Gmunden is a picture

A photo exhibition raises the bar on regional culture marketing

There has been a growing public interest in photography since the early 2000’s and even Germany’s most serious newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung introduced a photo on its cover in 2007. Visual literacy means really one thing at the beginning of this new millennium – photography. Photography can resonate with cinema, fashion, music and architecture or simply as a small image on a mobile phone screen. It governs our daily life as it is best suited to forecast or capture changes in it. And it has become an art, which is eagerly exhibited, sought out and bought up by the world’s biggest museums and institutions. Forecasting changes in the medium of photography and the evolution of technologies are the ambition of new festivals all over the globe; and a way of culture marketing.

Beat Streuli at Gmunden.Photo

Simon Lehner

Hence marketing man Tom Wallmann and Viennese master printer Felix Leutner inaugurated Der Verein für zeitgenössische Medienkunst in Gmunden. Yes, in Gmunden, famous for its porcelain and picturesque setting at the Traunsee. After all Bad Ischl, the region Salzkammergut and along the city of Gmunden were named European culture capital in 2024 and the initiators aim to take advantage of that development by setting up Gmunden.Photo now.

From left to right: Felix Leutner, Beda Achermann and Tom Wallmann

Sporting its Alpine light and incomparable heritage, the city’s festival aims to represent the status quo of international and Austrian photography. Beda Achermann, the legendary Swiss art director and photo book designer was brought in as curator and he lined up the good and great in his Rolodex. A total of 23 photographers are showing their work in 29 cargo ship containers on the lakeshore until August 15th, 2021. In a way, the shipping containers are mini museums for each artist such as Elfie Semotan, Walter Pfeiffer, Jork Weismann, Jean-Vincent Simonet, Stefanie Moshammer, Simon Lehner, Marina Sula, Luciano Castelli, Beat Streuli, Camille Vivier, Viviane Sassen, Feng Li or Jack Pierson. As coup, Achermann also invited DJ Wolfram, beloved amongst the fashion crowd, a stylish music master with an 80’s one hit wonder fetish who took over a container with selfie walls (one with the star of the new Achtung DJ Hell) and his Volkswagen Scirocco. On top of the container he played a live set during the opening. Brilliant!

DJ Wolfram’s opening set

DJ Wolfram and DJ Hell

Jojo Gronostay in front of his discarded Ghanaian heel sculpture prints.

The festival even featured the work of a Gmunden native. We all know of Thomas Bernhard as a famous local who is not only a German literature hero but also one with global acclaim. Jork Weismann may not have Bernhard’s notoriety yet but he is Austria’s most prolific fashion and portrait photographer at the moment. Not only that, he has also been Achtung’s chief photographer in Vienna for nearly two decades and anchored our exhibition at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Vienna in 2005 curated by Heidemarie Caltik. In 2017 he took the official portrait of the Austrian president Alexander Von Der Bellen. In 2012, he published the book “Asleep at the Chateau”, in which he photographed many of the stars who stay there like Patti Smith, Orlando Bloom or Bret Easton Ellis. His container was open on both sides and the Chateau photographs were shown in his hometown for the first time. Another charming gesture by the organizers. An avid Helmut Lang fan, he famously captured Austrian model Helena Severin in vintage Lang and Jil Sander for Achtung Nr. 35.

Achtung Nr. 35

By the way, another Achtung chief photographer was featured in Gmunden.Photo. Walter Pfeiffer who had one of his first fashion shoots with us in 2004 when he was rediscovered by the editorial world from his underground artist status. Current Bottega Veneta art advisor Michelle Nicol introduced us to Pfeiffer back then.

Walter Pfeiffer’s container

In a way it was only fitting that the best container belonged to Elfie Semotan who is about to celebrate her 80th birthday at the end of the month. Semotan is artistic royalty in Austria, was married to Kurt Kocherscheidt and Martin Kippenberger and has famously deciphered Helmut Lang’s visual codes via fashion photos at the end of the 90’s. She has a major retrospective of her work at the Kunsthaus in Vienna called “Position and Pose” til August 25th, 2021. In her container Semotan had one wall of miscellaneous collages (see title image) featuring her friends like Paris Bar’s Michel Würthle standing with open shirt, smoking and looking like the prince he is or fashion images of the young Cordula Reyer, another Lang acolyte, who was also amongst the opening crowd. The hanging of six large scale still lives of landscapes and interiors juxtaposed by a large female nude printed in two halves gave her work a jolt of the unexpected and modern. Only question we asked ourselves was why Gmunden.Photo opened during the same week of Les Rencontres d’Arles, the paradigm of photography festivals which rejuvenated an entire region.

Michel Würthle shot by Elfie Semotan

Elfie Semotan

Title image: Collage by Elfie Semotan