Kicking off from 1 September to 1 November in Monopoli, Puglia PhEST – an international photography and art festival that dedicates this eighth edition to the theme BEING HUMAN together with Lens Culture launches the third edition of the PhEST Pop Up Open Call, an international contest open to artists from all over the world from 7 July for a fortnight. After a 2022 edition dedicated to the Future, this year PhEST focuses on being human, trying to question what it actually means to be human today. Exploring stages, lifestyles, emotions, beliefs and passions, the festival aims to question the spectator by offering a variety of representations of being human with an interdisciplinary look at culture, nature, relationships, through psychology, philosophy and anthropology. It will address the major themes of contemporary thought; the transformation of values and their practices and the complexity of activities and interrelationships between sentient beings across the planet. Community, family and global awareness together with technology, migration are some of the key points of our being social animals in this world. Artists from all over the world – selected by Artistic Director Giovanni Troilo with the photographic curatorship of Arianna Rinaldo – will be involved in exhibitions, portfolio reviews – soon to be booked through social channels and the event’s website – masterclasses, installations, nurturing a vibrant and diverse community of creatives and enthusiasts. Among the first confirmed names are: Phil Toledano, a well-known British conceptual artist living and working in NY, the award-winning British photographers Koos Breukel (portrait photographer) and Zed Nelson(documentary filmmaker). Great space will be given to women this year with artists such as Lisa Sorgini, Australian born in 1980, Elinor Carucci, an Israeli photographer, Giulia Gatti a young Italian talent, Cristina De Middel a Spanish documentary photographer.

As always, the photographic part is also joined by that of contemporary art, the curatorship of which is also entrusted for this edition to Roberto Lacarbonara.

PhEST – See Beyond the Sea, produced and promoted by the cultural association PhEST, supported by Apulia Region, PugliaPromozione, Teatro Pubblico Pugliese and the Municipality of Monopoli, thus confirms itself as an important and recognised international event celebrating the power of photography and art in capturing and expressing new narratives. From the centre of Monopoli, Puglia and the Mediterranean, PhEST explores the contemporary through visual storytelling and promotes dialogue with the public and its involvement. The city of Monopoli will be transformed into an open-air museum, opening up historic buildings and ancient churches to the public and artists. The Artistic Director Giovanni Troilo wanted to bring images and visions to the streets and squares of Monopoli, creating new paths and new perceptions on the year’s theme: “To be human, what does it mean? In recent years, a vast field that we thought was central and exclusive to humans has been shrinking. After ‘Her’, the film by Spike Jonze, the world suddenly seemed different and since then, this applies to me, I began to see everything about us in a completely different light. Today that prophecy, that of increasingly high-performance, humanoid and empathic artificial intelligence, is coming true at an impressive rate. The exclusivity, the primacy of man is diminishing. The work of genius, the creative genius no longer necessarily belongs to us alone, a revolution is upon us. Taking it from the opposite end, Stefano Mancuso reveals: “Plants are smarter than humans.” The goal that all species have in common is survival and if a species on this planet survives for an average of 5,000,000 years, we can define ourselves as a very young species. If we were like other species we would have a horizon of 4,700,000 years. If we are able to go extinct first, we will have proven ourselves to be one of the stupidest species on the planet. One wonders then, what really makes us so special? Does this diminishing core really lead us to discover our true essence?”

Meanwhile, the Festival has already had its own prologue: the Artist Residence held in Monopoli from 15 to 24 June has just ended. The photographic duo Jean-Marc Caimi and Valentina Piccinni, hosted in Monopoli by Santa Maria 24, investigated the theme of PhEST exploring the multiple relationships between the human being and their environment, embracing political and social aspects, those related to the territory and the emotional sphere. The duo active since 2013 have received prestigious awards and global recognition from the press and media. The work created by the duo during the Artist Residence, entitled “Nzìm” [Together] will be exhibited at the Old Port, in the historic location that hosts the assigned artists in the area.

Here are the first Italian and international guests who will take part in the 8th edition of PhEST:

Lisa Sorgini – “Mother”

An internationally renowned Australian artist, Lisa Sorgini is deeply interested in the way our family relationships appear and change over time, with a predilection for depicting the role of the mother. Her work has been exhibited around the world, earning both public and critical acclaim: in 2020 she won the LensCulture Critics Choice award for her portrait series ‘Behind Glass’, which was then shortlisted for the CLIP Award 2020, the Australian Photography Awards 2020 and the Head On Portrait award.

