Inter Photo Camp picks up speed
We spoke to the organiser of Inter Photo Camp, Garik Avanesian (EFIAP) about the success and popularity of this singular International Meeting of Photographers, taking place annually in selected localities of the Czech Republic, usually at the last June weekend.
- How and when did you get the initial idea to organise this great meeting?
- I’m surprised that you’re talking about Inter Photo Camp as a workshop, because every time Inter Photo Camp is mentioned, you always point out that it isn’t a workshop. So what’s the difference between a workshop and such a meeting?
- Describe how Inter Photo Camp actually operates?
- Why the theme of the nude?
- You mentioned a competition at Inter Photo Camp, does that mean that participants can only enter photographs photographed at Inter Photo Camps in the competition?
- Is the composition of the jury always the same? Who actually sits on the jury?
- Do you invite other great photographers to Inter Photo Camp other than the mentioned jury?
- What can photographers gain apart from photography and participation at this meeting?
- That sounds interesting, but also important is the price of participation. How much is participation for those interested in Inter Photo Camp 2008?
- The price seems surprisingly low.
- How do you choose models?
- How do you choose the place to hold Inter Photo Camp?
- What would you recommend to photographers who decide to come to take with them in terms of photographic equipment?
- How do you apply to attend Inter Photo Camp?
How and when did you get the initial idea to organise this great meeting?
In 2004 I organised my first workshop on the theme of photography of the nude and we made a short documentary film about it. After a longer and repeated look at the film it occurred to me that the participation of foreign photographers with various experiences, opinions and approaches would invigorate the workshop….
For several months, during the evenings, I corresponded with foreign and Czech photographer colleagues and at the end of September 2004 the first Inter Photo Camp was born. Several foreign photographers took part in the first year and it was still organised partially in the form of a workshop. The participants were enthusiastic, but we still hadn’t achieved a spontaneous communication between photographers. The problems I saw with the first year I corrected during preparations for the next Inter Photo Camp.
I’m surprised that you’re talking about Inter Photo Camp as a workshop, because every time Inter Photo Camp is mentioned, you always point out that it isn’t a workshop. So what’s the difference between a workshop and such a meeting?
The difference between a workshop and our meeting of photographers is really large. A classical workshop is above all training, where participants are led by a teacher according to a fixed programme, specified themes and scope, and with predetermined space for individualism. And it was just these elements that I completely eliminated in the following years. It is difficult to imagine that beginners could meet with renowned photographers under those circumstances. However, that was one of the things I wanted. So the basic idea of Inter Photo Camp is chiefly a meeting of enthusiastic photographers of all kinds, from those who are known through their work in various publications, photographic salons or even just communicate via the internet, but have not personally ever had such an opportunity. We hold exhibitions or projections of the work of some participants, discussion and exchange of opinions occurs constantly throughout the camp, competitions are held on the theme of the nude for valuable prizes and, above all, we have a good time. And if you ask how, the answer is, of course, by taking photos.
Describe how Inter Photo Camp actually operates?
Above all, at the right tempo, around themes which we all enjoy and based on the planned programme. When 150 individuals get into that tempo with all that they bring, then all the organisers get into the rhythm as well, including professional interpreters.
We start on a Friday afternoon (the last weekend in June) with registration, where everyone is equipped, aside from small courtesies, with detailed information about what, where and when things will happen. After settling in and dinner the camp is officially opened. An evening of welcoming participants from individual countries, presenting important guests, models and organisers, showing short films, photographs, clarifying some details of the programme and of course the odd surprise. The rest of the later evening depends on the individual. On Saturday morning right after breakfast we go in small groups to the photography venues where the models are waiting. Then there are several changes of place and models until lunchtime. After lunch the jury chooses the best photographs entered in the competition and after a short rest we have exhibitions and more photography – this time elsewhere, until evening. The evening is free, open for communication and fun. On Sunday morning we continue with photography at new places and again with changes of models. The late lunch ends with in the official announcement of the Inter Photo Camp best model. Landscapists then go off to photograph what they didn’t manage at daybreak, but chiefly everyone is interested to know what we have come up with for the next meeting. Every year I try to organise Inter Photo Camp in a visually different environment, which means in a different place.
It’s quite difficult, but I think our regulars would agree with me that it’s much more interesting. Old castle ruins are alternated with carefully maintained chateau grounds or wine cellars (including wine tasting), stone quarries where dramatic atmospheres, calm romantic ponds with water lilies. Of course, we can’t forget an adequate selection of props, or the natural beauty of the naked female body on the bare back of a horse. To tell the truth, the preparations themselves are rewarding.
Why the theme of the nude?
Imagine that 150 to 200 photographers from the whole world take part in Inter Photo Camp just by sitting in a stuffy room, looking at each other’s photographs and possibly photographing landscapes. That would be depressing and boring. Apart from that, photographing the nude with us is interesting, if only because every photographer has the chance to photograph 15 or more models the whole weekend, almost non-stop.
