Photo Kathmandu in a new avatar
Since its inception in 2015, Photo Kathmandu has gained worldwide recognition for its professionalism and creativity, and has raised the bar for other art festivals in Nepal.
However, due to the Covid-19 crisis, this year’s fourth iteration of the bi-annual festival which used to be held in Patan, will be spread out virtually over 2021.
Since 2015, the festival has given artists and photographers a free platform to express their creativity through open-air exhibitions, workshops, portfolio reviews and with many other interactive public events. The past three Photo Kathmandu events have been month-long jamborees in which the historic heart of Patan itself turned into a stage for an explosion of the visual arts.
This year, instead of being held over a month, the festival will go on for a whole year beginning from 3 December 2020 to 2 December 2021.
Coincidentally, the announcement of the festival's extension came a few days prior to selection of Photo Kathmandu’s co-founder and festival director Nayantara Gurung Kakshapati, as the jury chair of World Press Photo 2021 Contest. This honour is itself expected to add to the festival’s international standing.
Organising a festival on this scale was never an easy task, and challenges have been plenty, Kakshapati told Nepali Times. The very first edition in 2015, was held just after the earthquake struck Nepal and devastated the town centre of Patan. It was held despite a Blockade and shortages of fuel and supplies.
This year, too, with the pandemic there are many challenges, but Kakshapati’s team is determined to pull off a successful full year of online events.
The festival is a part of a larger continuum of image-making, research and civic engagements at photo.circle and Nepal Picture Library, and has devised two strategies for the upcoming festival: time and place.
"We come once in two years for a month, create a momentum and disappear, so we had been thinking for a while to stretch the festival over a longer period and create a conversation over the whole year. We are excited about the new possibilities," says Kakshapati, adding that most of the events will be virtual, particularly workshops, artist talks and portfolio reviews.
“However, if the Covid situation gets better by the second-half of 2021, the team could work on a small-scale physical exhibition in Patan making a more permanent presence in a collaboration with local communities," she explains.
Instead of physical exhibitions, this year the Photo Kathmandu team plans to collaborate with newspapers and come with print exhibitions for the artists and photographers that it will select to feature.
The opening week of the festival in December will have a series of portfolio reviews and will include professionals from all over the world. People can sign up for a free 30-minute session. Along with that, there will be artist talks and panels.
The festival is trying to turn the pandemic crisis into an opportunity to bring in artists from all over the world who would otherwise perhaps not have been able to travel to Nepal.
Because of the global pandemic, the 2020-2021 edition has also cancelled the artist residency program. However, there will be more roll out and incubation programs from January 2021.
Says Kakshapati: "We have come over various obstacles over the past and we hope that panning out the festival for an entire year will bring more international visibility for Photo Kathmandu and give opportunities for more artists in the future."