21 January 2020

Jon Uriarte on the Next Getxophoto

21 January 2020 - Written by PhMuseum

Since 2007, Getxophoto has enriched the city of Getxo in the Basque Country (Spain) with wide-ranging photography and unique exhibitions. We went to talk with Jon Uriarte, the festival's artistic director, who will award one 2020 Photography Grant submission a solo show at the next edition.

© Juan Gómez. Ori Gersht, Blow Up. Getxophoto, 2016, Time.

The next edition of Getxophoto will open in September 2020 under the curatorship of Jon Uriarte, the Spanish photographer and digital curator at The Photographers’ Gallery. He will follow Monica Allende and take on the challenging task of presenting works from international artists across the festival's numerous gallery spaces and open air venues. As part of the program, Jon will handpick one project submitted to the PHmuseum 2020 Photography Grant to be granted a solo show with the artist also set to be awarded a €400 artist fee. Here, Jon talks to us about the work that goes into organising such a diverse event and what we can expect to see at the festival this year.

Ciao Jon, in 2020 Getxophoto will inaugurate its 14th edition. What are the common features that have characterised the festival's history, and, at the same time, how has the event evolved in those years?

Getxophoto is a thematic festival that inhabits the streets and non-conventional cultural spaces of Getxo and looks to open up a conversation about a dedicated subject each year. It started in 2007 curated by Alejandro Castellote followed by Frank Calero, Christian Caujolle and Monica Allende in three-year tenures, with each proposing a wide range of themes such as self-representation, dreams, struggles, trips or transitions, among many others. The festival has explored many different ways of presenting photography including outdoor installations, video-projections, experimental labs and participatory activities that created a playful and strong connection with its audience.

© Juan Gómez. Mentalgassi. Getxophoto, 2010, In Praise Of Leisure.

The festival takes place in Getxo, a town by the sea in the autonomous community of the Basque Country in Spain. What influence does the location itself and the inhabitants have on the festival? What are the main advantages for both artists and visitors who attend an event in such an atmosphere?

Getxophoto is a small to medium-sized festival in which both artists and the audience have the chance to interact with one another. When I was first invited to exhibit in 2012 I was happily surprised by the direct access one had to discuss my work with the local audience. The guided visits walking through the town are usually very well attended by locals. I remember that people approached me to ask about my images: a rare opportunity in the photo-world that often becomes some sort of ghetto in which photographers, curators, and publishers only show work between each other. During all these years the festival has created a strong relationship with the people of Getxo and the surrounding towns and cities such as Bilbao, Donostia - San Sebastian and Vitoria - Gasteiz.

Besides the opportunity to show the work and share it with the audience, the small size of the festival creates a very homely feeling among the artists who are invited. Lunch and/or dinner with the invited artists usually take place in a “Txoko”, a traditional Basque gastronomic society, where people from the town come together to cook, eat, and socialise. The mix of international, national, and local artists usually creates a very friendly relationship among the people who attend.

© Getxophoto

What are the methodologies and the research strategies involved in the curatorial production of a festival like Getxophoto? Can you give us a sneaky peek into what we can expect from the 2020 program?

There is a fundamental difference between curating in the context of a museum and a festival. It is very difficult for a museum to follow and stay up to date with the most urgent issues that are going on because of the size and bureaucracy at an institution. That is why some of the institutions work to make sense out of what has already happened and some others try to guess what will happen in the near future. Festivals, on the other hand, have created a whole structure and working model that starts and shuts down with every edition, making it much more dynamic and responsive.

The theme this year - To The Streets - is strongly connected both to the current times and the identity of Getxophoto. During all these years the festival has been talking directly to the streets through a different number of topics. And at the same time, we are living in an epoch in which a very wide range of issues that are very closely entangled between each other, such as the climate emergency, identity struggles, and social inequity, are taking place or being visualised in the online and physical public space. This space is undergoing a strong process of privatisation and homogenisation across most of the cities of the world, limiting the ways in which we can make use of it as a place to socialise, celebrate, and express ourselves beyond consumerism. The way in which photography and images at large have traditionally inhabited and represented the streets has also dramatically changed in recent years. This 2020 Getxophoto edition seeks to address these questions using the streets of the town as a place for open debate, exchange, protest and celebration.

© Juan Gómez. Pha Lina, Ratanakiri. Getxophoto 2014, Struggles.

You will select a work from the PHmuseum 2020 Photography Grant submissions to be shown at the 2020 edition of Getxophoto. How do you think the awarded photographer will benefit from the exhibition and what will be relevant for you when judging the works?

The selected artist will benefit from the opportunity of not only showing his or her work with a fee and accommodation expenses paid for, but also from the close contact with the rest of the artists and the visitors of the festival. The work will be exhibited and shared through the festival’s communication channels that reach national and international media outlets. The artist will also enjoy the stay in town and get to know the surroundings and the very rich cultural background of Getxo and the Basque Country.

The way in which the work is related to the topic will be crucial in the judging process, as well as how that work could be exhibited in the festival. As I said before, Getxophoto inhabits the streets and the non-conventional spaces of the town, so any proposal that would explore new ways of showing images will also be welcome.

© Juan Gómez. Thomas Mailaender, Sponsoring. Getxophoto, 2013, Dreams.


Getxophoto is a new partner for this new edition of the PHmuseum Photography Grant. The eighth edition of our Grant is also kindly supported by PhEST, Lagos Photo, World Press Photo, Verzasca FOTO, Jakarta International Photo Festival, and Cortona On The Move.

Learn more and apply at and good luck!


Jon Uriarte is an artist, teacher, and curator. He holds a Masters in Projects and Artistic Theories. His work has been exhibited at galleries and museums in Madrid, San Sebastian, New York, Berlin, and Barcelona. He is founder of Widephoto, the former director of DONE by FotoColectania, and he is currently the digital curator of The Photographers' Gallery and artistic director of Getxophoto Festival.

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