You mentioned a competition at Inter Photo Camp, does that mean that participants can only enter photographs photographed at Inter Photo Camps in the competition?
Of course not. Every participant can enter any four black-and-white or colour photographs of approx. 30 x 40 cm format on the theme of the nude. They can be photographed anywhere and any time. Labelled – signed photographs are handed in immediately at registration, because the jury must be finished by the next day and the happy winners ceremoniously rewarded.
Is the composition of the jury always the same? Who actually sits on the jury?
At the first Inter Photo Camps the jury consisted of three, but since 2007 there have been five members. One of the jurors is automatically a winner of the competition from the previous year. The main prize is, apart from quality material gifts, our invitation to the next year. The main winner becomes our honourable guest and also has a right to sit on the jury. We choose the other four jurors from among renowned names in various countries of the world. So, for example, our jury has included Gunars Binde (EFIAP) of Latvia, Wilhelm Michajlovski (AFIAP) and Romualdas Požerskis of Lithuania, Manfred Kriegelstein (MFIAP) of Germany, Carmel Skutelsky of Israel or Josef Klimša (EFIAP) of the Czech Republic.
Do you invite other great photographers to Inter Photo Camp other than the mentioned jury?
Yes, of course. For example, a guest at Inter Photo Camp 2006 was the great Czech photographer Jan Saudek and participants were able to have discussions with him. There was also an autograph signing of his book, which was also available to buy at Inter Photo Camp.
What can photographers gain apart from photography and participation at this meeting?
The basic idea of Inter Photo Camp is a meeting in one place at the very heart of Europe. To bring together photographers, photographic media, gallery owners and beginner models. Everyone takes away something for themselves. Photographers can put their portfolios in international photographic magazines and be invited to exhibit their work in various world galleries. For publishers and gallery curators there is the possibility of gathering together a huge amount of material for publication and good exhibitions. For models it is an opportunity to be seen and again interesting engagements. This mutual benefit has been confirmed many times.
That sounds interesting, but also important is the price of participation. How much is participation for those interested in Inter Photo Camp 2008?
The price will participation at the next Inter Photo Camp is EUR 250. This price includes accommodation with full board for the period of Inter Photo Camp, transport to each place intended for photography, models, professional interpreters as required and entry in the competition with prizes. It usually happens that foreign photographers extend their stay in the Czech Republic by a few days. They travel, photograph and we try to give them valuable photographic advice and even accompany them to interesting places.
The price seems surprisingly low.
You know that in 2005 one of the participants, from Holland, said that if the price for taking part in Inter Photo Camp was between EUR 500 – 700, then a great party would come from Holland. As it happens, they thought that it was some kind of fraud and so he himself came to find out what was really involved. Even participants from Israel openly admitted that the fee for taking part in Inter Photo Camp is really very low. But really meeting with photographers from the whole world and spending a weekend with them is a great honour and joy for me, so if we cover the costs of that meeting by the entry fee, I’m happy. And that’s the way it should remain, unless we want to make the event commercial and somewhat cold and thus less interesting, without the great energy and small number of participants.
How do you choose models?
Initially it was very difficult because we selected models during the whole year and one week before the start of Inter Photo Camp the situation was completely different. I don’t know what it is, but their prerogatives are certainly other than 100% reliability. These days we use agencies for this work. We try to ensure that models are varied in terms of type and prepared to creatively cooperate with photographers. A motivation for them is the announcement of the best and of course the prize at the end.
How do you choose the place to hold Inter Photo Camp?
In the past we chose attractive places for photography and then sorted out accommodation and board. Today we know that it is more important and more complicated to accommodate so many people in one place.
We get a lot of applications to take part and few cities in Europe can accommodate such a large group during the tourist season. And organising such a thing outside the city, so that we have the necessary amount of privacy and space, is really a difficult matter. So, it is a long journey of finding a balance between the possible and the desired. On the other hand, the Czech Republic with its history and picturesque countryside offers unbelievable possibilities in that respect.
What would you recommend to photographers who decide to come to take with them in terms of photographic equipment?
At Inter Photo Camp we have photographs to use compacts and those who use large format studio equipment. It is good to have a tripod and since we work outside as well, equipment in case of bad weather. We provide part of the equipment, like lighting in a complicated interior (at chateau wine cellars, lofts…), ourselves. A large format photo plotter is available for printing photographs and there is no problem uploading data from a reader onto a CD or DVD.
How do you apply to attend Inter Photo Camp?
We recommend applying as soon as possible and not waiting to the last moment, because capacity is limited by accommodation. You can at this website. I’m looking forward to the participants of the next Inter Photo Camp 2008 and I can promise them that they won’t be disappointed. And if, in this interview, I can invite not only photographers, but also magazine publishers and gallery owners, so much the better.