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Shaping the Encounter

Photography as a Relational Practice #1 2024


The concept of “encounter” within photography, curated by Natasha Christia.

Who ?

Image-makers Alejandro Acín and Max Pinckers, in synergy with curator Natasha Christia.


13-16 June 2024
10:00 – 20:00

How to apply?

Apply through the online entry form until 2 June, 2024.
Slots are limited.

Athens Photo Festival presents the first edition of Photography as Relational Practice, a research and practice laboratory which will examine photography as a relational practice.
In this experimental laboratory, a maximum number of fifteen (15) participants and two external instructors alongside the program’s curator will be invited to (re)think photography and its contingent lens-based practices as an exercise of relation with themselves and the world. Over the course of four days, they will delve into a series of “relational exercises”, departing from their individual projects/experiences, and extending them to others and the world.
Relation implies a novel path of thinking and experiencing lens-based practices: not just through the meaning attached to the representational / figurative property of the image, but also (and, mainly), through the proper “event of photography”, that is to say, the physical, material, historical and affective relations, situations and dynamics engendered and articulated around the production and dissemination of images.

“Shaping the Encounter”, this year’s laboratory theme

Over the course of four days, participants will explore the notion of encounter with photography, alongside Alejandro Acín (artist, designer and educator), Max Pinckers (photographer) and Natasha Christia (program’s curator).
Departing from Ariela Aïsha Azoulay’s definition of the “event of photography” and the contract of citizenship in the writing of “potential history”, we will question the roles of camera practitioner, subject, and audience that are a priori taken as given and solid in the theater of camera relations. We assume the encounter as an ontological condition of photography. In this light, we propose the dissolution of “custody” over our projects, and encourage, instead, the sharing, the shifting of roles, the performing of affective relations, and the contextual disparities when it comes to reading and disseminating images. Our toolbox for this edition will include operations such as re-reading, reversing, reinventing, restaging, decolonizing as unlearning; collaboration; dissensus vs consensus; vulnerability, contradiction, failure; mediation as a practice; performativity; awareness of context.

The two guest artists were invited to contribute to this year’s edition, through their own theoretical and empirical experience — Max in the area of speculative documentary and Alejandro in the realm of community work.
The departure point of the laboratory will be the interception of routine when engaging with a lens-based project. Participants will be introduced to a series of relational exercises to which participants will respond individually or collectively and apply them on their personal projects.
The practical outcome of our laboratory that will be displayed in public upon the conclusion of the laboratory as part of the photobook program. The form may vary: from an open-space conversation to the documentation of a performance, an ephemeral publication, or the production of a process-based common body of work.

Relation is seen in this laboratory as:

A voluntary act of “crossing to the other side”; the creation of multiple interdisciplinary spaces of exchange, empathy among individuals and communities, where mindfulness and implication are essential. Quoting Belgian philosopher Chantal Mouffe, who argues that in a democracy the public space should be a place where discordant relations can exist and where the existing consensus can be challenged and refuted, art in public space should promote dissensus, that is to say, make visible what is Hidden and excluded by the prevailing consensus.
At risk of control loss or failure, and rather than providing a single cohesive answer, exposing one’s work to re-readings, reinterpretations and unexpected transitions and transfigurations.
An urge to “connect what cannot be/or is not expected to be connected”, paraphrasing Hal Foster.
An “errantry”, after Édouard Glissant, that is to say, as an exercise of thought-shaping and discernment, that both emphasizes, questions and problematizes different experiences.
An opening up to different audiences and media, but also to a more “somatic experience”, which, in the world of Alexandra Pirici, “leaves space to listen, to embodied attention, to rhythmic sensibility, to feeling – space, time, life and movement”.Relation demands from us to realize that the rethinking and reinvention of our relation to ourselves, our communities and the world is not an optional/external but rather an intrinsic aspect of any lens-based practice.

Aim & Outcomes

By self-referencing our proper encounter in Athens, we will the common ground, limits and potential of our collaboration to:

unlearn & conceive our individual projects and creative vocabulary anew, introducing new concepts and forms of theorizing.
address, challenge, imagine and reenact how our projects can engage with communities and the outer world.
invent new ways of project development, collaboration, and engagement with the audience.
foreground new systems of activation and aims for photography today, beyond the realm of the photo community, questioning what is taken today for granted as an accomplished photographic project circulating merely in the photography world.

Daily schedule

DAY 1                       Thursday, June 13, 2024
Natasha Christia with Alejandro Acín & Max Pinckers
15.00-20.00: Welcome-introduction – theoretical and methodological framework

DAY 2           Friday, June 14, 2024
Max Pinckers Open Space: Strategies for a speculative space in documentary photography.
10.00-12.00: Concept presentation
12.00-20.00: Relational exercises
Short breaks and one-hour lunch break included.

DAY 3           Saturday, June 15, 2024
Alejandro Acín: Intercepting Reality: A collective process of re-imagining new contexts and spaces of public/institutional/collective/physical & virtual interventions for our project.
10.00-12.00: Concept presentation
12.00-20.00: Relational exercises
Short breaks and one-hour lunch break included.

