Frank Kalero, PHQ5 Art Director


Licensed on Media Communication at Pompeu Fabra University of Barcelona, with a degree in Documental Photography at the International Center of Photography (New York), Frank Kalero lives in Sao Paulo. He was a resident at Benetton's Fabrica (Italy), and the founder and director of the OjodePez magazine (Spain). He co-founded Invaliden1 art Gallery, and in 2009 he also founded the art magazine "The World according to…", both in Berlin.

He is in charge of the new pan-Asiatic photography magazine, Punctum (India) and directing the Ojodepez Photo Meeting Barcelona, the new must for the professionals and lovers of documentary photography. Frank Kalero has been the art director at the photo festival (Bilbao, Spain) for the past three years. He is currently part of the team developing an online platform for new media, Screen. He is also a member of the WYNG Photo Award consultant team (Hong Kong). He is preparing, with Estudio Madalena (Sao Paulo), the launch of the Latin American version of Punctum. He´s been teaching at the Joop Swart Masterclass 2014 from World Press Photo. Frank Kalero is also part of the team in charge of launching a new photo festival in India, GoaPhoto.

We are Family

I was honoured when I learnt that the musée du quai Branly had decided to make me Photoquai ’s artistic director for a second time. This is a first in the history of the Biennial and I am delighted to have been kept on for this fifth edition. It is not often that an artistic director gets the chance to bring his work to the attention of 500,000 people. It really is a great pleasure for me to watch the public strolling through the exhibition with no preconceptions and finding out that they actually have a taste for photography.

After Look At Me! in 2013, the museum team and I have this time opted for the theme We Are Family. A title to be taken not in the genetic sense of “founding a family”, but rather in the sense of “belonging to a family”, of forming one around something with a specific significance: the Orthodox faith for the Russian pilgrims Nikita Shokhov joined up with; a style for the Cholombianos Stefan Ruiz met in Monterrey, in Mexico; and the pride of the samurais photographed by Noriko Takasugi in Fukushima a few months after the earthquake. But to belong to a family can also mean leaving the one you were born into and fail to identify with. This is a matter of attitude rather than dogma: a way of sublimating your existence through a group, like the Acapulco transvestites photographed by Luis Arturo Aguirre. In this respect Photoquai harks back to the spirit of The Family of Man, organised by Edward Steichen at MoMA in New York in 1955, with the goal of presenting “a photograph of humanity”.

But the urge to provide this sort of global overview is not enough on its own. One reason being that outside the borders of Europe and the United States, photography is a lot less widespread: in some parts of Africa and Asia it has to cope with all sorts of rules, regulations and constraints. Moreover, we start out with a list of 200 photographers – which has to be cut back to 40. This means that the curators play a vital part. Liza Faktor and Claudi Carreras – leaders in their field for Russia and Latin America – are on board with me for the second time, but the others – Louise Clements, Michket Krifa, Kevin Wy Lee and Azu Nwagbogu – have brought with them a new approach to consultation. Then there’s the choice of Photoquai ’s exhibitors: this has nothing to do with their age, sex, practice or reputation and everything to do with the eloquence of their images. An eloquence that engages with the public.

Last but not least there are the banks – the quais – of the Seine, that make Photoquai what it so distinctively is: an escape from the straitjacket of the standard exhibition – from the photo in a frame on a white wall. The gallery or museum setting immediately separates the artwork from its audience: and the moment the unwary viewer ventures too close, there’s the beep-beep! of the alarm. At Photoquai , the photos are printed large format on vinyl and are up for inspection 24/7 which makes for a certain proximity.

For me the essential thing about photography – and the source of its magic – is the way it lends itself to duplication: limitless reproduction for limitless sharing. It is because I love this democratic side of the discipline that I organise photo festivals in the street in Bilbao and Goa. My sole aim is to come up with a different way of promoting photography, which I have always seen as a great way of addressing politics, sociology and culture. Photoquai is a gateway to the world for all these artists and photojournalists who lack the necessary organisational structures and networks in their home countries. That’s the most satisfying part of the job for me: providing a showcase for all these talents.

Frank Kalero
PHQ5 Artistic Director