In 2004, photographers laid the foundation for an international festival that has established itself as one of Germany’s top photography events: Darmstädter Tage der Fotografie. Every year since then, the city changes into a colourful exhibition space for aficionados of visual arts. At the base lies the concept of “concentration and encounter”. People are invited to tour the exhibitions and the complete programme at various locations of the city.
Focused on one theme, the festival sees itself as a seismograph of contemporary photography, which gives internationally established photo artists as well as young artistic talents an opportunity for public debate and personal exchange on their work. In a unique density of numerous events spread over a weekend, the festival manages to shine light on one main topic from different perspectives and to provide a forum for an interdisciplinary dialogue on photography, which actively involves the visitor.
This gives the visitor a chance to approach the theme as well as photography by means of various exhibitions, discussions or a symposium and to engage in an open dialogue with the exhibiting photo artists and representatives of society, the arts and science. The time frame creates a space for encounters, intensity and liveliness. Frequently, it is the encounters between the pictures which confer a special charm on the festival and which are valued by visitors and artists alike.
The steadily increasing popularity of the festival is also reflected in the rising number of submitted photos, which are entered through an internationally advertised invitation to participate in the fringe programme. Among the many applications, a jury selects approximately 35 works, which are in no way of inferior artistic quality compared with the exhibits of renowned photo artists in the main programme. By converging both programmes, the festival deliberately promotes contact between the photographers.
The yearly 5,000-euro “Merck prize of Darmstädter Tage der Fotografie”, with which the jury selects the most fitting photographic realization of the theme as “Best of Show”, offers the artists participating in the fringe programme recognition and a possible stepping stone.
The fact that the festival was able to establish itself firmly in the cultural calendar of Darmstadt is due to the voluntary commitment of the founders and the broad reception by all parties involved, who open themselves up to be surprised, moved and fascinated by pictures. Since the spring of 2010, the show room in the Darmstadt Literaturhaus (house of literature) provides the city with a presence beyond the festival. Exhibitions and events around the theme of photography are held here. The extensive artist archive on the festival website as well as the event-related publications document the current state of artistic photography in and beyond Germany.