Under the motto „Rebellious and deeply rooted images of hope from the Orient! A photographic journey between light and shadow.“ the festival La Gacily-Baden Photo was opened on Thursday, June 15, 2023, exactly at 17:38. In chorus, led by the President of the Lower Austrian Parliament Karl Wilfling – representing the Governor of Lower Austria Johanna Mikl-Leitner and Philippe Sutter, Director of the French Cultural Institute in Vienna, echoed through the Orangery in Doblhoffpark in Baden near Vienna those words that after a year of preparatory work sounded like music to the ears of the festival team: „The Festival La Gacilly-Baden Photo 2023 is open“. The mayor of Baden, Stefan Szirucsek, the members of the Lower Austrian parliament, Helga Krismer and Christoph Kainz, the district mayor, Verena Sonnleitner, and the provincial guild master of the photographers of Lower Austria, Christian Schörg, repeated the opening formula in French, of course, as did the organizer quartet festival director Lois Lammerhuber, Silvia Lammerhuber, Beate Jorda and Florence Drouhet.
The President of the Lower Austrian Parliament Karl Wilfing emphasized in his speech: „The Photo Festival is a kind of humanistic educational institution with international appeal and, in addition, a tremendous tourism impulse. And I am pleased that under the guiding principle Culture of Solidarity, the cooperation with the festival partners Garden Tulln, Celje in Slovenia and the Month of Photography in Bratislava will continue in 2023.“
„Today we celebrate together again the close cooperation between Austria and France in the field of art and the bilateral partnership between two inspiring regions: on the one hand, la Bretagne and on the other Lower Austria and of course the beautiful city of Baden. This great festival is the biggest French-Austrian cultural event“, Philippe Sutter, who represented the Ambassador of France H.E. Gilles Pécout in his charming French way, appreciated the quality of the cooperation with the sister festival in La Gacilly in Brittany.
„It’s that time again: the 6th edition of the largest European photo festival takes us to the „Orient“. Faraway countries and cultures, foreign to many Europeans, and fascinating landscapes are the subject of this thematic world. Other galleries show the beauty of nature and the need to protect our planet. Lower Austria’s five world heritage sites form the subject area of the third narrative strand. There are around 1,500 images to discover. From the Rosarium amid thousands of blooming roses to the spa gardens and the historic city center, the photographs are embedded in the cityscape. The photo festival makes Baden the center of international photography in Austria,“ Stefan Szirucsek aptly put it.
Festival Director Lois Lammerhuber expressed his sincere thanks to the Province of Lower Austria and the City of Baden, as well as to the numerous media and sponsors present for their generous and friendly cooperation. However, Lammerhuber also felt the need to point out the citizens of Baden, whose financial support makes it possible to make the festival CO2-neutral through the purchase of compensation certificates for the benefit of the project „Ibanda – Makera Forest Cook Stove Project in Rwanda“. Lammerhuber spoke about the theme of the festival from very personal experiences: „The Orient has always held a special place in my heart. I have photographed the birthplaces of world religions there as well as Mother Teresa’s work in Calcutta. Or Myanmar in the early 1980s, when the country was still called Burma and meant a journey into centuries gone by. Nowhere in the world have I learned so much about how people live together, and nowhere have I experienced so much humility before other cultures.“
The festival’s second major narrative strand deals with global climate collapse, the threat of ecocide. „This is the murder of our homeland, of planet Earth, by us humans,“ Lammerhuber continues.
This challenging topic was the subject of a lecture by French photographer Stéphan Gladieu, who photographed the artists‘ collective „Ndaku ya – la vie est belle“ in Kinshasa, which makes costumes from the city’s waste to draw attention to global environmental pollution. In the process, they make clothes and masks inspired by African traditions. „Photography is undoubtedly the most incisive tool for exploring the human condition – and a unique plea for tolerance and peace,“ Gladieu said.
The second guest speaker was Viennese gallerist Johannes Faber, who spoke about the status of Austrian photography from an international perspective.
The ceremony was rounded off by Silvia Lammerhuber, Managing Director of Edition Lammerhuber, presenting the prestigious ICMA – International Creative Media Award – presented in London to Andrea Verena Prenner for her book CAMPING. The festive setting was perfect for this. Edition Lammerhuber publishes a book on an exhibition to accompany the festival. In 2022 this was the exhibition CAMPING, this year it will be followed by a book about the exhibition PAKISTAN by Sarah Caron.
ORIENT! focuses on photographers from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Three countries that all belong to the Persian cultural area. Three countries that we know only insufficiently, although they have conquered the hearts of all travelers like Marco Polo. Three countries whose photographers are the defenders of positive thinking and ambassadors of environmental awareness. Three countries that are home to a millennia-old civilization, a unique artistic creativity and courageous authors who have chosen photography to define their place in society. Photographers who come from these countries have always chosen to break conventions in order to develop an innovative style and look at people and gods with humanism infused in them. Honor to whom honor is due: Abbas, Gohar Dashti and Hamed Noori, Ebrahim Noroozi, Maryam Firuzi, Hashem Shakeri, Paul Almasy, Véronique de Viguerie, Fatimah Hossaini, Shah Marai and Wakil Kohsar, Sarah Caron.
Since its inception, the festival has never wavered from its mission to show the beauty of nature as well as to address the need to protect it. Through the prism of photography, we want to highlight the challenges of a sustainable world without naivety. At the same time, the sometimes dramatic reality is never disregarded. All photographs are signs of our unshakable faith in the future. The photographers of the festival decidedly want to be witnesses and part of the efforts to preserve our most beautiful common good – the planet Earth: Mélanie Wenger, Bernard Descamps, Gabriele Cecconi, Stephan Gladieu, Money Sharma, Reporters Without Borders, Brigitte Kössner-Skoff and Gerhard Skoff, Antonin Borgeaud, Jérôme Blin, Alisa Martynova, Maxime Taillez, Chloé Azzopardi.
The bilateral photo project of the schools of Morbihan in Brittany and Lower Austria is dedicated this year to the theme of openings. Whether in a literal or figurative sense, the concept of openings also encompasses communication and travel to new places or people. Ultimately, it raises the question of the construction of our individual and collective identity and our relationship with others.
Austrian photography is represented by Rudolf Koppitz, Horst Stasny and the professional photographers of Lower Austria. In addition, there are three commissioned works: Cathrine Stukhard visited the World Heritage Site of Vichy, Gregor Schörg shows the second part of his work about the wilderness area Dürrenstein-Lassingtal and Brigitte Kössner-Skoff and Gerhard Skoff explored the „Living Bridges“ in India.
CEWE – „Our World is Beautiful“: the exhibition of the winning photos of the world’s largest photo competition with almost 700,000 pictures from 170 countries will round off the festival, as will the retrospective of 2022 in the pictures and texts of the „Artists in Residence“ Pascal Maitre and Katharina V. Haderer.
Festival La Gacilly-Baden Photo will take place from June 15 to October 15, 2023.