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Results of the Young Photographers of Russia festival in Kaluga
07.18.2022
Photo Art Available to Everyone

The 21st all-Russian festival titled Young Photographers of Russia 2022 took place in Kaluga in July. The event brought together several thousand guests, hundreds of photographers, and dozens of unique experts from different cities. Natalia Udartseva, curator of the project including the all-Russian contest and the festival itself, summed up the results of the five-day programme.

МФР_профайл.jpg Natalia Udartseva
journalist, photo editor, curator of large-scale projects, lecturer, photography expert, Board Member of the Union of Photo Artists of Russia, Chairperson of the Moscow Department of the Union of Photo Artists of Russia

The festival in Kaluga is a part of a larger project called ‘Young Photographers of Russia’. The latter also includes an annual contest of the same name, Days and Weeks of Young Photography in different cities, and exhibitions around the country. The team of the project sees its responsibility in supporting talents in the regions that sometimes lack high-quality educational programmes for photographers.

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During five days of the festival, its participants discussed the most vital problems of modern photography with the leading professionals. The speakers included Valery Vyatkin, Mikhail Rozanov, Valery Melnikov, Pavel Khazanov, Aleksandra Vitushkina, and other prominent photographers and experts known in the professional and artistic environment. The professionals shared their experience and specific tips on preparing the works for publication in the media and participation in exhibitions and contests. They discussed such interesting and quite complicated topics as plagiarism, copyright, financing of projects, and trends in photography with the festival guests within open dialogues.

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Denis Karasyov, Maria Sakhno, Irina Lobanova, Olga Mezhueva, Maria Sokolova, Ksenia Pronina, Galina Agafonova, and Aleksey Klimov delivered their creative workshops within the festival. The event also featured 17 exhibitions.

Natalia Udartseva, curator of the Young Photographers of Russia project, shared her impressions at the end of the event. This woman is filled with energy and positivity. Despite seeming fragile externally, the expert together with a team of like-minders creates programmes that impress people with their scale and quality.

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– What impressions do you have after the 21st Young Photographers of Russia festival?

– Everything was wonderful! As a curator, I am very happy that all the lecturers arrived on time and had thoroughly prepared and thought-out materials. In the first turn, that demonstrates the value and importance of our festival to them. They approached it seriously and responsibly. Of course, the guests highly appreciated their professionalism and sincere interest. When passing by the halls, I could hear the audience applauding. It is better than any words.

The new success of the annual festival showed that the team of the Young Photographers of Russia project has reached the level when everything runs like clockwork. That is extremely important when dealing with an event of this scale.

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The government and the Ministry of Culture of the Kaluga Oblast helped us a lot in organising the festival. They not only assisted in solving many organisational and technical issues but also awarded the winners of the blitz-contest held within the framework of the festival. We are also grateful to the Ministry of Culture of the Kaluga Oblast for the guided tours. Over four years of the Young Photographers of Russia festivals in Kaluga, photographers from different cities of Russia have visited Borovsk, Tarusa, Kozelsk, Obninsk, Shamordino, and the Optina Pustyn. This year, we managed to visit the famous Nikola-Lenivets Art Park.

Briefly speaking, the land of Kaluga received us warmly and hospitably as it had done in previous years. We are holding the festival there for the 4th time. Hopefully, we will come to Kaluga again next year with a new programme. Within concluding the festival in Kaluga, according to the established tradition, we announce the place and dates of the next event: Kaluga, July 4-8, 2023.

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– Why was Kaluga chosen for the festival? Why is that city interesting for photographers?

– Firstly, we are always welcome here and we are always warmly received. Secondly, the Kaluga Oblast is the most dynamically developing region in Russia. Here we have a lot to see, photograph, and learn. Thirdly, Kaluga has a strong photographic legacy. For example, it has the Smile Photo Studio named after Vitaly Grishakov. We have been cooperating with it for a long time. The photo studio is a division of the Children’s Art School № 2, which is a co-organiser of the Young Photographers of Russia festival. We conduct annual reviews of works of graduates and students of the photo studio with exhibitions and presentations. The photo studio is full of talented young people, many of whom regularly win prizes at Russian and international contests.

Of course, the Kaluga Oblast attracts people with its amazing beauty. It has many protected nature reserves and sights. For the 4th year in a row, the festival participants manage to find new interesting locations for their wonderful photos. Thanks to the Ministry of Culture of the Kaluga Oblast and the Innovative Cultural Centre, we organise guided tours in parks, museums, and nature reserves making it possible to show guests the rich beauty of the Kaluga Oblast.

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– The festival also has a blitz-contest lasting only a few days. What do photographers need to do over that time?

– Yes, the contest lasts only three days. During this time, the photographers are to walk around Kaluga, take pictures, select the best ones, and prepare a series of 3-6 pictures to be shown to the jury. It is a small project but it requires great creative effort from the authors. Each picture must contain a clearly articulated visual statement.

This year, the contest was dedicated to the Year of Cultural Heritage of the Peoples of Russia. The contest’s topic was ‘Cultural Code of Kaluga: History and Modernity’. At the same time, it was very important for each photographer to find his or her own subtopic and bridge photos with the common concept. The first and second prizes went to Maria Sokolova and Olga Novikova from Kaluga. Irina Khozhainova from Lipetsk took the third place. Aleksandra Vitushkina from Essentuki and Ekaterina Berestova from Moscow were separately mentioned by the jury members.

