Best known for its yearly exhibition in Groningen showing off the best press photos of the year, Non Fiction Photo is an organisation that strives to provide the best start for would-be cultural experts and artists. Andrea Hooymans, the leader of Non Fiction Photo Groningen, feels that the group’s activities are not just an exhibition, but rather a social enterprise.
By Thomas Ansell
Andrea Hooymans is not only a talented photographer and exhibition organiser herself, but also the driving force behind a new way to educate future cultural experts and artists. As the final week of the Zilveren Camera exhibit gets underway, Hooymans reflects on the group’s activities and philosophy.
The Northern Times: Are Non Fiction Photo and Zilveren Camera just about photography?
Andrea Hooymans: Well, naturally they are exhibitions of the most arresting and artistic photographs taken in relation to real-world events, but they’re also a way to bring people together. One of my favourite parts of the exhibition is our talent wall, where every person that has worked on the exhibitions is pictured. So, in a way, we’re just as much about people as we are about great photography.
TNT: How does Non Fiction Photo bring people together?
Hooymans: Artistic expression is language-less, and so it’s a really accessible way for people from diverse backgrounds to experience the same feelings. In our organisation, we try to embody this by having an open and diverse team. Everything is bi-lingual so that no one in the city feels left out. The exhibition is just the beginning of what we do: we also have lectures, expert-led tours, and our talent track.
TNT: What is the talent track?
Hooymans: When I finished studying at Central St Martin’s in London, and then Minerva and the University of Groningen here in the Netherlands, I realised that there isn’t a well-trod path for people who would like to combine artistic expression and business, which was a shame. So the talent track and all of our volunteer training sessions are ways to try and bridge that gap, to help people make connections, gain experience, and build their own way of doing things.
Our tracks last around four months, and there’s five different tracks people can take: Photographic, Journalistic, Exhibition Design, Video Making and Cultural Organising. Each follows a similar pattern but each one has a different focus area and different opportunities. For example, in our Photographic trajectory you both work on the exhibitions and develop your own photographic talents and style.
TNT: As an organisation that relies on its volunteers, how do you make people feel welcome?
Hooymans: Our community manifesto guides us in this respect: aside from our general principles of press freedom, art, and sustainability, we are also committed to being educative, supportive of talent, and a community. Obviously anyone can join us as a volunteer, and we hold all of our meetings in whichever language everyone understands in the room, but we also strive for a certain kind of warmth, where you feel like you’re a part of our community whether you are volunteering for an hour or a month, or you’re one of our in-house experts, or organising the exhibition, or anything else. In more concrete terms, we also offer a letter of recommendation for our volunteers, workshops to help share skills and knowledge between our volunteers, and social events so that everyone gets to meet people, make friends, and build their own network.
De Zilveren Camera exhibition is being held at the Groningen synagogue on the Folkingestraat until the 2nd of June. Tickets for the lectures, tours, and talks are available online and on the door. Exhibition tickets are available on the door.