Collaborator's Corner: A Q&A with Stefano Stoll of Images Vevey

Biennale Images Vevey, Denise Bertschi, 2022

Stefano Stoll is the director of Images Vevey in Switzerland. This visual arts biennale makes a special feature of monumental open-air installations. Stoll was a guest curator together with Raphaël Biollay for Guest Room in October 2017. We caught up with Stoll to see what he and the festival have been up to since his Guest Room.

Der Greif: Since your Guest Room back in 2017 what changes has Images Vevey undergone?

Stefano: Since 2017, Images Vevey has grown massively as a brand and as an integrated support system for photographic creation, with the most visible part being the Images Vevey Biennial. The Grand Prix Images Vevey has become one of Europe’s most significant awards funding new photographic productions. Recently we added a permanent space for contemporary photography called L’APPARTEMENT - Espace Images Vevey, and a publishing house called Editions Images Vevey. All four branches (the biennial, award, permanent space, and publishing house) are now developing an interconnected dynamic of support for living artists, similar to an ecosystem. We also partner with residency programs and festivals in other countries to improve “our” artists’ visibility abroad.

Der Greif: Can you describe the most challenging moment in your career from the last five years?

Stefano: There’s no doubt that producing a complete indoor and outdoor version of the Images Vevey Biennial in the middle of the COVID pandemic was a major challenge. As was accommodating over 50,000 visitors in 25 indoor venues for three weeks in September 2020, while respecting the health and safety regulations in force during the pandemic. And COVID didn’t stop us there! In 2021, we also designed a whole outdoor/indoor biennial abroad, in the city of Gibellina, south of Palermo in Sicily: a one-shot spin-off called ‘Images Gibellina’. This “double bill” in such restrictive conditions meant a lot of risk-taking and deeply challenged our usual management and production processes.

Der Greif: Can you tell us what you are currently working on and what is happening for you in 2023?

Stefano: 2023 is the year of both our Grand Prix Images Vevey and Images Vevey Book Award! We’re discovering 900 photographers from 60 countries. In addition to our ongoing permanent program in L’APPARTEMENT–Espace Images Vevey, we are also consolidating the Editions Images Vevey publishing house with 8 upcoming books in the pipeline! This is motivated by the fact that, in the past two years, we won the 2021 Aperture / Paris Photo Best Photobook of the year Award for Gloria Oyarzabal’s “Woman Go No’Gree” (RM / Images Vevey) and were shortlisted with Carmen Winant’s book and Paola Jimenez’ book in two different categories in the 2022 edition of this inspiring award. We are currently co-publishing Kristine Potter’s (USA) latest book about her Grand Prix Images Vevey 2019/2020 winning project “Dark Waters”, together with Aperture and The Cristal Bridges Museum / The Momentary. We are also preparing a site-specific Roger Eberhard (CH) exhibition in Kyoto in collaboration with Kyotographies.

Der Greif: What do you think the future of photography looks like?

Stefano: I have no doubt that the future of photography is all about artificial intelligence. In the very near future, the whole paradigm of photography will be challenged in a way it has never been challenged before. From daguerreotypes to Kodak, from black and white to color, and now from digital to AI. Photoshop will no longer be the issue when discussing the authenticity of an image: The image itself will become the issue. In this AI context, I could imagine that black-and-white analogue photography will make a major comeback. Documentary photography will have to reinvent itself considerably, due to the evolution of the ecosystem of media in general, and the evolution of the way to perceive and produce information in the age of AI. One good picture will not be enough anymore – the strength and meaningfulness of the whole body of work will become the major issue. Photography will blend more and more with visual arts in general, changing the grammar of the medium.

Der Greif: What is your advice to emerging photographers working today?

Stefano: As French author Nicolas Boileau (1636-1711) wrote, whatever is well-conceived can be expressed clearly, and the words to say it flow with ease. The same can be said for photographs: A piece will not be good if the initial concept cannot be expressed clearly. Look for strong stories and find efficient ways to tell them. Get inspired by children’s books that take these two constructs into account. Participate in as many competitions and calls for entries as you can. Submit your projects whenever you can, but choose your battles. Never lose confidence in your inspiration and your personal vision. Surprise the world. Thank you!