Interview Enrico Stefanelli

Eleven years ago, Enrico Stefanelli founded the Lucca Photo Fest as a yearly event. After it came to an end in 2011, he revived it in 2013 as the Photolux Festival and turned it into a Biennale for top class photography. So as to be able to continue offering exclusive photography to the general public in Lucca every year, he began to organise exhibitions in the alternate years. From November 19 to December 11, 2016, he is also presenting the two winners and ten finalists of the 2016 Leica Oskar Barnack Awards.

LFI: At Photolux you’re presenting the winners and finalists of the Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation Grant, the World Press Photo Award and the Leica Oskar Barnack Awards. You are a member of the Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation Grant jury and in the selection committee for the World Press Photo’s Joop Swart Masterclass – those connections are clear, so why did you decide on the LOBA as the third photo award?

Enrico Stefanelli: Since its inception, Photolux was always careful to focus on documentary photography and photojournalism – but not only. We think that the Italian public should get to know all the other kinds of imagery, as we believe that, compared to other European countries, much still needs to be done so that a photographic culture can grow here in Italy. As for Leica, we have a very special relationship. Not only because Leica is our sponsor, but because I also think it’s a way to give greater visibility to the award, and we "enrich" our audience with an exhibition containing 12 "particular visions of the world around us". Following Paris and Berlin, this is the third LOBA 2016 presentation and the first and only one in Italy. We’d like to become "the Italian arm of LOBA".

LFI: The LOBA exhibition includes the two winning series as well as those by the ten finalists. What surprised you? What convinced you?

Enrico Stefanelli: The quality of all the finalists is so clear. I think that having to choose the winner must have been really difficult for the jury. Honestly, I was very positively surprised by the work of Esther Teichmann. But I was also very surprised at seeing such high quality in the works of young photographers such as Max Pinkers, Sadegh Souri and Juan Pablo Bellandi. We must do everything possible to help this young talent grow. This is one of our goals.

LFI: Since 2013, the Photolux Festival has been set up as a Biennale. When and why did you also start putting on exhibitions during the alternate years?

Enrico Stefanelli: The mission of Photolux is to spread photographic culture throughout Italy. The first Biennale was in 2013. When we first decided to take this step, the idea was to organise a yearly exhibition of the World Press Photo Award. In 2014, the year after the first Biennale, we had the WPP exhibition as well as the winners of a photo competition organised by Leica Italia. This year we have grown even more, with these three awards plus an exhibition by Vivian Maier.

LFI: The Photolux Festival will first take place again in 2017. The programme with this year’s Photolux exhibitions, however, includes many workshops, portfolio reviews as well as the Leica Talks presentations. How, in fact, does Photolux differ from the Photolux Festival?

Enrico Stefanelli: Although it may not seem so, the difference is remarkable. Last year we had 29 exhibitions, 45 talks, 24 international portfolio reviewers, and 8 workshops (many of which were international). This year the exhibitions are 4, all of very high level, 14 talks, 12 Italian portfolio reviewers and 4 Italian workshops. This edition is more delineated towards the Italian public, precisely because it is important that Lucca become a point of reference for photography in Italy, rather than having all our efforts focused on the Biennale.

LFI: What do you think of when you hear the word Leica?

Enrico Stefanelli: For me Leica is Photography or at least my photographic world. Immediately after I started photographing, many years ago, my uncle made me try out his 1935 Leica IIIa (Model G). From that moment on, I switched to the world of Leica. And so it continues to this day. I used it again on the last trip I took a few days ago, and it was exciting. For the history of photography, Leica represented innovation and evolution; nowadays it once again represents innovation and research. With LOBA, it also places an emphasis on culture.