Middle Town

Middle Town: Picturing the Unspectacular
March - December 2012

© Volkan Kiziltunc, Trabzon, 2012. From "There is someone staying here"

About the project

Countries and cities worldwide have a great need to distinguish themselves, especially in the truly exceptional. At a global level, countries compete with one another to obtain major events like the Olympics, the World Cup football, becoming the cultural capital of Europe, etc. Towns and localities in any given country differentiate and pride themselves on their historic heritage or outstanding cultural or sports events that attract tourists and visitors. But what do these exceptional events in these exceptional towns reveal about the quality of daily life in a country, the way a society is organized, the cultural values embedded in the variety of activities taking place in a community? It is the Middle town, a place with no name for the tourists, where the real differences occur, this is where we can still be surprised by the way how others organize their lives, where we can learn from the different. In this project, we endeavored to look at ordinary people in ordinary towns in ordinary regions – exploring the extraordinary habits, and exceptionally unspectacular yet meaningful ways of life. The aim of the project is to get much closer to the nature of our societies, by making the invisible average visible.              

The project engaged 12 emerging photographers from Latvia, Turkey, Poland, Estonia and Italy. 

Two workshops – initial one in Turkey in March 2012 and an editing workshop in Latvia in August 2012 were carried out, led by experienced Dutch mentors, curator Bas Vroege and photographer Hans van der Meer, being the collective moment for the realisation of a work.

Each of the participants worked on an individual documentary project within the subject. The works represented a wide range of approaches: cityscapes, images of human behavior, still lives, portraits - the participants were in their own ways looking for expressions of normality, things with qualities of the ‘unspectacular’, those parts of the everyday that feel so normal that they go unnoticed. The results have been put together in form of 11 dummy books and two video works.

The books and videos created during the project have been presented at ISSP 2012 final exhibition in Latvia in August 2012 and at a Tandem show in DEPO Istanbul in November 2012.

Project mentors:

Bas Vroege, founder and director, Paradox agency (Netherlands) A curator of numerous exhibitions, photography editor and teacher, he has been advising several high-profile arts institutions and university programmes and currently teaches curatorial practice at Masters in Film and Photographic Studies (MaFPS) at the University of Leiden. More on Paradox website.

Hans van der Meer, documentary photographer (Netherlands). His project European Fields has been widely exhibited internationally and published into a book in 2006. His exhibition and book “The Netherlands – Off The Shelf” focusing on contemporary culture aspects of the Dutch middle tows, was released in January 2012. 

ISSP (Latvia), GAPO (Turkey), Trabzon Foto Forum (Turkey) in cooperation with Paradox (Netherlands).

This project takes place in the framework of EU-Turkey Tandem programme and is supported by European Cultural Foundation and Stiftung Mercator. More information at www.tandemexchange.eu.