Cortona On The Move's Genesis and Ambitions

With the third edition of PhEST set to open today, the Artistic Director, Giovanni Troilo brings us into the world of the Italian festival, explaining their vision and close relationship with the sea.

Donna Ferrato's American Woman: 40 Years (1970s-2010s) from the festival's 2017 edition

The 8th edition of Cortona On The Move will open on July 12, bringing a new wave of contemporary photography into the heart of Tuscany. Meanwhile the festival's new edition is starting to take shape with the new schedule of Portfolio Reviews, the Open Calls - offering a prize of 3,000 euros plus exhibition space in the 2019 edition of Cortona On The Move, plus the production and publication of a photobook dummy - and the Summer School comprising workshops with acclaimed professionals such as Jérome Session and Simona Ghizzoni. In this context we went to dig into the festival history and ambitions with Antonio Carloni, the Director who was among those who gave life to the project back in 2012.

Ciao Antonio! Can you tell us about your experience as Cortona On The Move Director, from its start to last year's edition? Which were the biggest challenges, and how were you able to quickly establish it as one of the most relevant events in the photography calendar?

Let's start from the beginning. When we put on the first edition of Cortona OTM we had no idea where we were heading or how we would turn the festival into a successful event - it simply wasn't on our minds. But the landmarks that have determined the festival's success are basically three: firstly there's the close collaboration with our artistic director, Arianna Rinaldo, with whom, over the years, we've forged a common roadmap for development. The energy that we've shared and invested with Arianna continues to re-emerge with each new edition of the festival. We've created a relationship whereby her choices always leave room for other projects which allow us to engage the corporate world to convey important messages: for example, one of the most significant projects was European Dream, in 2014, based on an idea of Alessandro Penso, which we developed in partnership with the UNHCR.

Secondly, there's the devotion and love which Associazione ONTHEMOVE has dedicated to the entire project - an attitude which, thanks to a mixture of love and determination, has allowed many of us to earn a living through Cortona OTM. Last, but not least, comes the town of Cortona itself which is a center of hospitality and cultural exchange. The quality of life and relationships that can be experienced in a little, walled township like this have enabled us to create a festival that is, in effect, a "boutique of contemporary photography", to cite Alice Gabriner. And the inauguration period of the festival is also a unique opportunity for guests and photographers to meet in Tuscany and enjoy the exhibitions together, maybe even discuss new projects over a glass of wine in one of the many wine bars of Cortona.

The Meaning of a Nation © Justyna Mielnikiewicz from the festival's 2017 edition

Managing a photography festival implies coordinating the needs of photographers, sponsors, visitors, the city of Cortona with your team artistic vision and monetary budget. How do you organize your work along the year and how are you able to eventually make everybody happy? Any tips for those who might want to start a new photography festival/event?

Cortona On The Move isn't just a summer festival - it's also a year-round activity. The team is made up of many diverse players active in the different areas of the event. My job is to try and keep everyone together and make sure they're all happy, although I don't always succeed. The best part of my job is the relationships that develop within the group, from the photographers to the sponsors, the exhibition fitters, and the entire communications department. Another of my jobs is to create partnership strategies that generate added value both for Cortona On The Move and for the partners so that both sides are happy. A perfect example of this is the work we're doing with you at PHmuseum. An event like this involves many different people operating in different areas, though of course, everyone needs to go in the same direction. I'd say that there are basically 4 different areas of activity which I can list for you in chronological order:

1) fundraising
2) artistic direction
3) communications
4) production

My advice to anyone who wants to start a new festival is not to start!!!! But if there really isn't any alternative, I would say you need an endless dose of enthusiasm and don't worry too much about finance during the first few editions, because it will all fall into place by itself in due course.

Last year you showcased the work of Sandra Mehl, as the winner of the PHM 2017 Grant Cortona On The Move prize, and invited her to the festival. Why are you offering this prize? What could it represent for a photographer and his/her careers?

One of the chief priorities among the festival's many objectives is to be of service to photographers by acting as a platform of exchange, promotion, and visibility for their work.
The award for Sandra Mehl was exactly that - it gave her an opportunity to show her images to some of the most prominent experts in the field, but it also allowed the festival to discover a new talent. For a young photographer to be included in the line-up of Cortona On The Move is a sure way to get your work spotlighted, while bringing your research to the attention of a select few, which then opens the door to publications and further exhibitions.For us at the Festival, it's a way of keeping up-to-date with developments on the international photographic scene, which is why we decided to present this Award and move forward enthusiastically with the PHM partnership.

What should we expect from the upcoming edition and why should a photographer (or photography lover) attend the festival?

The 2018 edition of Cortona On The Move will introduce many novelties, the first of which is a new section dedicated to the world of video and multimedia. It's still all a surprise, which will be announced in a few days, but it represents the willingness of COTM to keep abreast of the times and explore new languages in the world of images. We'd like it to become one of the cornerstones of future editions of the festival.

We're living at a time of total revolution in the world of communications. We're using more images than words, and we've come to the conclusion that photography is the alphabet of a larger and more complex language that will be revealed over the next few years. We're also convinced our festival shouldn't miss out on the opportunity of embracing these state-of-the-art communication tools by bringing them into our fold and using them to help narrate the contemporary world.

Another novelty that our regular visitors will discover is the new locations we are about to open up in a few days' time, but we'll be revealing them publically a short while before the festival opens on July 12th. And I won't tell you about the choices the artistic director is making because you'll hear about those on May 3rd during the press conference.

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Learn more about Cortona On The Move, purchase your tickets and book the portfolio reviews at cortonaonthemove.com

Antonio Carloni is the Director of Cortona On The Move. Follow the festival on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Giuseppe Oliverio is the Founder and Director of PHmuseum. Follow him on PHmuseum, Instagram, and Twitter

PHM 2018 Women Photographers Grant
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