barcelona.
And, of course, there were exhibitions. These were thoughtfully and often brilliantly curated, bringing together examples of artwork that helped unite all learning and community building.
EXP.22 matched its broad scope and sweeping vision with high-quality programming and art. They also worked hard to keep it truly international and accepting, meaning the event was relevant and inviting for all kinds of photographers from all kinds of backgrounds.
All told, EXP.22 was a fantastic experience. Getting to meet so many creative artists from around the world and bond with them over this shared love of ours was deeply enriching.
EXP.22 also taught me more than any other photography festival I’ve attended. The focus on bringing artists together to develop and hone each other’s craft in an always open and respectful way made it well worth the epic plane flight to get there.
It’s August, and I’m still riding the wave of EXP.22. It gave me so much new inspiration and encouragement to pursue my experimental photography. Who knows what I’ll create in the coming months and years?
Overall, I had a transformative time at the Experimental Photography Festival. And in the coming weeks, I’ll go in depth into everything I learned during those amazing five days in Barcelona. Plus, I’ll share with you all the new work it leads me to try.
Photographer and visual storyteller based in Bangkok
BRYCE Watanasoponwong is a photographer and visual storyteller. He is interested in producing a narrative series that evokes emotion and makes a personal impact. Becoming more involved in how photography is... read on
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