sUpon exiting the train station, the towering facade of the Duomo di Milano greets you in all its splendor. You will be forgiven if you thought you jumped on the wrong train because this is actually in Fifi Switzerlandhost of the biennial Images Vevey 2022 and a celebration of photography and the visual arts.
The scene before you is a stunning and almost comprehensive reproduction of German artist Thomas Struth’s painting of a grand Gothic cathedral. Reproducing it on this scale – four of his photographs are shown this way – is very ambitious.
Risk taking has become a hallmark of the festival, which is the brainchild of director Stefano Stoll. His vision reinforces the dialogue between the work on display and the city’s fabric and landscape. Another film in Struth’s series, The Unconscious Gathering, sees a massive version of Disneyland’s mountain in Anaheim set in direct confrontation with the splendor of the Alps across Lake Geneva.
The festival features a series of portraits of French women prisoners by Bettina Reims entitled Détenues. The project, which challenges notions of femininity and judgment, is presented thought provocatively in St Clair’s Chapel. The metal frame that supports each image reflects the brutal aesthetics of the prison, nestled dissonantly in the elegant arches of the church. It is a place of reckoning, but it is also, says Stoll, a place of tolerance and reflection, which lends another dimension to work.
Each series has been chosen to fit this year’s theme of “Together – La Vie Ensemble,” which explores the environment, family ties, politics, religion and science. A statement on technology given by Ryoji Ikeda, a leading electronic composer and visual artist from Japan. Its stabilization test model (#14) is an unsettling immersive experience, blasting your senses with flashing black and white duets and steady electronic sound in Théâtre de l’Oriental-Vevey. Back in the serene landscape of a beautiful city, you can’t help but feel Ikeda making a point that while technology motivates us, something worrisome is happening in parallel.
Stoll sees organizing the festival as a two-way street. As a child of Vevey himself, he is particularly sensitive to the interests and concerns of society and their environment. He is especially proud of his delicate renovation of the abandoned apartments above the train station that used to be home to station workers. Here he has invested in creating a cultural space, L’Appartement, while maintaining a sense of the local environment where work that fits the concepts of ‘home’ can be displayed.
This year, a series of his rooms were occupied by Dutch photographer Bertin van Manen on Give Me Your Picture. Van Manen Couch made her way across Europe between 2002 and 2005, staying with friends and acquaintances. Noting cherished photos of her loved ones displayed in their homes, she chose to photograph each one in their immediate local setting, creating gorgeous little altars from the memorial.
By contrast, the old form of the city has been preserved in its original architectural state, rather than renovated, but provides a fitting juxtaposition of Alexander Rosenkranz’ images of the postmodern marvel that is Ghibilina in Italy. Commissioned by Images Vevey, Rosenkranz visited the city, which was rebuilt after it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1968. The purpose was to question and explore the rebuilding of a city that became an artistic urban model. The resulting series shows an unconventional approach to architectural photography, on display in the traditional blacksmith’s courtyard.
Stories about the intricacies of human relationships appear throughout the exhibition. From Sian Davy’s intimate study of her two daughters, Alice and Martha, to Diana Markusian’s epic multimedia play on her mother’s biography, the goal is to engage and unite us in common themes of joy, sadness, and love.
The town’s nursing home aptly overlooks the grassy spot that hosts Deanna Dikeman’s Leaving and Waving tender series. Since 1991, Dickman has photographed her parents waving goodbye as she left their house, taken from inside her car, a simple reflection of the passage of time that is incredibly moving. In a carousel that flows along with the chronology of each gesture, the story unfolds – no spoilers here – to gently remind us of the festival’s theme and cherish those we love.