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Europe's 'largest photography festival' takes over Tour & Taxis all summer long

14:27 06/07/2021

Photocity, the new photography exhibition that is occupying Tour & Taxis for 99 days this summer, is being billed as the largest photography festival in Europe and this is no idle boast. The works of more than 100 photographers are on display in over 15,000m² of gallery space.

Comprising work including landscapes, portraits, fashion, photojournalism, and more, by professionals, students, and even unsung talents of the past, the festival also includes three exhibitions by National Geographic - Women: A Century of Change, Colours of the World, and 50 Greatest Wildlife Photographs.

One of the more fascinating series of photos is a selection of the work of Belgian photographer Norbert Ghisoland, who took 45,000 photos rendered on glass slides at the turn of the 20th century, a treasure trove that was lost until the 1970s.

How did the organisers manage to create so much gallery space for a pop-up exhibition? Borrowing an idea from an event in New York and making it much bigger, they assembled 80 shipping containers from Antwerp and Rotterdam for a unique experience.

“The problem became how do we do it; do we do containers or a tent?” says producer Mario Iacampo. “We decided on containers because they give it a certain feel, as opposed to a white tent, which very quickly reminds one of a music festival or a wedding.

“A container has its own particular industrial feel to it and so then the challenge became finding enough containers. Interestingly enough, it was much more difficult to find containers than to find artists.”

The result is an array of containers, some joined together to create long thematic displays and others on their own, each with its own subject.

There’s a lot to see - so the organisers came up with a summer pass, allowing you to dip in to the exhibition in several stages, all summer long.

“We started to think logistically, if I wanted to see all 80 containers how long would it take me and we realised that it was unrealistic to see that in one day,” Iacampo adds.

“The pass allows people to come whenever they can and we’ll be programming and issuing a map of the locations so people can plan which containers they are going to see each time. With more than 80 containers you can probably come every weekend and still not see them all.”

Beyond the photo exhibits, there are daily events, an open air cafe, food trucks and even a walk-in movie theatre.

“We want to create a festive atmosphere so we’ll have music, we’ll have evenings with DJs - it’s not meant to be a bar, the music will always be part of the ambience,” says Iacampo.

“We did the drive-in cinema last year and this year we thought we would do something different. Then we got all these calls from people as we were setting up, saying are you going to do the movie festival again, and so we did a deal with one of our partners and they’re going to install a walk-in movie theatre with a capacity of 150 to 200 people and show first-run movies. The idea is to have an outdoor evening - we’ll have chairs, couches, whatever you want, to watch the movie.”

He adds: “With the food trucks and the cafe, people can visit at their own ease, do a few containers, sit down, have a drink, eat something, then do a few more containers.

“Also, people tend to visit at their own pace so if you’re with a group and you want to take a break, the cafe gives you a place to do that and then you can catch up with your friends later.”

Photocity, Tour & Taxis, until 12 September

Written by Richard Harris