 “Mother” is an overview of images taken in various locations in Australia of mothers and children in the last 7 years of the artist’s activity. “Mother” tells one of the topics of Lisa Sorgini’s production, such as the maternal figure and the evolution of her role both in relation to the growth and maturation of her children and in relation to society’s expectations.

Elinor Carucci – “Midlife”

Elinor Carucci, Israeli-American artist, combines the profession of photography with an academic career at Harvard, Princeton and the School of Visual Arts in New York, where she currently teaches. Her work constantly seeks the personal intimacy of individual experiences, but always with the aim of finding a universal meaning in the stories of individuals immortalised by her lens. Like the artist’s professional life, Elinor Carucci’s works combine the aesthetics of the photographic snapshot from family albums – unpretentious yet extremely evocative and communicative – with the aesthetics of theatrical staging.

“Midlife” is a journey through motherhood, marriage, sickness, love and ageing. Following the daily dynamics of family life and the ups and downs of relationships, the stylistic hallmark of Elinor Carucci’s photographic art, “Midlife” is a visceral, emotionally charged candid document of a woman’s experience of change in all its complexity..

Koos Breukel – “Me We”

Koos Breukel is one of the most prolific and popular portrait photographers in the Netherlands. Over the course of his career he has created portraits of dozens of his fellow photographers, recognising them as kindred spirits, sources of inspiration or friends. All this conveys a wonderful professional world esteem for Breukel “among photographers”, including local “colleagues” and figures such as Richard Avedon and Robert Frank.

‘Me We’ is so far, Koos Breukel’s magnum opus, bringing together images from the first 30 years of his career. The work tells a universal, yet very personal life story: the photographs depict and traverse every stage of life, from birth to death; the result is both an alternative and universalistic family album and a personal diary on Koos Breukel’s artistic development. ‘Me We’ is a life statement and a retrospective of the career of one of the greatest portrait painters of our time.

Zed Nelson – “The Family”

Known for personal, long-term photographic projects investigating contemporary society, Zed Nelson has exhibited at Tate Britain, the National Portrait Gallery and the V&A Museum in the UK. After gaining significant recognition as a documentary photographer through his projects in some of the world’s poorest and most difficult areas, Zed Nelson has increasingly turned his attention to Western society, adopting a more conceptual approach to reflect on current social issues.

“The Family” saw the light 25 years ago, when a couple of friends asked the artist to pose for them with their newborn child; Zed Nelson had the idea of ​​taking time-lapse photos of them, from the moment of the child’s birth and in future years, until the completion of the project, and of planning the shots: the family was always photographed on the same date, on the same background, under the same light. The result is a visual description of the miracle of life and growth.

Giulia Gatti – “Corazonada”

Giulia Gatti is an Italian artist who has been travelling for years in South America, between Peru, Bolivia, Patagonia and Mexico, signing projects dedicated to dance. In 2019 she won the first prize “Portfolio sul Po” of the “Portfolio Italia 2019” circuit and, the following year she obtained the Paresi Prize with the project “Su mia madre tira vento”. In 2022 she participated in the photography festivals of Ragusa and Castelnuovo Fotografia. In September 2023 Sky Arte will dedicate an episode of the program “Le Fotografe” to her.

Born from journeys, returns and extended stays in the isthmus of Tehuantepec (Oaxaca) in Mexico and made possible thanks to the intimate collaboration between the photographer and the women portrayed, “Corazonada” tells the story of female bodies united by a desire for independence, freedom and power, driven by the desire to subvert the regulatory scenarios designed from the outside. The bodies captured by Giulia Gatti’s camera are free in reality: they appropriate elements linked to power, symbols of eroticism, hunting, mystery. “Corazonada” provocatively plays with the natural, cultural and normative stages of the female body.

Phil Toledano – “Another America”

Phillip Toledano, a multifaceted photographer of British origin finds in socio-political themes the main source of inspiration for his projects and in the conceptual form the best form of expression: according to the artist, everything starts with an idea and the idea determines the execution; consequently, his work varies with respect to the medium used, which can be photography, installation, sculpture, painting and video.

