Five Must-Sees at Unseen


This year’s edition of Unseen Amsterdam was a great litmus test for what's happening in the photography world. Themes like intimacy, identity, and reconnecting with the natural world were prevalent. Similarly, trends in techniques like experimental printing on fabric and collage were easy to track throughout the fair. With so many images to digest our Community Manager Francesca has chosen five standouts from among the crowd. OstLicht. Gallery for Photography from Vienna in booth 39 put on the best overall display with eight of Anna Breit’s images from her ongoing project Mama. A touching series that is visually tethered by the fabrics that Breit’s mother, who worked as a tailor, dons in the photographs. Breit sees the work as a love letter to her mother, telling me that her photographs help her show the love she sometimes finds difficult to express. Stylistically, Breit’s successful display is a testament to the en vogue use of direct flash, a look we celebrate here at Der Greif.

Next, we have Shen Wei’s work presented by SinArts Gallery at booth 45. Wei showcases a bold yet elegant mixture of black and white images with color photographs, a juxtaposition that not enough artists dare to make. The self-portrait Daisies was most striking, with Wei’s body creating a splash of negative space amongst a field of flowers. This piece embodies Wei’s use of opposing elements to address emotional states like loneliness and absence. As I walked through the fair, Charlie Hay’s image Reineman at Vasli Souza in booth 21 seemed to respond to the question posed in Wei’s Daisies, featuring an impression of a human form left disembodied from its creator on a forest floor. Ultimately influenced by his conservative childhood in Shanghai, Wei explores memory, identity, and sexuality in much the same one our next artist does.

Like Anna Breit, Bharat Sikka of Nature Morte gallery has developed a practice that hails the return of analog. Shooting intentionally on a 4x5 camera, Sikka aims to capture his subjects frozen in time. An almost political gesture as his series Coming Through In Waves details the nuances of urban middle-class life in New Delhi, both rich with diverse youth culture and fragile in an environment of increasing repression. Despite the images’ unification through typically friendly warm earthy tones, there is a pleasantly unsettling quality to his staged portraits that cuts the viewer out of their surroundings and into the presence of his subjects.

While it was difficult to select from among the works which referenced some sort of collaging technique, Christa David at 193Gallery in booth 35 caught my eye with her tactful use of negative space. Proving that collage doesn't have to be overwhelming even when addressing staggering challenges, David uses her work as a way to express feelings brought on by the systematic racism in the United States. Her piece, it was heavy all so heavy, shown here at the far left, is an example of her triumphant capability to engage storytelling and symbology. Historically, David’s work carries on an important photographic conversation to which artists like Carrie Mae Weems belong.

Last on our list of must-sees is Andi Galdi Vinko with her new Trolley Books publication “Sorry I Gave Birth I Disappeared But Now I’m Back” and a series displayed with the same name at Erika Deák Gallery in booth 59. Her work honestly explores the highs and lows of motherhood and as a result, faces the online discrimination associated. Andi explained to me that Instagram can’t seem to handle her work, with the algorithm even deleting her older images of bare male chests after she began posting her new series. Andi redefines the family album, bringing together the youngest and oldest generations of her family to capture crucial stages in human development. Her work demonstrates why we hold photo fairs in the first place and how the censorship-filled digital realm will never be able to replace this experience. If you leave Unseen with anything, I recommend it be a copy of Andi’s book.