Riga Photomonth is an international photography festival that takes place in the capital of Latvia since 2014.Riga Photomonth explores and shows photography from Northern and Eastern Europe. The festival’s public programme includes exhibitions, artist talks, workshops, lectures and film screenings. In addition Riga Photomonth hosts portfolio reviews and workshops for professionals. [Riga Photomonth]
Arnis Balcus is a photographer, editor in chief of FK Magazine and also the director of Riga Photomonth festival in Latvia.
Has participated as an expert at portfolio reviews in Kaunas, Derby, Madrid, St.Petersburg and Landskrona festivals and events, as well as nominating and evaluating entries for photo contests such as Prix Pictet, First Photobook Prize, Saatchi Selfie and Google Photography Prize. Also teaches documentary photography at ISSP School and Riga Stradins University. In most of his photographic work Balcus examines Latvian identity, historical taboos and social-political agendas. Recently has published a photobook “Victory Park”. [Official Website]
Can you please introduce yourself for those who don’t know?
I am a photographer, director of Riga Photomonth and editor of FK Magazine.
Could you tell me a little bit about Riga Photomonth and the team that stands behind it?
It’s a festival in the capital of Latvia that started in 2014 when Riga was the European capital of culture. I could say that it’s artists-run festival since the core of the team are photographers themselves. And this fact influenes also our programme which is very visual, based on exhibitions, film screenings and artist’s talks rather than seminars and conferences.
What motivated you to start a festival of photography?
First, that we didn’t have one while our closest neigbors (Lithuania, Estinia) did. Secondly, that there was a chance for kicking it off since Riga was the European Capital of culture and it was easier to sell the idea and to fundrise for it.
What is the secret of making a festival successful?
This is not an easy question, it’s an ongoing process and I believe there’s still a lot to improve. But basicly we try to celebrate our own region rather than bringing Western superstars, but at the same time attracting professional audience from abroad that in a longer run could also help us to bring better awarness to Latvian photography. But of course, it’s not easy to fulfil the needs of general public, professional audience and photography world at the same time, so we are still trying to find the right balance.
Can you tell us a bit about the process behind program and exhibition curation?
The core programme is curated, mainly by me and my colleague Alnis Stakle. I am sure it pretty much reflects our own interests as artists at this particular moment. Then we also have exhibitions and events that are organized by our partner institutions, such as the Museum of Photography or ISSP.
Looking towards the future, how do you see photo festivals in general, and Riga Photomonth specifically, evolving if at all – in terms of function and meaning?
I hope it becomes a great meeting place for those who wish to discover photography in Eastern and Northern Europe.
What advice would you like to offer other artists that might help them learn to better promote their work?
This is a tough one. On the one hand there’s so much opportunities nowadays but on the other hand it’s so easy to vanish in this vast amount of information… But such festivals as Riga Photomonth and a lot of other relatively small but international festivals can be a great place to network with curators, journalists and to promote your own work. Very often it works much more than just submitting your portfolio to a magazine or some open call.
How would you sum up contemporary photography?
I am afraid I can’t. But “diversity” would be one of the keywords.