Backlight lighted up Tampere from back to front

The photography triennial in Tampere got a new name, Backlight, in 1999. The event looked towards Europe: Documents and Identities - Young European Photography - backlighted by global multimedia reality? The invitation to Backlight was a sign of the multilayered and challenging nature of the event.

A new residence project, which the curator Ulrich Haas-Pursiainen writes about elsewhere in this publication under the title Residence works, was started at Backlight. He and the director of the photographic centre, Antti Haapio, managed (with the help of EU's Kaleidoskope-project) to create the most interesting photographic event in the whole Northern Europe. The main partners of Backlight were Fondazione Studio Marangoni from Italy, Centro Português de Fotografia from Portugal, Rupertinum Salzburg Museum moderner Kunst from Austria and Pro Helvetia from Switzerland. Backlight was seen in the large lighted advertisement stands by the sidewalks. The mother tongue of Backlight changed from Finnish to the Latin of today - English.

Caroline Smith appraised Backlight in Creative Camera in December 1999. According to her, the Tamperean photographic event presented well the minorities of European peripheries: Detlef Riemarzik's pictures of Lapps, Adrian Istvan Sulgok's collages of self-portraits and factory pictures of Rumania, and Paulo Catrica's topographical series of Porto. All of them dealt with the cultural identities of the periphery. Backlight led the discussion about the hybridisation of global culture and multimedia. (Smith 1999.)

The gallery of Nykyaika presented a series of ten exhibitions during 1999. The cultural centre Telakka held a symposium, which was, besides Finnish photographers and researchers, attended by several European curators, including Alessandra Capodaqua from Italy, Tereza Siza from Portugal, Alan Humerose from Switzerland and Margit Zuckriegl from Austria. The seminar studied the local and peripheral identity under the pressure of global media culture.

Daniel Meadows, who held his exhibition Now and then at Backlight, travelled around Britain in a double-decker bus in the 70's. He photographed all his subject again twenty years later. Meadows gave a virtuoso, unforgettable lecture on his photographic project at Tampere University. He also gave an intensive workshop to students from various schools, where the relationship between photography, journalism and art was discussed.

The group Chipex, formed by four Swiss photographers, began a series of exhibitions in May, in which the works of altogether 15 photographers were presented. There was no theme in the Chipex exhibition: the artist brought as heterogeneous works to Tampere as possible. Steve Iuncker's black-and-white, granular pictures of aged prostitutes undermined the traditional idea of beauty. On the other hand, there are no people in Gérard Pétremand's photos. His city is a chaos of sign boards, advertisements and guideposts. Alan Humerose turns his look to the aesthetism of street surfaces.

Besides the main exhibition at Verkaranta and Nykyaika at Kehräsaari, there were other works at several other galleries. Backlight 99 gave the opportunity to foreign photographers to work in Tampere for ten days. The artists in residence-project (often practised in art circles) brought photographers to Tampere from Japan and several European countries. The contacts that were born during Backligt enabled it to become a link in the chain of European photographic events. It also gave a chance to regional photographers from Pirkanmaa to present their work at collaborating countries.

The special characteristic of Backlight is the magical communality that has been born between photographers, curators and organisers in Tampere. The smoky sauna of Hangaslahti could not better act as the kindling of the Backlight-spirit.