TAXED TO THE MAX was the title of this year’s iteration of the Noorderlicht International Fotofestival. The rather jaunty subtitle being: “ . . . at least you are not afraid to live life on the brink of chaos“.

And that, in my opinion, is the best kind of subtitle. Cryptic with multiple meanings. Make of it what you will.

I couldn’t see it all. Too many events, too much socializing, not enough time. But the breadth of subject matter, and the photographers’ approach to that matter, was breathtaking.

Below you will see a bit of what I saw. This is not a “best of” list, merely some of what I noted . . .

The idea behind the festival was pointed enough: “The 26th edition of the Noorderlicht International Fotofestival examines the social tensions that international mega corporations create with their enormous accumulation of capital and influence on national and global politics. How does this affect the lives of ordinary people?

Good question.

The festival provided some answers . . .

The traditional way of living of the Khanty, an indigenous nomadic people in Western Siberia, is severely threatened by the pollution of the oil and gas industry. Igor Tereshkov documents this and then processes his film with leaked oil from the region. You can feel it.

Installation view and 3 images from Oil and Moss. ©Igor Tereshkov

With Overflow, Martin Leuvrey addresses the visual aspects of hyper capitalism and its self destructive plethora of technology and artifacts. The images were shot in urban places of transit, special economic zones, etc.

Installation views and 2 images from Overflow. ©Martin Leuvrey

Embroidered bankers. In an effort to break the hyper constructed image of the financial world Lana Mesic interviewed London bankers and translated snapshots of them into embroidered portraits.

Installation view and 2 images from Souls, Ties and a Pile of Carrots. ©Lana Mesic

Keijiro Kai records testosterone-fuelled festivals around the world. Here we see ritual fistfights in Bolivia and a Japanese fire-starter festival.

Installation views. Kaijiro Kai.

In Agreement, by Brigitte de Langen, shows the original, signed, final versions of a selection of trade agreements that the EU closed with other parties. Looking at the covers you can see some of the text and signatures inside, but you have to imagine what is contained within. Except there’s also an audio component with parts of the agreements, read out in different languages. Nevertheless . . . the words are almost incomprehensible to the average person.

Installation views and 2 images from In Agreement. ©Brigitte da Langen

Cryptocurrency is immaterial in itself but needs powerful material infrastructure to exist. With The Flood, Ivar Veermäe investigates crypto-money and its mining and energy needs using documentary images and simulated 3D objects on video.

Installation views and video stills from The Flood. Ivar Veermäe

Then I bumped into David Klammer (who, smart guy, had brought his bike with him from Cologne). We made our way to Fotogalerie Lichtzone, a cool photographer-run cooperative space in Groningen, to see his exhibition.

There were huge images stuck to the wall, surrounded by some of the battlements and debris from the site where he shot these images, which showed aspects of the lives of the occupants of Hambach Forest, west of Cologne. Since 2012 the forest has been occupied by anarchists and forest-savers who are trying to protect it from the energy company RWE, which wants to expand their open-pit operation into the forest.

Completely tired I made my way back to the hotel for a lay-down. The next morning I would leave for Amsterdam and Den Haag.

Next week I’ll have a bit about my trip to The Royal Academy of Art and some final thoughts on the Noorderlicht International Fotofestival.

(Need more Noorderlicht info? Just scroll down and keep reading.)

Author: Tony Fouhse

Tony is an Ottawa-based photographer.