DAY 4           Sunday, June 16, 2024
Natasha Christia with Alejandro Acín & Max Pinckers
10.00-14.00: Coming together – conclusions
18.00-19.00: Public presentation (to be confirmed).


The laboratory is addressed to photographers with an ongoing project at a mature stage, open to rethink their practice; with interest in working with communities; as well as to visual artists; practitioners, scholars and teachers in the lens-culture areas with similar interests.
The spoken language of the lab is English.
Please keep in mind that your application refers only to this year’s edition.

How to Apply?

Apply through the online entry form until 2 June, 2024.

Slots are limited, we advise submitting your application promptly.
Please be aware that participants are selected in advance.

Participation fee

The participation fee is


For queries, you can contact us via email at

This year’s instructors

Alejandro Acín (*1984, Spain) is founder-director of IC Visual Lab (ICVL), an independent photography platform recently appointed to lead the second edition of Bristol Photo Festival. With ICVL, Alejandro has produced curatorial & publishing projects with Bristol Museums & Archives, Arnolfini Gallery (UK), Eastside Projects (UK), Format Festival Derby (UK), Getxophoto international festival (Spain) & Photo Kathmandu (Nepal), with support from Arts Council England, Historic England, Heritage Lottery Fund & the British Council. Since 2023, he acts as the new Bristol Photo Festival Director, its second edition is produced and managed by IC Visual Lab. Beyond ICVL, he has a track record of managing and activating historic collections, including Historical Photographs of China 1850-1950 (University of Bristol), the Martin Parr Foundation library, The Nepal Picture Library and the British Empire & Commonwealth Collection. Acín has produced personal projects exploring ideas around collective memory and politics and his work has been exhibited in Colombia, France, the UK and Spain. His latest book The Rest is History was included in the best books of the year at PhotoEspaña 2022 and Les Rencontres d’Arles in 2022. He is also an Associate Lecturer on the MA Photography programme at the University of South Wales.

Max Pinckers (* 1988, Belgium) grew up in Indonesia, India, Australia and Singapore, and is currently based in Brussels, Belgium, where he was born. His oeuvre explores visual strategies in documentary photography. Not believing in the possibility of sheer objectivity or neutrality, he advocates a manifest subjective approach, which is made visible through the explicit use of theatrical lighting in a documentary context and his collaborations with others. Documentary photography, for Pinckers, involves more than the representation of an external reality: it’s a speculative process that approaches reality and truth as plural, malleable notions open to articulation in different ways. Extensive research and diligent technical preparation are combined with improvisation to obtain lively, unexpected, critical, simultaneously poetic and documentary images. His works take shape as self-published artist books and exhibition installations such as The Fourth Wall (2012), Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty (2014), Margins of Excess (2018), Red Ink (2018) and State of Emergency (2024). Pinckers is a Doctor in the Arts and a lecturer at the School of Arts/KASK, Ghent, and has received multiple international awards, such as the Edward Steichen Award Luxembourg 2015 and the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2018. Pinckers is co-founder of the independent publishing house Lyre Press and The School of Speculative Documentary. He is represented by Gallery Sofie Van de Velde in Antwerp and Tristan Lund in London.

Natasha Christia (*1976, Greece) is a curator, writer and educator based in Barcelona. She holds a BA in archaeology and art history from the National Kapodistrian University of Athens, an MA in modern art and film from the University of Essex and a postgraduate diploma in publishing from the University of Barcelona. Ηer curatorial research focuses on both the complicity and potential role of the photographic document in the revision of dominant historical narratives and ideological myths. She has curated various exhibitions, among them, AMORE: An Unfinished Trilogy by Valentina Abenavoli (Void/Athens Photo Festival, 2017), Dragana Jurisic: My Own Unknown (Centre Culturel Irlandais, Photo Sant Germain, 2017), Reversiones (Centro de la Imagen, Mexico DF, 2017), Lukas Birk: Travelogue Sammlung (Galerie Lustenau, Austria 2018) and You Are What You Eat (Krakow Photomonth 2019), ACTS I-VII by Oculi, (PHOTO 2022 Ιnternational Festival of Photography-Benalla Gallery, Australia), Kate Nolan: Lacuna (Centre Culturel Irlandais, Photo Sant Germain, 2023. Since 2021, she has been developing thematic areas based on photobooks: Closed Circle-Lived Relation (Panoramic Festival, Barcelona, 2021); War at a Distance (SCAN Festival 2022); and This Story Will Never Get Finished (SCAN Festival 2023). Natasha Christia regularly contributes essays on photography criticism for international publications and for artists. In 2019, she edited with Lukas Birk (Fraglich Publishing) “Gülistan” (winner of the PHotoEspaña Best Photobook Award 2019, International Category). She has been jury members of Unseen Dummy Award, Kassel Dummy Award 2021 and Concurso Fotocanal 2020.