Another America” is a reflection of this uncertain world, set in the late 1940s during the golden age of photojournalism, when a photograph corresponded to the truth. “Another America” shows us what seems familiar, but isn’t really and develops from a reflection that Phil Toledano poses to himself and to the public at the same time: The uncertainty that shrouds our past and our present reduced thanks to the use of technology but isn’t it true that technological advances – such as AI – make the future uncertain?

Cristina De Middel – Gentleman’s Club

After 10 years of working as a photojournalist, Cristina De Middel began to investigate the ambiguous relationship of photography with the truth: by mixing documentary and conceptual photographic practices, she questions stereotypes and the truths passed off by the media as absolute. Cristina De Middel is a member of the Board of Directors of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation and Vist Projects. In 2017 she received the National Photography Award (Spain) and joined Magnum Photos, of which she has been president since 2022.

“Gentleman’s Club” is a journey through the phenomenon of prostitution, traditionally narrated as the commodification of the body. Over a period of seven years, the artist visited cities with a connection to sex-work, collecting a total of 100 images and interviews in which men share their motivations and opinions on paid sex. Cristina De Middel succeeded with her project in completely reversing the roles: the photographer paid these men for the time they spent chatting and posing for her, an unknown person and for agreeing to give up their privacy for her interest.

“Being Human” is also the theme of the 3rd edition of the PhEST Pop Up Open Call, an international contest promoted together with LensCulture that in 2022 awarded 5 exclusive prizes among the 464 projects received, totalling almost 5000 images, from 50 countries from all over the world. The 2023 edition of the call is intended to be free, fast and open to everyone for a fortnight only. From 7 to 21 July, intense, intimate and profound work interpreted through various artistic languages can be submitted, encompassing all forms of media, from still to motion images, including photography, illustration, collage and animation: Rules and registration forms. Entry is free and there are 2 categories: SERIES (still images, illustrations) and SINGLES (video, animation). The jury, composed of Maurizio Beucci – Head of Leica Akademie Italia, Jim Casper – Editor-in-Chief, Publisher & Co-Founder of LensCulture, Rocco Venezia – Visual artist & Curator PHmuseum, Arianna Rinaldo – Curator of Photography at PhEST, and Giovanni Troilo – Artistic Director of PhEST, will indicate the winning projects to which the following prizes stand to be won:

  1. An exhibition at the 2023 edition of PhEST (opening 1 September 2023)
  2. An exhibition dedicated to participants living in Apulia, Italy, also at PhEST 2023
  3. A Leica D-Lux7 camera valued at 1,315.00 Euro offered by Leica Akademie Italia
  4. 1 NETGEAR Mobile Router Nighthawk M6 Pro 5G WiFi 6E worth 999.99 Euro
  5. 1 NETGEAR 27-inch Meural Canvas II black digital picture frame worth €899.99
  6. 1 place for a workshop by Eolo Perfido offered by Leica Akademie Italia
  7. 1 place for a workshop by Carlo Carletti offered by Leica Akademie Italia
  8. A publication on one of PhMuseum’s communication channels
  9. A publication on one of the communication channels of LensCulture

PhEST is supported by institutions, sponsors and cultural partners who care about the event and its mission.

The President of the Puglia Region Michele Emiliano once again confirmed the value of the event: “For eight years now, our regional cultural programme has seen PhEST as one of its most significant experiences, with a choice that also goes in the direction of deseasonalising tourism, which as an administration we are working on intensively. Through the sensitivity of the shots taken in Monopoli, we succeed from year to year in investigating some of the great themes of our time. For this new edition, the theme chosen is ‘Human Beings’. A choice that is not random and that wants to reconnect us to our being and to our dynamics of life without barriers, to rediscover the very essence of man and his being. A theme that comes with a disruptive force in a complex historical moment such as the one we are going through. My thanks therefore go to the organisers, to the entire PhEST team and to its artistic director, Giovanni Troilo, for what they will achieve from September in Monopoli, bringing our Puglia to the world with their work”.

