Beyond the Lens at Photo Basel

Beyond the Lens at Photo Basel

Introducing Photo Basel, Switzerland’s first and only international art fair dedicated to photography based art.

Like its contemporaries Art Basel and Design Miami Basel, the fair has regaled its visitors, collectors and buyers with superb works by the death and anthropologically-inclined Ana Zibelnik, as well as a curated sector of never-before-exhibited works by practitioners such as Daniel & Geo Fuchs, Ara Ko and Morgan Otagburuagu, under the title Novum.

According to the Financial Times, it offers a lighter and more subtle show than the typical behemoth of Art Basel. Yet it follows a similar blueprint to the renowned fair. There are works and booths represented by global galleries such as Camara Oscura and Nüüd Berlin, a bold contemporary program, and embrace of old and new techniques. Notably, it strives to reveal a roster of nuanced talents, from emerging or previously overlooked to underrated or established.

Beyond Photography, for instance, is a curated selection of artists who push the boundaries of traditional photography by using mixed media, special printing techniques, or a shift from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional. Star practitioners include Esther Hagenmaier and her architecture-focused lens, Seoul-based analogue photographer Gisoo Kim, the collage and photomontage-inspired Emir Shiro, and Stefan F. Konrad, whose works delve into  metaphysical, anthropological, and political realms.

Kopie Gallery. Courtesy of Photo Basel

A key highlight of the fair is its spotlight on Contemporary African Photography, which addresses the vast photographic disciplines thriving within the diverse continent. It explores ways in which Africa's modern photographers are numerous, dynamic, and often self-reflexive. The art historian, photography curator, published author and specialist in South African photography, Dr Julie Bonzon (PhD), notes how they "respond and feed into to their local visual repertoires, socio-political contexts and cultural heritage, tackling global topics shaking the art world, and fields of representation and approaches crafted and shared online, while engaging with new technologies in image making."

Supported by salient galleries like London's Doyle Wham (the UK's first and only contemporary African photography gallery), The Bridge (Paris) and Inside Out (Brussels) respectively, Photo Basel has collated an impressive display of insightful pieces and fresh takes on our shared, global and cross-cultural present moment. Among its ranks of talented photographers are Lee Ann Olwage (Cape Town), Sarfo Emmanuel (Koforidua) and Justin Dingwall (Johannesburg), to name a few. To Dr Bonson, "each lens-based artist creatively plays with the genre of portraiture; deploying collages, photo montages, layering and stitching, often using bright colours." There's also a distinct collaboration between the artist and the photographed-subject that's palpable in each image, and works to enhance the narratives being visually transcribed.

Throughout the fair, the numerous photo-taking techniques (from phones to analogue) blur lines between fashion, editorial and documentary photography. There are juxtaposing elements of ‘reality’ and ‘performance’, and frank experimentation, care and re-interpretation of site-specific narratives.


Scroll through to discover a selection of our favourite photographs from the fair.

Morgan Otagburuagu, In Bloom, 2023. Courtesy of the artist and Doyle Wham
Buchkunst Berlin, Thomas Hoepker. New York City, Lovers Lane, 1983
Galerie Anita Beckers, Anton Corbijn. PJ Harvey London, 1994
Ara Ko (KOR, 1989), In the Meadow, 2020. Window Fourteen, Geneva | Foyer
Ksenia Malafeeva (RUS, 1981), Untitled, 2017. Form Gallery, Paris | FoyerTitle image. Courtesy of Photo Basel


Title image. Exhibition photo courtesy of Photo Basel