Houston hosts photo exploration
Many people think that a student
of photography will learn to make a
cliche picture of a sunset or even
learn to repair a camera. A visit to the
George R. Brown Convention Center
during FotoFest set them straight
when Houston played host to the
world's largest festival of photography.
Photography is an exploration of
issues in our society and the world in
which we live. FotoFest concentrated
a wealth of provocative photography
into one giant mecca in the convention hall at the center.
If the discovery of photography
was modern communication's finest
hour, then FotoFest is photography's
The convention center housed 28
exhibitions from 15 countries in a
futuristic architectural setting. Some
of the countries represented included
Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Germany,
Great Britain, Italy, Chile, Mexico
This was the first time FotoFest
made use of the convention center.
When the first FotoFest took place in
1986, work was exhibited in 64
spaces around Houston and attracted
175,000 people. Eleven countries
were represented by 783 photographers, including 52 from Texas.
By 1988, the biannual event used
84 museum and gallery spaces and
attracted 525,000 people. More than
1,000 photographers participated
from 19 countries.
In 1990, FotoFest continued to utilize art spaces and corporate facilities
Photography was exhibited at
more than 55 locations throughout
Houston, not including the "global
village" within the convention cent
To enter the exhibit hall, a person
passed through a long black tunnel
with slivers of light to see by. At the
end of the tunnel was a circular
Stonehedge-like configuration which
provided the entryway to exhibitions
from around the world.
The significance of each exhibition
was its visual commentary on world
affairs and societal conceptions. The
politics that were found in the exhibits put FotoFest in the world spotlight.
The curators of this festival went
behind the Iron Curtain to bring never-before-seen images to the West.
Fred Baldwin, the president and
founder of FotoFest, wanted to establish an international forum that
was "very big, very important, very
international. . . something that
couldn't be ignored or we were going
During the 1988 FotoFest, an East
German photographer, Thomas Flor-
schuetz defected. One of his pieces
was displayed at the Museum of Fine
Arts' Glassell School.
Three major conventions chose to
take advantage of FotoFest's opportunities. They included the Women's
Committee of the National Press
Photographers Association, the Association of International Photography Art Dealers and the Professional
Photographers Guild of Houston.
The most unique aspect of
FotoFest was the "Meeting Place,"
where photographic experts from
around the world were on hand in
the convention center to discuss and
In 1988, the FotoFest included a
FotoFence where children's
photographes were exhibited. This
Berlin Wall-This photo recreation of the Berlin
Wall was the backdrop for Political Kabaret, a play
written by Czechoslovakian President Vaclav
Havel and performed at the Alley Theatre during
year's public wall, which spanned
800 feet, was open to anyone who
wished to display some aspect of life
New to the event was the Interarts
Space Program that offered performances in the convention center. The
most notable of these was the presentation by the Alley Theater of Political Kaberet from the works of
Vaclav Havel, the Czechoslovakian
playwrite who became president of
that country this year. r
Havel's play The Audience was also
presented by the Alley Theatre in
conjunction with FotoFest. The play
reflects Havel's own experience of,
working in a provincial brewery in
1974. The entire play revolved
around the conversation of the head
malster (foreman) of the brewery;
and Ferdinand Vanex, a censured
writer who is forced to make a living
by moving beer barrels.
It was difficult to imagine how
massive an effort by the local and
international art community went
into FotoFest. -Mark Lacy
^- Li.''' fiMi
HOUSTON WALL-Anyone who wanted to display a slice of Houston life was
welcomed to display their picture on the Fotowall in front of the George R.
Brown Convention Center.P/iofo by Mark Lacy.
STERN PORTRAIT-Paval Stecha, who took this
photograph of Czechoslovakian President Vaclav
Havel, was one of the international speakers
featured during FotoFest '90.