Loaded with Testosterone: Warsaw Photo Days 2015

Warsaw Photo Days Festival of Photography was founded in 2013 at the initiative of the Warsaw District of the Association of Polish Art Photographers ZPAF that is simultaneously an organizer of the event.

The third edition of the festival will be held in November 2015 and will be wrapped around the theme of TESTOSTERON. The Main Programme in Warsaw galleries will feature thirteen individual projects selected through a competition addressed to visual artists. The main plot of the show is aimed to visually analyze and put the idea of masculinity into question.

Warsaw Photo Days 2015
Testosterone, as understood broadly, can be used under the theme of the contest, as an intellectual shortcut, is identified with the life force of the human species that drives the pace of men’s and women’s life. It is a subject to constant revisions by civilization and society, in both physical and mental sphere, and is being redefined by successive generations and expressed in many ways. The projects selected and included in the programme are supposed to help us to familiarize ourselves with the ways of photographic depiction of contemporary archetypes of masculinity - its attributes, strengths and vulnerabilities.

We asked Katarzyna Majak, from the jury panel and a person behind the festival, to share her view on the theme of the festival, artists selected and their work:

KM: We live in the times of crisis of the narrative. This statement is probably not particularly revealing, though still surprising may be tracking the variety of its consequences. This is where, I think, crucial artistic discourse of this year's Warsaw Festival of Photography plays out.

The traditional concepts defining our identity or questioning sexuality have become problematic.
The roles, models and criteria, so clearly defined in the traditional approach, proved to be too explicit. The corset has been cast off. Now one has to learn how to get around without it. Nowhere perhaps the cultural turmoil, referred to herein, has not revealed itself as clearly as in the erosion of the established patterns of masculinity. In this context, the review of photographic works collected under the meaningful title "Testosterone" is likely to become a source of interesting reflections and observations.

The intricate paths of male sexuality find an unexpected happy ending in Magda Rakita’s story about a very mature man who overcame profound trauma and found the harmony back with his erotic destiny. "Cosmo was murdered That Night" is a short movie based mainly on photographs and an interview with a 70-year old man about his sex life. Joey shows us his world and the path he has followed for more than 25 years (since he was raped); life in celibacy to rediscover his sexuality.

Masculinity is also a fatherhood. Project by Natalia Reznik: "Looking for my father" is a story about how important the role of a father figure is in our contemporary consciousness. Where reality somehow fails, imagination feels imperative to complete the missing link in the chain of family connections. The father figure is created based on cultural archetypes and their incarnations, such as film screen lovers. Life is mixed with fantasy in pursuit of still indispensable figure of a model father.

Boys from El Clot © Jorge Lopez Munoz
Placed in the context of urban slums, a youthful masculinity from the "Boys from El Clot" project by Jorge Lopez Munoz reveals the paradox of male vitality trying in vain to find an outlet under social degradation and exclusion, so characteristic of the modern urban agglomerations. The same vitality, not so youthful, but undoubtedly driven by testosterone, controls rivalry in the political field, especially its highly conventional image in the media coverage that blurs any authenticity. This problem can be seen in Borut Krajnc’s images, showing a series of media incarnations of a Slovenian politician Borut Pahor from his presidential campaign. When sport or politics cease to exist, this - conditioned by hormones - tireless male activity finds various alternatives, some sort of "ersatz" of real action so typical for everyday life of a modern man. With quite good amount of amusement, Szabolcs Barakonyi is reviewing these alternative actions in his "To Do" project.

from 'To Do'series © Szabolcs Barakonyi
The modern man has less and less areas where he can pursue his gender-based and stereotypically marked by aggressive attitude - activity. As a result, on a daily basis, it finds an outlet even in driving a car with a cavalryman’s flair. The dramatic and spectacular consequences of such a situation on the roads of Australia, where the driver has certainly enough room to reach high speeds and be like  Mad Max, are presented under the "LOSTRALIA - Terra Testosteronis" by Boris Eldagsen.
Another example of an alternative activity of a man entrapped by too orderly & smooth modernity on the one hand and the cry of testosterone on the other hand, is certainly bodybuilding, even if its aesthetic effect in the social perception may seem dubious. As a sign of the times determining the current status of masculinity, it appears in the "Ripped" project by Brian J. Morrison.

Man and Woman, Ripped, Chiselled and Rock Hard © Brian J. Morrison
Relativization of gender patterns deprived the image of masculinity of its former unambiguousness. The boundaries defining the status of the man and woman are blurring, which encourages their crossing and creative move, as well experimenting in this field. This is evident, for example, in the "Cyber ghetto" project by Alice Söderlund. Testosterone itself becomes a sign of the suspect & distorted masculinity as in the works by Arni Gudmundsson and Cristian Rieloff.

Tattooing, from 'Cyber Ghetto' series © Alice Soderlund
Big Thinkers © Arni Gudmundson & Cristian Rieloff 
Awareness of the fundamental distinction of what is masculine and what is feminine, remains alive, though perhaps not as unchallengeable as it once was. This separation comes close even to the lack of communication, which is shown in the series of works by Mary Hamill: "Objects of Desire", trying in some way to "overcome" this lack.

Untitled, from Objects of Desire © Mary Hamill 
Visions of the tormented, almost Kafkaesque masculinity from Igor Pisuk’s autobiographical implementation can show very clearly how ambiguous and susceptible to varying interpretations today is the status of masculinity, conventionally determined by the influence of testosterone. As the works of this year's festival show, this may be a sign of both the crisis and a new start. Masculinity is dead, long live masculinity!

Warsaw Photo Days 2015 Open Festival Finalists: 

Szabolcs Barakonyi (Hungary) „To Do”
Boris Eldagsen (Germany) „Lostralia – Terra Testosteronis”
Fergus Thomas (Great Britain), „Indian Relay”
Arni Gudmundson & Cristian Rieloff (Iceland & Chile), “Ten Moralistic Anecdotes”, “Big Thinkers”, Plastic Posers and Brunsttid/ Mating Season”
Mary Hamill (Ireland) „Objects of Desire”
Borut Krajnc (Slovenia), “Politics”
Jorge Lopez Munoz (Spain) „Boys from El Clot”
Brian J. Morrison (Ireland) „Ripped Chiselled and Rock Hard”
Igor Pisuk (Poland) „Deceitful reverence”
Magda Rakita (Poland) „Cosmo was murdered That Night”
Natalia Reznik (Russia) „Looking for my father”
Maks Skrzeczkowski (Poland), “Normalna wojna”/"An ordinary War"
Alice Soderlund (Sweden), “Cyber ghetto”

We will present more images from WPD15 in the upcoming  #22 issue of prism to be launched 24.11.15 

Discover prism e-magazines:

All images and text published in prism's network, including blog, social media and e-magazine are the sole property of the featured authors: photographers, content creators, contributors and editors and the subject to copyright.

No image or text can be reproduced, edited, copied or distributed without the express written permission of its legal owner.

No part of this blog and e-publications may be reproduced in any form, be it digital or mechanical, printed, edited or distributed without the prior written consent of the publisher.

Copyright ©2011-2017 prism Contemporary Photography Magazine.