Since launching in Paris in 2011, the Circulation(s) Festival of Young European Photography has grown into one of the world’s leading photography festivals, drawing curators and collectors from around the world to view cutting-edge work by emerging artists, many of whom have gone on to successful careers. The festival was supposed to celebrate its 10th anniversary last month with an exhibition of 45 photographers representing 16 nationalities.
Then, on March 14, the first day of the festival, France’s prime minister, Édouard Philippe, announced a nationwide shutdown of all nonessential businesses to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. Even in France, the birthplace of photography, Circulation(s) didn’t make the cut.
“When we had to close, it was an unknown situation for us,” says Clara Chalou, the festival’s general coordinator. “We didn’t know how to react at first. But we knew we wanted to make the festival live so that we could show the work of our artists.” Lacking the ability to create a virtual tour of the exhibition, and still hoping that the festival might reopen sometime this summer, Chalou and the other curators decided to stage an online photography festival, Stay Home(s), via the festival’s Instagram and Facebook pages.
Each day since March 21, the festival has posted a new photograph to its social media accounts from one of its featured 2020 artists. Some of the artists created new work; others selected a piece from their archives. Many of the photographs reflect anxieties about the Covid-19 pandemic. Germany’s Felix von der Osten photographed a medical worker holding a ventilator; Bulgaria’s Vera Hadzhiyska shot a group of her household plants, a sign of life amid so much death; Poland’s Weronika Perłowska made a whimsical collage of a woman watching television, which she captioned “Threatened by despair, tempted by hope.”
“I really love that one,” Chalou says. “It captures the way you wake up some days and go, ‘Oh my God, it’s horrible,’ and other days you’re like, ‘OK, I’ll survive.’”
Like everyone else, photographers are worried about their livelihoods. How will they continue taking pictures if they can’t leave the house? How will they attend festivals like Circulation(s)? “For professional artists it’s going to be really, really hard to survive and continue their work,” Chalou says. The same goes for curators: How many of the hundreds of photography festivals staged around the world each year will survive? Thanks to Dropbox and WeTransfer, photographs can still travel; photographers are somewhat less mobile.
Circulation(s), for one, expects to be around in 2021: The festival plans to put out its annual call for submissions in June.