2022 FotoFocus Biennial Overview

Zanele Muholi: Personae, Photo by Ryan Elliott

The largest photography and lens-based biennial in America, FotoFocus is in a category of its own. Now in its sixth iteration, the 2022 FotoFocus Biennial encompasses more than 100 projects at Participating Venues across Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, Dayton, and Columbus, and features more than 400 artists, curators, and participants—the largest of its kind in America.

An ambitious collaboration between FotoFocus and the region’s museums, galleries, universities, and non-traditional spaces, the FotoFocus Biennial is a month-long celebration of photography and lens-based art that unites artists, curators, and educators from around the world. The 2022 Biennial features new commissions by artists working internationally and in the Greater Cincinnati region, in addition to new exhibitions and projects curated by the FotoFocus team and FotoFocus guest curators, all centered around the theme of World Record.

The 2022 Biennial theme considers photography’s extensive record of life on earth, humankind’s impact on the natural world, and the choices we now face as a global community.

Many venues are free and open to the public, but the Passport offers free access to exhibitions during the month of October; an invitation to members-only events; and entry into the FotoFocus Biennial Program Week (Thursday, September 29–Saturday, October 8), which features keynote lectures, talks and panel discussions with artists, curators and collaborators, screenings, performances, receptions, and tours.

Press Release: FotoFocus Reveals Plans for 2022 FotoFocus Biennial

About the Theme

Each FotoFocus Biennial is structured around a unifying theme. The 2022 FotoFocus Biennial theme, World Record, considers photography’s extensive record of life on earth, humankind’s impact on the natural world, and the choices we now face as a global community. Since its invention, photography has recorded plant varieties, animal species, atmospheric conditions, geologic upheavals, and other nuances of life on earth and the beyond. This mass documentation has enriched our understanding of life but has also contributed to the exploitation of resources. World Record refers to documentation of quantifiable human achievement, as well as its increasing associations of environmental extremes directly related to human impact.

World Record also refers to records, as in breaking records. World records have traditionally been thought of positively as records of quantifiable human achievement, but records have come to be associated increasingly with the extremes of the natural world, such as the hottest year on record, record numbers of animal extinctions, record levels of air pollution, record numbers of hurricanes per season, or rising sea levels, all a direct response to human impact on the planet.

Participating Venues address the theme on a range of topics, including nature and science; exploration; space travel and outer space; climate change and its impact on societies; social lives of human beings within various environments, cultural as well as natural; forms of energy, past and present; the cultivation of natural resources, mineral and animal; and utopian and dystopian visions of man in nature.

FotoFocus Biennial History

Launched in October 2012, the FotoFocus Biennial is a month-long celebration of photography and lens-based art held throughout the Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, Dayton and Columbus, Ohio region every two years. The Biennial is the largest of its kind in America and has featured more than 1600 artists and participants, and 600 exhibitions and programs throughout its history. The Biennial is centered around a unifying theme and the cooperation of museums, galleries, academic institutions, and non-traditional spaces, in celebration of the FotoFocus Month of Photography. 

The FotoFocus Biennial Program Week constitutes the core of the Biennial, establishing the theme and dialogues that unite the broader programming. Featuring keynote lectures, conversations, performances, screenings, and receptions with international participants, the Program is designed to inspire conversations about the world through photography and lens-based art.

In lieu of presenting the fifth FotoFocus Biennial, light&, FotoFocus pledged its 2020 Biennial budget to financially support the region’s art community during the coronavirus pandemic. FotoFocus distributed Emergency Art Grants totalling $800,000 to over 100 Participating Venues and Partners that were selected to present as part of the 2020 FotoFocus Biennial.

Open Archive emphasized the centrality of photography and lens-based art to modernism, and examined our fundamental need to preserve photographs and to tell stories through their collection, organization, and interpretation. Featuring 90 Biennial projects and a comprehensive film program, the 2018 Biennial also included FotoFocus curated exhibitions with artists Eugène Atget, Berenice Abbott, Karl Blossfeldt,  Bruguière, Thomas Ruff, Mamma Andersson, Akram Zaatari, and Chris Engman, among others.

Featuring over 60 exhibitions and over 100 FotoFocus events at Participating Venues, the 2016 Biennial included eight major exhibitions curated by FotoFocus Artistic Director and Curator Kevin Moore exploring the documentary nature of photography, including solo exhibitions of Roe Ethridge, Zanele Muholi, and Jackie Nickerson. The Biennial Program included four days of events, lectures, and screenings.

The Participating Venues took diverse approaches to the theme: Photography, the Undocument, which seeks to break apart assumptions about photography’s documentary character by emphasizing the medium’s natural tendency to distort and reshape the visible world.

The second edition of the Biennial, hosted in October of 2014 and centered around Washington Park, included six original exhibitions curated by FotoFocus, the premiere of the FotoFocus ArtHub, as well as exhibitions by over 60 Participating Venues throughout the region. The FotoFocus featured programming included five days of lectures, panel discussions, screenings, and performances with curators, critics, and art world professionals, all focused on one common theme: Photography in Dialogue. FotoFocus welcomed over 115,000 visitors to the Biennial. #FotoFocus2014

In October of 2012 the FotoFocus Biennial became the region’s first event to bring together over 60 venues to simultaneously present contemporary and historical photography, as well as artistic and educational programing. The inaugural event welcomed 63,000 visitors to the FotoFocus Biennial 2012.

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