Theatre of Dreams
Is it possible to develop a new way of looking—at the world, but also at photography? In the midst of a pandemic that imposed an abrupt halt in the lives of individuals and communities across the world, the desire to revisit the medium and its potential emerged as a pressing concern for the curatorial team of the festival. In a world where old cycles of oppression continuously take new forms, what can the medium of photography offer, for us to imagine a way forward?
The current edition—anchored by its theme Theatre of Dreams—brings together the work of over 60 photographers from 28 countries and attempts to articulate this imagination. The selection offers a range of propositions—from envisioning DIY hacks to survive the climate crisis, developing new memorials for collective grief, to visualising utopias in community living. Artists adopt new photographic languages to draw attention to that which has long been placed on the periphery. Through stories of resistance premised on the ideals of hope and change—be it the youthful assertion of revolutionary poetry in Sudan, the resistance of Palestinian prisoners who challenge the inequities of their incarceration to pro-create through inventive methods, or the expression of love within communities unconstrained by heteronormative structures—these image-makers show us the possibilities that lay in challenging dominant narratives.
As a medium, photography has long grappled with the question of representation, to re-present that which is before the lens. Theatre of Dreams offers a site for a potential shift—by foregrounding the voices of those documenting their own communities. Some selected works privilege us with insights gained by lived experience, nudging us into new ways of seeing, and consequently, generating new perspectives about the world. Some expand beyond the traditional mode of the documentary, using multidisciplinary approaches to present truths about their own indigenous communities, as with projects centred around the Bedouin community in Egypt or the Tupinambá people in Brazil. Others present the image in its traditional form, to propose new ways of seeing old truths—be it of decade-long conflicts or our ongoing dissonance with nature.
No vision for the future can be complete without a look at the past. Many photographers showcasing at the festival work with the archive—in some instances, excavating images from oblivions, or reinterpreting others in new contexts. In doing so, they attempt to fill the gaps that render mainstream histories incomplete. By freeing historical narratives from the clutches of dominant authorships, they pave the path for the imagination of an equitable future.
In celebration of its 10th edition, BredaPhoto expands beyond the curatorial selection. This includes an invitation extended to nine photographers from previous editions to present new works in alignment with the present theme. Additionally, nine young participants of the International Talent Program (ITP)—developed by BredaPhoto in collaboration with European art academies—will also exhibit their work. In keeping with its spirit of mentorship, three young professionals, whose works BredaPhoto helped develop as part of the Support Program, join its list of selected artists. As an ongoing component, a Residency Programme will also take place. As part of this initiative, seven young photographers will create work in Breda during the festival, and present their interpretation of Theatre of Dreams to the public in the festival’s concluding week.
Under the leadership of director Fleur van Muiswinkel, Theatre of Dreams has been compiled by the curators: Denise Camargo from Brazil; Mohamed Somji from Tanzania, now living and working in the Emirates; Reinout van den Bergh from the Netherlands; and Tanvi Mishra from India. Magnum photographer Newsha Tavakolian, born in Iran, is commissioned as guest curator as part of the ongoing collaboration between BredaPhoto and the Grote Kerk (Great Church) Breda. The exhibition Space to Breathe, curated by Tavakolian, employs personal and self-reflective narratives to articulate its response to the theme, placing her work in concert with her selected artists.
BredaPhoto is grateful for the support of our growing community. Photographers, professionals, the municipality, the province, funders, sponsors, cultural partners, and volunteers have together helped build this dream, not just financially, but also through the contribution of their time and invaluable work. We would also like to thank our visitors, the festival’s raison d’être, without whom, it would not come to life.