At midnight on Sunday 15 October 2023, Festival La Gacilly-Baden Photo came to an end.
268,840 visitors enjoyed photographic art and garden art in the world heritage city of Baden. This makes the festival not only the largest French-Austrian cultural event, but also – in cooperation with the exhibition partner La Gacilly in Brittany – by far the largest open-air photo exhibition in Europe.
„The largest open-air photo exhibition in Europe, the La Gacilly-Baden Photo Festival, remains a popular attraction for visitors in its sixth year of existence. The photo festival has set strong impulses both in Lower Austria and beyond the borders of our province,“ says Lower Austrian Governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner,summarising her impressions. „In a gigantic open-air gallery, the world’s best photographers show their skills. At the time of the exhibition opening in June, we had no idea how topical and charged the theme ‚Orient!‘ would be in October. Photographers from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan took centre stage in the exhibitions, demonstrating how art can serve as a mediator between cultures.“
„Superlatives are meaningless in this case. Something incomparable has been created in Baden,“ enthuses Lower Austrian writer Evelyn Schlag. Photographer Pia Parolin adds: „So much exchange, exciting people, wonderful art, moving photo series, moving films in the Cinema Paradiso, fantastic food and delicious wine – I don’t know how to top that.“ And journalist Kurt Lhotzky noted, „La Gacilly-Baden Photo is not only the biggest, it is arguably the most democratic photography event in Europe due to its presentation format. No one is prevented by material barriers from seeing the extraordinary works of art. So – let’s go to Baden.“
Under the title ORIENT!, the photo festival in Baden showed „rebellious and deeply rooted images of hope from countries that we view very critically. The festival became a photographic journey between light and shadow,“ says festival director Lois Lammerhuber. „Countries that are home to a millennia-old civilisation, 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 to develop an innovative style and look at people and gods with humanism infused in their eyes.“ Honour to whom honour is due: Abbas, Gohar Dashti, Hamed Noori, Ebrahim Noroozi, Maryam Firuzi, Hashem Shakeri, Paul Almasy, Véronique de Viguerie, Fatimah Hossaini, Shah Marai, Wakil Kohsar, Sarah Caron.
Since its inception, the festival has never wavered from its mission to show the beauty of nature as well as 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,“ is how Silvia Lammerhuber, the festival’s commercial director, characterises the second narrative strand dedicated to the state of planet Earth. All the photographs are signs of an unshakeable faith in the future. The photographers of the festival resolutely want to be witnesses and part of the effort to preserve our most beautiful common asset – 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 Morbihan schools in Brittany and Lower Austria this year was dedicated to the theme of openings. Whether in a literal or figurative sense, the concept of openings also encompasses communication and journeys to new places or people. Ultimately, it raises the question of the construction of our individual and collective identity and our relationship with others.
„Photography undoubtedly remains the most incisive tool for changing public opinion and for preserving glimmers of humanity,“ says Christian Schörg, Guild Master of Photographers of Lower Austria. The Austrian photographers Rudolf Koppitz and Horst Stasny are also in this tradition. From Gregor Schörg, the festival has shown the second part of his work on the wilderness area Dürrenstein-Lassingtal. The exhibition of the photograﬁes of Lower Austrian professional photographers and the exhibition of the winning photos of the world’s largest photo competition, CEWE’s „Our World is Beautiful“, with almost 700,000 pictures from 170 countries, rounded off the festival, as did the retrospective of 2022 in the pictures of the Artist in Residence Pascal Maitre and the photo gallery of Cathrine Stukhard, who put the French spa town of Vichy in the picture. Together with Baden, Vichy is part of the UNESCO World Heritage „Great Spa Towns of Europe“.
Mayor Stefan Szirucsek beams: „The 6th edition of our international photo festival attracts enthusiastic audiences from Austria and many countries. The guests of the photo festival noticeably enliven the city centre and experience the special atmosphere of the world heritage city. Especially on the weekends, visitors enjoy the unique combination of photography and garden art in the cultural capital of Baden.“
In her bachelor’s thesis „Events as a Game Changer for a City?“, Christin Gerstorfer spent 169 pages scientifically examining the effects of the festival on the spa town of Baden and sums up: „The La Gacilly-Baden Photo festival fulfils all these aspects and has a very high relevance for the brand (re)positioning of Baden. It creates an international USP, is integrated into the backdrop and gardens of the city and combines its tradition with modernity.“
„It was grandiose as always. This great festival is invaluable for the image change of our city,“ said Klaus Lorenz, Baden’s tourism director, underlining the presence of 133 national and international media who celebrated the 184th birthday of photography in Baden during the Long Night of Photography on 12 August 2023, including ORF, MARKIZA TV, RTL, SAT1, VOX, FAZ, GEO, STERN, FIGARO, and for the first time AL JAZEERA.
Phil Mistry, who had travelled to Baden from the USA on behalf of Peta Pixel, summed up what everyone felt: “Thank you for welcoming us to your small town with a big heart!“ And finally two photographer’s voices: Alisa Martynova: „This was genuinely the best festival experience I have had so far!” And Stephane Gladieu: “I’m really proud to had the honor to be exhibited at the Orangerie – it’s beautiful. All my respect for the way you handle all this, for the way you share your tremendous experience. Too much thanks is never too much. A lot of kisses.”
As in previous years, special editions of the exhibitions will be on show from 1 to 30 November 2023 as part of the „Month of Photography“ in Bratislava and again in 2024 at the Garten Tulln. Director Franz Gruber: „The photographic interventions at Garten Tulln set many exciting accents in the show gardens. Without exception, the reactions of the visitors were positive, some even enthusiastic.“