Unseen Amsterdam: A Volunteer's Perspective


Unseen is a leading platform for contemporary photography that draws an international audience into Amsterdam every year. The focus is on bringing contemporary new work from up and coming photographers to the international community. The focus on new work means that for many artists, Unseen is the first platform to represent there work on a large scale. The fair also features work from established artists that makes it’s first appearance in the spectacular grounds of Westergasfabriek. 

In an age of information and communication, photography is a medium that shifts and changes continuously. These changes happening within a technological context, and also in response toglobal affairs and cultural influence. Unseen has the responsibility of staying at the forefront of the medium, with a fair and program that represents the latest developments in photography.


For the past two festivals, I have been involved within the team at Unseen. I would like to share with you my experience of this, having seen the festival from both sides. Besides experiencing Amsterdam in a different way, there is so much you can gain from working or volunteering at events like Unseen, there is a great value to be found within the ‘backstage’ environment. Being involved closely with a fair, festival or exhibition gives you a perspective upon the inner workings of the event. This transparency aids the understanding of the curatorial decisions made in the formation of the fair & exhibitions, and as young photographer myself I feel that there is a element of credibility ( however fictional it may be ) that encourages you to engage more with the artist and galleries. This enriches your experience of the work and makes yourself known to the community of creatives. 


From last year, the fair had undergone some new developments. A new addition to the fair this year was the ‘Co-op’ ( not your convenient local shop ) but a large space dedicated to showcasing the diverse work of young artist co-operatives. The space was a real delight, and from what I recall, was subject of discussion for many of the guests. The most creative use of space along with great work was french collective ‘LIVE WILD’  which I really recommend you look into, along with the others below : 

Tendance Floue (FR), RUANG MES 56 (ID), Radical Reversibility (NL), POIUYT (IT), Nepal Picture Library (NP), LIVE WILD (FR), Klara Källström and Thobias Fäldt (SE), Huber Huber (CH), GUSH (BE), DER GREIF (DE), Dead Darlings (NL), Colectivo +1 (CO), and Britto Arts Trust (BD).


The sentiment of working collaboratively is very valuable - and it was great to see this element of the fair work out so well. This collaborative space as part of Unseen really did offer a platform for current talent to represent their work. This offering an antidote to the more corporate side of things which forms a fundamental part of similar events. I think that Unseen addresses this and works in a way that does interfere with the experience and engagement of the work presented.  

I hope to see the festival deliver with the same success next year, and for those that like to be immersed within things, I suggest you keep a look out for any opportunities to get involved.