Cortona on the Move, 2018

06 August 2018

SIG: Documentary


Photo credit: Tanya Habjouqa


Founded in 2011, COTM is much smaller, and more intimate than many of the summer festivals.  The exhibitions, portfolio reviews and talks are all housed in the Etruscan hill town of Cortona.  The focus is of contemporary photography with a largely documentary focus.  In total about 20 exhibitions were shown in locations ranging from banners down the main via Nazionale, museums, disused buildings, and the local Fortezza.    An indication of the diversity of the work is provided by this short review of a few of the exhibitions. 


In the late 18th century a catastrophic typhoon swept over Pingelap, a tiny atoll in the Pacific Ocean. One of the survivors, the king, carried the rare achromatopsia gene that causes complete colour blindness. The king had many children and the hereditary condition affected the isolated community and most islanders started seeing the world in black and white.   Sanne de WildeThe Island of the Colorblind - consists of three kinds of images; ‘classic’ digital black and white photos, infrared images and photo-paintings, to attempt to explore the impact of Achromatopsia which is characterized by extreme light sensitivity, poor vision, and the complete inability to distinguish colours.  As well as the exhibition, there is an experience centre, which really adds to the exhibition (which was shown in Arles last year).


Simon Roberts at his Inizio exhibition in the Fortezza ©Mark A Phillips 2018



Simon Roberts HonFRPS – Inizio – is commissioned work by the Aboca company, a few miles from Cortona that uses 100% natural vegetable complexes to treat diseases. The project is focussed on the conservation of biodiversity at the Granducale di Montecchio Estate.  This series depicts the overall project and development of the ecosystem. The work was displayed on large panels in the Fortezza above Cortona.  Simon’s talk covered his working approach, previous projects and Inizio



Debi Cornwall  - Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantanamo Bay - incorporates three bodies of work. The first documents everyday life for both prisoners and guards. The second - “Gitmo on Sale”, documents souvenirs as well as objects that the prison buys from private suppliers like the orange uniforms, shackles and shoes. Finally, Cornwall sought out men who had been cleared and released from Guantánamo Bay.


Allison Stewart - Bug Out Bag: The Commodification of American Fear – documents from across America, the bags containing essentials to survive for 72 hours or begin a new civilization in the event of disaster.


Jennifer Greenberg explaining ‘Revising History’ at Cortona ©Mark A Phillips 2018


Jennifer GreenburgRevising History – studies the nature of the vernacular image, and our tendency to trust them. The work appears to depict events in the past, but are actually impersonations, with the author embedding herself in the original images.  An objective being to challenge what we consider to be trustful in images. 



Ernst CoppejansSold – is a documentary project covering human trafficking in Amsterdam.   A touching series of anonymous portraits of the victims. The portraits are shot in the shelters where these women and men temporary find safety and a home. And, maybe, the start of a better life.


The size and nature of the COTM festival, with evening social events, as well as exhibitions, talks and folio reviews, provides a great opportunity to meet the artists and other photographers.


Cortona on the Move is on until the end of September 2018.