The Director General of the Apulia Region’s Department of Tourism, Cultural Economy and Territorial Enhancement Aldo Patruno recalled: “The theme chosen this year for the 8th edition of PhEST – “BEING HUMAN” – by a strange mental association immediately reminded me of the historic expression that the Mayor of Bari Dalfino used in 1991 on the arrival of the 20,000 Albanian refugees crammed onto the Vlora: “THEY ARE PEOPLE”. 32 years later, PhEST, through the powerful language of photography and art – as only Giovanni Troilo and his splendid team know how to do – seems to remind us that we need to start again from there, from our BEING HUMAN, from our BEING PEOPLE to try to give us useful keys to interpreting the complex and often incomprehensible time we are going through. I am certain that at the end of this 2023 edition of the Festival – which will peacefully invade Monopoli from 1 September to 1 November – we will (re)discover that it is possible to imagine and (re)build a better world only (re)starting from our humanity. Exactly as it happened and continues to happen in Apulia, starting from that 1991 so far away, but so topical’.

E soprattutto per quest’ultimi PhEST rappresenta una grande opportunità. Basti pensare che solo lo scorso anno oltre 1600 ragazzi di ben 18 istituti differenti provenienti da tutta la Puglia hanno visitato le mostre. La macchina organizzativa è già partita e Monopoli è pronta ad aprire le porte a PhEST».

The Mayor of Monopoli, Angelo Annese, said: “This is the eighth edition. Once again for 2023 PhEST is rightfully on the calendar of events of the Municipality of Monopoli for its ability to surprise and innovate every year and to attract visitors from all over Italy. It is an open-air exhibition in the alleys of our ancient village that allows visitors to discover the beauty of the place with its historical buildings and ancient churches. My thanks go to artistic director Giovanni Troilo and the entire PhEST team for offering us an appointment every year that has now entered the hearts of all enthusiasts and non enthusiasts alike,” and Monopoli’s Councillor for Culture Rosanna Perricci added: “With great pride once again this year, the Department of Culture has decided to invest in PhEST, the open-air exhibition that the city of Monopoli has been hosting since 2016 Monopoli. PhEST is not only photography but also art, music and cinema with great collaborations with international partners. The formula remains unchanged with outdoor and indoor exhibitions, and it is precisely the exhibition spread throughout the territory that allows for the rediscovery of forgotten treasures or those long closed to the public. But also workshops, video projections, guided tours with the authors and special appointments with students. And especially for the latter, PhEST represents a great opportunity. Suffice to say that last year alone over 1,600 young people from as many as 18 different schools from all over Apulia visited the exhibitions. The organisational machine has already started and Monopoli is ready to open its doors to PhEST’.

Ugo Patroni Griffi, President of the Port System Authority of the Southern Adriatic Sea, which this year is a partner of the Festival, participates in this eighth edition of PhEST: “The port is a gateway. An entrance and exit for passengers, crews, yatchsmen. But it is also the gateway to a city. In this case the city of Monopoli, our of a jewel port. Which opens itself up to the gaze of visitors. That enchants. The enchantment is heightened by art which every year, with the collaboration of our Authority among others, Phest brings… to the port. A delight for the eyes and an opportunity to reflect on the mysteries of the human being”.

PhEST – International Festival of Photography and Art

01/09-01/11 2023

Monopoli, Puglia

IG: @_phest_

FB: @PhESTSeeBeyondTheSea

Media Partner: Il Giornale dell’Arte and Sky Arte

Partner: Autorità di Sistema Portuale del Mare Adriatico Meridionale

Under patronage of: Apulia Film Commission, PugliaPromozione

Sponsor: Masseria Torre Coccaro, Acqua Orsini, Hevò

Cultural Partners: LensCulture, Leica Akademie Italy, PhMuseum, Il Fotografo,  FIAF

Technical Sponsors: Netgear, Pubblicità & stampa, Santa Maria 24

Local Partners: ASP Romanelli Palmieri, Ass. OTM, Ass. OCS, Polo Liceale di Monopoli

An agreement with Trenitalia is being finalised, the details of which will be announced soon.

The PhEST Cultural Association is a partner of the Ministry of Tourism within the Tourism Digital Hub programme.

PhEST – international festival of photography and art was born in 2016 in Monopoli, Apulia, from an idea of Giovanni Troilo, Artistic Director of the festival and Arianna Rinaldo, in charge of the photographic curatorship. Under the organisational direction of Cinzia Negherbon. PhEST is photography, cinema, music and art from Mediterranean influences. A way of giving back its own voice to the thousand identities that make up the sea in the midst of the land, redefining new imaginary.






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