Photo festivals judged

07:58, September 26, 2010      

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One of Liang Jianyong's photo series Dong Bei Lao Gong Ye that won Pingyao's Grand Jury Award.The seven-day China Pingyao International Photography Festival that closes today has triggered wide criticism for its ever-increasing scale and declining quality, with many claiming that photo festivals and awards have mushroomed in China in recent years yet are nothing but vanity fairs.

"Among those emerging photo festivals, few are really good. For most, they are just copying the successful example of Pingyao, without much consideration of artistic standards," commented Yang Shun, a photography enthusiast and frequent attendee of photo exhibitions and festivals.

The remote county of Pingyao in Shanxi Province has made a name for itself both at home and abroad for its photo festival, with many small cities in other parts of China now holding similar large-scale events simply as an opportunity to attract tourists and commercial investment.

Some of them are making themselves known, such as Lishui in Zhejiang Province and Lianzhou in Guangdong Province, with good quality pictures selected and presented at the festivals each year.

Others have failed in their first attempt.

In 2008 the city of Shenyang, Liaoning Province held a large-scale photography event that was aimed to "make use of the international language of photography to forge a new name card for the city," according to its slogan. In cooperation with several internationally-known photography agencies, it was highly anticipated in the Chinese photography world.

Expected to grow to be one of the higher-standard photography festivals, Shenyang never got the chance to be held again, due to a failure in its organizational structure.

Several others have followed suit, with local government involvement and the lack of professional curating resulting in a lackluster event.

Despite the risk of failure, Pingyao's success continues to encourage cities to take the chance on an international large-sized photography festival. Profits can be quite handsome, both in terms of attracting tourists and related investment.

"The photography festival brings a lot to Pingyao," local resident Wang Junming told the Global Times. Wang makes a living driving a rickshaw through the city that has become more and more famous.

Pingyao is now known across China, with millions of travelers visiting each year, "A completely different scene compared with 10 years ago before the birth of the photography festival," according to Wang.

However, Wang said that this year's event was quieter than before. "I have time to rest often, not like previous years when I was too busy to carry passengers from one exhibition venue to another."
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