Unseen Amsterdam Photo Festival: 5 Reasons to Visit

Amsterdam is not only a wonderful city known as a favourite spot of many travel photographers, it is also known to host one of the leading platforms for contemporary photography: Unseen Amsterdam. Exclusively focusing on what’s new in the photography world, Unseen provides a channel for up-and-coming talent to showcase their work. The festival returns for its sixth edition from the 22nd to the 24th of September 2017 and takes place in the Westergasfabriek, a former gasworks factory in Amsterdam, now used as a cultural venue and situated in the Westerpark.

Unseen Amsterdam is definitely worth a trip to this wonderful city in the Netherlands. Below you will find five reasons for that.

Unseen Amsterdam 2016

Image from Unseen 2016 by Iris Duvekot


1 – See more than 80 photography world premieres

Collaboratively organised by Amsterdam’s key photography and art institutions, this edition of Unseen Amsterdam’s Fair will present works from 53 galleries from 14 countries from around the world. Unseen Amsterdam focuses on the new – not only by offering a platform for emerging photographers, but also by debuting previously unseen works. The fair will give you the chance to discover an exclusive presentation of more than 80 world premieres: new work from both emerging talents and well-known photographers, that has never been shown at any fair, gallery or institution. Mohau Modisakeng , Jacqueline Hassink and Gregory Halpern are just some examples of artists that will showcase some of their work for the first time at Unseen.


2 – Get inspired by many emerging talents  

Unseen Amsterdam Pasi Orrensalo

Image by Pasi Orrensalo, Mirko Mayer Gallery

Constantly on the lookout for new ways to support young and emerging talent in the world of contemporary photography, Unseen has established several talent development programmes. We’ll just name a few. The ING Unseen Talent Award provides an international platform for emerging European photography talent to present their work on a global scale. The final work created by the five finalists will be exhibited at the festival. Another initiative of Unseen to offer a platform to emerging talents is the Dummy Award. It showcases the work of exceptional artists and designers from around the world and gives them a chance to realise and publish their photobook dummy. In the context of Outset | Unseen Exhibition Fund an international curatorial committee of emerging curators selects one outstanding exhibiting artist exhibiting at Unseen Amsterdam who will be given a solo exhibition at an international institution. Last but not least, at Unseen also offers each year a Residency to one of the premiering artists of Unseen. The winner of the residency selecting during Unseen Amsterdam 2016 was Lana Mesi? (1987, Croatia). She has finished a two-month residency in London, where she worked closely with photography professionals, as well as with leaders of the local creative industry. The work that Lana Mesi? made as a result of her residency will be unveiled during Unseen Amsterdam 2017.


3 – Play in the Photo Pleasure Palace

Among this year’s highlights is ‘Photo Pleasure Palace’, an exhibition created by Thomas Mailaender and Erik Kessels. The French artist Thomas Mailaender (Marseille, 1979) is a French photographer living in Marseille and Paris. Erik Kessels (Roermond, 1966) is a Dutch artist, designer and curator with a particular interest in photography, and creative director of KesselsKramer, an advertising agency in Amsterdam. Both artists are compulsive collectors of photographs, keen observers of sociological patterns and work regularly with the re-appropriation of images. They designed Unseen’s ‘Photo Pleasure Palace’ together to encourage visitors to engage with photography in a unique and playful way. This ‘weird-and-wonderland’ is outfitted amongst others with a Photo Fortune Teller, that will predict your future based on the images you bring along. For professional photographers your future career will be predicted based on your portfolio. With the Smash Gallery Mailaender  and Kessels invite you to loosen up your muscles and hit framed photographs on the wall. If you manage to knock one down you’ll receive a sealed photograph in a broken frame to take home. Another installation, called Jump Trump, enables you to enjoy plummeting into a portrait of Donald Trump from a great height in this “oh so politically challenging piece of art”(as described by the Unseen organisation). The exhibition will take place in the Zuiveringshal on the Westergasterrein.


4 – Engage with the photography community in many other ways

Unseen Amsterdam photo exhibition

Image from Unseen 2016 by Iris Duvekot

Unseen brings the international photography community together in Amsterdam to discuss and debate the directions in which the photographic medium is evolving. Aspiring to provide novel and diverse approaches for engaging with photography, it is not just a fair, but has way more to offer. If you like photography books, you should definitely visit the Unseen Book Market, which gives more than 60 international independent book-makers a platform to present their recent publications to an international audience. The Living Room, the three-day speakers programme, is jam-packed with lectures and debates  in an informal atmosphere about the state of photography today. This year it is co-produced by the Barbican (UK) and the Center for Creative Photography (CCP) in Tucson (USA). The interactive City Programme aspires challenge, inspire and excite visitors by using photography in unexpected and provocative ways. And various interactive onsite projects will allow the visitors of Unseen to come in contact with a variety of artists and their practices. In other words: enough ways to get inspired besides the fair.


5 – Enjoy Unseen Amsterdam or just Amsterdam

Visiting Unseen can be just a good excuse to bring a visit Amsterdam, whether it’s you first time or you’re looking forward to see this lovely city again. With amongst others the Foam photography museum, the EYE filmmuseum, the Huis Marseille and many private galleries, Amsterdam is year-round an excellent destination for photography and video lovers. Also the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision , located in Hilversum, is definitely worth a visit.

Unseen Amsterdam, 22-24 September 2017, Westergasfabriek. For more info see unseenamsterdam.com.

Do you prefer to shoot something yourself instead of seeing the work of others? You can discover and book photo/video studios and locations in Amsterdam (and many other cities) on misterlocation.com.