What does it mean to make it in the north? This is part of a series of portraits of local people, organisations, and companies working to further internationalise Groningen, Friesland, and Drenthe. This time we spoke to Camilla Spadari, Publicity agent and Srinidhi Desikan, PR Agent at NonFiction Photo Foundation: a non-profit organisation that arranges and produces photography exhibitions.
Art with a mission
The NonFiction Photo team is well-known for organising such famous photography events as the World Press Photo and the Zilveren Camera exhibitions in Groningen. Having started as a local branch of the Amsterdam-based press photo exhibition in 2003, NonFiction Photo evolved into an autonomous organisation in order to provide the Northern public with an art platform to reflect the most pressing issues, both global and local. Since 2018, NonFiction Photo has stimulated discussions on regional problems and their solutions through a biannual display of works created during its Talent programme for aspiring artists. Last spring it was an exhibition about gas extraction in Groningen, the current autumn edition revolves around innovations in the field of energy. It is called ‘Solutions: Energy’ and is available to view on the first floor of the Synagogue Groningen during the World Press Photo exhibition.
Language no problem
What is special about NonFiction Photo as an organisation is that it actively involves internationals living in the North to partake in arranging photography events as volunteers. For example, the current displays at the Synagogue have been prepared and are being maintained by 30 volunteers, more than half of whom are internationals. The larger NonFiction Photo team also includes a network of volunteer ‘experts’, and a dedicated office team.
‘NonFiction Photo attracts so many internationals because of networking, so people do activities together, meet each other and share common interests, whilst speaking English. The projects go under the language-no-problem banner and it makes it much easier for non-Dutch speakers to get practical experience in the North,’ explains Camilla Spadari, originally from Italy. She works as an online marketer, but volunteering at NonFiction Photo is her way to get closer to her dream job of being a museum tour guide: ‘I believe when art is explained it gains more meaning, so everyone goes home enriched.’
Anyone can join – no matter their background
Her colleague Srinidhi Desikan, full-time neuroscientist from India, arrived in Groningen last April and joined NonFiction Photo as a volunteer within a month: ‘I had no idea about culture or art. And here I am, working for a photography exhibition because I believe in the message of empowering public with what’s happening around the world.’
Desikan highlights that NonFiction Photo stands out from other cultural organisations because it is open to anyone of any knowledge background and of any age, be it a student, professional or retired person. ‘We are a dynamic organisation and we want each exhibition not to be repeated. That’s why we welcome international creativity. A lot of people with different backgrounds taking on different tasks and, therefore, putting in their thoughts and views.’
How can internationals join NonFiction Photo? It is on the lookout for volunteers every March and September, so keep an eye on call for volunteers which are posted online and distributed around cultural organisations in Groningen. Just send email, partake in training and join in the fun whilst maintaining a purpose.
World Press 2019
This November and up until December 8, NonFiction Photo presents the World Press Photo 2019 exhibition at the Synagogue: a showcase of stories that matter globally. Besides this, there is a full programme of workshops, guided tours and parties organised in collaboration with professional photographers, university researchers and students associations. These are known as the ‘Academy’ events and some have been prepared with experts from the University of Groningen.
‘I am really excited about the International student night!’ says Desikan. ‘It is a great way to get to know which organisations are open to internationals as well as meet other expats interested in photography.’ According to Spadari, a can’t-miss event of the season is the finissage or a festive closing of the exhibition, which is a concentrated version of the 3 weeks programme with drinks and outfits. ‘It is also a perfect opportunity to see the beautiful historical building of the Synagogue at night!’
The exhibition is on display until December 8 in Synagogue Groningen, Folkingestraat 60. Tickets are available on the door or via this link. For more information about NonFiction Photo, or to find out about volunteering opportunities, just visit this website.
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