Endless news cycles. 24/7 digital connectivity. Workplace burnout. Daily life can sometimes feel overwhelming. In 2023, The Guardian reported on “The Great Resignation,” a trend that began on TikTok and continues to sweep through workplaces as employees reassess their work life balance to prioritise mental wellbeing. But what happens when people take a step back? The act of pausing is central to the 2023 Getxophoto International Image Festival, which explores the political act of inactivity. Twenty four projects from artists based in countries including Britain, Ecuador, Japan and Morocco reimagine breaks as gestures of rebellion and resistance. Throughout the event, curator María Ptqk (b. 1976) invites visitors to “demand the right to be unproductive” and consider the potential benefits of nothingness. We take a closer look at 5 photographers reflecting on this mindset through their work.
A Google search of “Lesbos” reveals golden sands, clear waters and green coves – an ideal holiday destination. In 2018, multi-disciplinary artist Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos (b. 1981) split her time on the Greek island between holidaying and volunteering at the Moria refugee camp. Thirty one photographs document the daily changes to the horizon during this period, representing conflicting feelings of joy and emptiness. White squares mirror Murray Fredericks’ ethereal horizons, yet Kosmatopoulos’ scenes ask viewers to reflect on the stories that lie beneath, rather than basking in the splendour of the vast ocean.
There are more than 50 million influencers around the world, according to Forbes, with #Influencer amassing 44.8 million posts on Instagram alone. From videos of shopping haul try ons to promotional posts of new products, these content creators have a huge impact on society and ideas of success. Japanese artist Haruhiko Kawaguchi (b. 1971), who uses the pseudonym Photographerhal, responds to the grip of consumerism and achieving perfection in a collection of deeply disturbing portraits. Couples, families and friends huddle together under a plastic façade. The effect is suffocating and claustrophobic.
In 2021, Netflix series The Minimalists: Less is Now saw authors Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus instruct viewers on the benefits of rejecting materialistic tendencies. Maider Jiménez (b. 1992) scrutinises society’s obsession with objects, navigating her home city of Vitoria-Gasteiz to record simple, fleeting moments. Trees sway in the breeze, fingers cast shadows on walls, bushes shed their foliage, ready for the next season. Through these images, perspectives are realigned to dispel doubt or frustration, asking what it means to see and experience the world with new eyes and a clear mind.
Morocco is home to the largest oasis in the world: Tafilalet. The region stretches across an area of 77,000 km2, yet the ecosystem is under threat. Rising global temperatures and the overuse of aquifers – a layer of underground rock that holds water – is leading to the depletion of abundant water sources, fertile soil and date palms, three elements that are crucial for biodiversity. Casablanca-based M’hammed Kilito (b. 1981) examines the decline of oases in the south-west of the country, whilst highlighting the work of local activists who are battling again depopulisation and the overuse of natural resources.
“Revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more people’s nature runs to, the more ought the Law to weed it out,” wrote philosopher Francis Bacon in his essay Of Revenge (1625). Brazilian photographer Lucas Bambozzi (b. 1976) responds to these words, imagining a world where trees seek vengeance. The artist relays this cautionary story through photo novel, images, installation and video relay, reconsidering the symbolism of vehicles. Cars are seized by branches and leaves. Hanging in mid-air, the status associated with these machines begins to morph, becoming a symbol of environmental harm and selfishness.
Getxophoto | 1-25 June
Words: Saffron Ward
1. Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos, It is Always Summer Somewhere
2. Photographeral, Flesh Love
3. Maider Jiménez, Aquí ninguén fala diso
4. M’Hammed Kilto, Before It’s Gone
5. Lucas Bambozzi, A vingança é uma espéciede justiça selvagem