Unseen Impressions #2

by Unseen January 23 2018

Fair, Unseen Amsterdam 2017 © Bert-Jan Kramers

What struck a chord? What stood out from the crowd? What lingers on in memory at the start of a new year?

Unseen Amsterdam is a place for visitors of all descriptions to make exciting photographic discoveries. From surprising titles at the Unseen Book Market to compelling new work, ‘Unseen Impressions’ sees a range of industry professionals reflect on the unexpected gems of their own recent visit. 

Darius Sanai (Editor in Chief at Condé Nast)

“Before arriving at Unseen in 2017, my experience of photography fairs had been confined to the rather slick events in London and Paris, highly impressive but also quite commercial. Unseen was different. I was invited to participate as a judge; I flew into Schiphol the day before the official opening, asked the taxi to drop me at the Westergasfabriek and spent 10 minutes wandering around the rather lovely buildings and open spaces, wondering where to go. When I finally found the gas holder building, I felt I was inside a Thomas Ruff photograph. The stands outside, which flowed with Dutch beer, snacks and live music the next day, reminded me of a visit to Carnival in Tilburg a few years back. The photography on display was a fascinating mix of recognised names and new faces and styles from around the world: I explored, glass in hand, exchanging words with some of the artists. It was more what I think a photography fair should be like: a return to the roots, a sense of artistry in the place itself. I look forward to returning.”

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Fair, Unseen Amsterdam 2017 © Almicheal Fraay

Douglas Mandry (Artist. Represented by BILDHALLE)

“I am always glad to be able to experience the work of photographers differently than online - which still represents a big part of my interaction with art. This time I enjoyed flipping through the nominated books from the Dummy Award 2017 at the Book Market. I stumbled on Nicolas Polli's book Ferox, The Forgotten Archives. After Joan Foncuberta's Fauna, I thought the field of fake archives had sort of been worn out in photography, but Polli's got me with his complex layout and convincing, rich and creative use of several photographic languages. I only realised it was fake after talking to him about it, and even after knowing the trick, the book remains a very smart object.”

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Ferox, The Forgotten Archives, 2016 © Nicolas Polli

Lucy Conticello (Photo Editor, Critic & Lecturer. Head of Photography at M – Le magazine du Monde)

“My habit of randomly meandering is unfailingly rewarding: I came across this photograph at the TJ Boulting Gallery while zigzagging my way through the main fair space at Unseen Amsterdam, day two. Hello, Maisie Cousins! Though small in size and discretely hanging just below eye level, the highly saturated print assertively glistened and oozed lusciously…and made me blush.

“It is remarkable how a picture of wilting flowers in a faceted glass vase can appear so unnervingly embarrassing: not beautiful exactly, but mesmerising as a lit fireplace. The image has stayed with me ever since, and I wish I had caught her grass, peonie, bum exhibition in London this past spring.”


from the series © Maisie Cousins/TJ Boulting

Scarlett Hooft Graafland (Artist. Represented by Flowers Gallery)

“One of the most exciting discoveries I made during Unseen was the book Aeronautics in the Backyard by the Chinese photographer Xiaoxiao Xu. It’s very special how she travelled through China to the most remote places to meet aeroplane builders, who themselves are often farmers in the countryside. In her book, she shows all of her findings: photographs of the plane models, workplaces, tools, builders and their drawings. You feel the power of these people who all follow their dreams to one day take off into the sky. It was really interesting to hear Xiaoxiao talk modestly about her project, and it gave me a new surprising perspective on China.” 

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Aeronautics in the backyard, 2016 © Xiaoxiao Xu

Read more Unseen Impressions here and here