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The contest’s special feature lies in open voting held within the festival. The jury gathers in the big hall. Then, in the presence of the audience, the jury members discuss anonymously presented works by contest participants and define winners.

Each festival also includes a portfolio review where participants show their projects to the experts. The authors of the best portfolios receive curatorial support for a year and the right to present their new projects at the next festival. That results in an exhibition of winners of the festival portfolio review. It is presented in two halls of the exhibition centre of the Kaluga Museum of Fine Arts. In fact, the portfolio review is one of the constant elements of all the Young Photographers of Russia festivals.

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We try to make every element of the programme educational and useful for photographers. For example, the open voting of the blitz-contest both shows the openness and honesty of the jury and clearly demonstrates to young authors the mechanism of assessing their works.

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– Why did the festival last five days?

– We try to turn young photographers into professionals. Therefore, we want the programme to be extensive and deep. At the same time, the festival is held in Kaluga and many people come to this city from other regions of Russia. That means that they are unlikely to be able to stay here for a long time. In my opinion, we have chosen the most optimal time period.

Of course, the 5-day period is not enough to tell about new trends and to fully cover the most pressing topics. However, it is enough for charging the participants with motivation, immersing them in communication with the professional community, inspiring their new ideas, and giving the most important and valuable information in a concise form.

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Oftentimes, photographers say that they have a new vision of themselves and their works after the festival. That is probably one of the most important tasks of the project.

Many festival participants come to us annually irrespective of the event’s location. I can see them grow in professional terms and I’m always very happy about that. I like the fact that both our project and its participants always develop.

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– The festival is really changing all the time. Did this year’s programme have something completely new and different from if compared to previous festivals?

– This year, we showed the finalists of all the categories of the contest for the first time. We presented photo projects and photo books at the final exhibition and showed multimedia projects in the evening show. Moreover, we gave authors coming to the festival a chance to talk about their works.

In 2022, we also opened an exhibition of the best works of the participants based on the results of all the workshops and creative laboratories for the first time. Throughout the festival, everyone wishing among registered participants created collages, photographs in different styles, mini doc films, and works in other interesting formats. We presented all those projects to a wide audience.

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Our participants are active, ambitious, and talented. We decided to take advantage of the opportunities we had and make their festival projects ‘visible’, thus inspiring the guests of the event. Denis Karasev took on curatorship of that express exhibition and managed to show the results of all the creative laboratories. He also came up with a feedback system for the festival participants. One could not only leave feedback but also share his or her dreams on a special display stand near the exhibition.

We conducted a special workshop for children from low-income families. Galina Agafonova taught children to create interesting creative photographs using a mobile phone at the Kaluga House of Music where the exhibition of the finalists of another Young Photographers of Russia contest was located. All participants gained new knowledge, created interesting pictures, and also received crystal pieces for continuing their experiments with the phone cameras at home. The photo artists Maria Sakhno, Ksenia Pronina, and Olga Mezhueva held a collage workshop. Thanks to it, young participants learned how to create a real piece of art made of old magazines, newspapers, and coloured paper.

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The main festival formats are repeated from year to year. At the same time, we are always looking for new topics, forms of presenting information, and formats of its discussion. We strive to make the programme as relevant and interesting to the modern generation as possible. This year, we listened to such speakers as Anna Galeeva and Andrey Gorlasevich in the format of online meeting. Irina Khozhainova and Aleksandra Vitushkina invited photographers from other cities to discuss declared topics in online format. Vera Mizina, member of the Young Photographers of Russia project team, provided us with online connection and broadcasts.

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– What ate the most significant achievements of this year’s festival?

– Let me share a few numbers. During five days of the festival, about 200 people from different cities took part in the event and about 3 thousand residents and guests of Kaluga were spectators of 17 project exhibitions on three platforms. The festival’s programme included more than 50 events of various formats.

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Such good indicators show that we do really interesting things for a wide audience.

The festival’s geography is extensive: this year, photographers from Kaluga, Moscow, Lipetsk, Orel, St. Petersburg, Tula, Krasnodar, Smolensk, Astrakhan, Vladimir, Grozny, and other Russian cities took part in the event. Those were participants of all ages, from young people to pensioners. All events were free for joining and open for residents of Kaluga.

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The volunteers of the Kaluga Department of ‘Volunteers of Victory’ maintained the atmosphere of the festival. They worked all five days with great passion, purposefulness, and coordination.

The media covered out festival actively. Journalists of Channel 1, Russia 1, and Kaluga provincial news visited us together with representatives of various print and online publications and even radio hosts. The event was brightly reported on social media pages of participants. By the way, the Minister of Culture of the Kaluga Oblast Pavel Suslov published information about the festival on his page. I find that important and honorable and that also attracted the attention of residents of Kaluga to our event. Many of them came with their families and participated in creative laboratories.

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In my opinion, we managed to not only hold a festival but also create an entire educational environment full of interesting activities where no participant of the event was bored. I believe that every festival guest found something to his or her liking.

Photos by Aleksey Nazarov

Marina Volynkina, Viktoria Gusakova, Global Women Media news agency

Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov


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