How Unseen Platform is Trying to Break New Ground for Photography

May 7, 2019

For many photography talents out there at the moment, it is hard to navigate the image-saturated environment and to find a trustworthy venue where their work can finally be properly shown and appreciated. As of November 2018, such an idea came to life thanks to Unseen Platform, whose aim is to introduce fresh bodies of work by today’s most exciting artists working with the medium.

Coming as a result of a collaboration between the people behind Unseen and a network of leading international advisors from across the world, Unseen Platform is creating a community of new contemporary photographers, curators, collectors, critics, editors, gallerists and aficionados alike. While pushing the boundaries of one of today’s hottest media, they premiere highly curated content of a strong visual impact and storytelling. On Unseen Platform, we can find projects that have been concluded in the past year and have not been presented anywhere else, physically or online, but also insights from industry leaders and professionals.

And so, Unseen’s admirable dedication to contemporary photography and its makers continues through yet another venture with Unseen Platform, with a spotlight ready to shine on those that push the field’s boundaries. Talking to Widewalls about the significance of such digital structure and why it strives to become a go-to source for the photography market is Unseen’s Business Director, Sean Farran.

Sean Farran, Unseen Platform
Sean Farran, Unseen Platform

A Word on Unseen Platform

Widewalls: Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How does your background fit within Unseen Platform?

Sean Farran: I have been part of the Unseen team for two years, which have flown by! I was attracted to Unseen for its support for developing artistic talent, and its entrepreneurial and innovative approach to bringing high-quality art to a large and diverse audience. This is something that has occupied me for a while; some of my work until that point involved securing preeminent artworks for galleries and museums in the UK, as well as launching initiatives to develop talent in the arts, music, culinary and academic circuits.

A few years ago, I developed a platform that connected people to further their projects and initiatives. I was lucky to receive a couple of awards for it, and the experience secured my belief that online platforms can be structured for the benefit of a greater good rather than something that is not directed toward the audiences that actually use them.

Widewalls: When was the idea to found Unseen Platform conceived? What prompted it?

SF: One of the most constructive ways to support emerging artists is to help them reach a wider audience. Unseen has always been conscious of the need to build connections between the physical events and the digital environment in order to amplify artists globally.

Many online platforms start... well, online, and eventually develop toward offline events. We’ve approached it the other way around, and see the potential in offering something really useful and interesting for people to engage with across stratums. It took about a year of research and business planning, and as with the rest of Unseen, Unseen Platform was created in collaboration with others. We talked with many artists, galleries, collectors, creatives and stakeholders and developed it with their needs in mind.

Widewalls: Why is it important that the artworks on view on the Platform are recent?

SF: We want people to have access to the latest artistic developments. The projects featured on Unseen Platform have been produced within the last year, and there is a pronounced focus on bodies of work that have not been published or exhibited elsewhere.

Widewalls: How does the selection process work?

SF: We have an amazing team of curators, editors and advisors involved in the process. During weekly editorial meetings, we review submissions from galleries and artists as well as put forward our own suggestions.

Widewalls: Unseen Platform will also include film; would you say that the two media are inseparable nowadays?

SF: Image-makers are certainly exploring the possibilities of moving image and film, and the potential of what the mediums can do, both separately and together. As it stands, we use video as a medium to tell stories of the artists on the platform, not as an art form in its own right. Nonetheless, it is a very exciting route to consider.

Left Nico Krijno - Pattern Study with Bricks, from the series New Work, 2018 Right Marleen Sleeuwits - Interior no. 52, from the series Laying Bare the Fictional Side, 2018
Left: Nico Krijno - Pattern Study with Bricks, from the series New Work, 2018. © Nico Krijno/The Ravestijn Gallery / Right: Marleen Sleeuwits - Interior no. 52, from the series Laying Bare the Fictional Side, 2018 © Marleen Sleeuwits

Looking Onwards

Widewalls: The initiative has been up and running for a few months now. What are your impressions so far?

SF: Unseen Platform runs much like a start-up. We are using this time to experiment with different formats and approaches – some succeeding and some failing. We have encountered some challenges, but these help us develop and improve in an agile way. We have an enthusiastic and passionate team coming from a variety of backgrounds, which makes for a fruitful environment to develop new ideas.

Since the platform went live, we’ve launched approximately one new project every week, which shows tremendous faith from the artistic community in choosing to launch their latest projects with us. With close to one-million page views per month, it seems that people like what we’ve done so far!

Widewalls: What are your thoughts on the state of the photography market now, in The Netherlands and globally?

SF: The Netherlands is emerging as a strong player in the photography market and there is growing institutional, public and corporate support for the medium. Perhaps this is natural given the Dutch culture of innovation and exploration; photography is a particularly applicable and accessible medium in this regard.

Globally, we’ve noticed that more galleries are focused exclusively on photography and many others represent artists who include photography in their practice, which says something about the market’s appetite for photography. Aside from Unseen – which of course is exclusively focused on contemporary photography – art fairs are embracing the medium and photography sales are increasing in auction houses globally.

The interplay and relevance between photography and other categories such as design, fashion, furniture sales, etc. is an interesting one to watch in the future as the medium moves from strength to strength.

Widewalls: What’s coming next for Unseen Platform?

SF: Unseen Platform does not just live online. We are always looking for ways to fuse the online with the offline realms and create meaningful crossovers between the two. One of Unseen’s key motivations is to make artists relevant to wider society.

For instance, during Photo London we are teaming up with the London School of Economics and Political Sciences to hold an event that will put artists exploring gentrification in direct dialogue with academics and policymakers dealing with the same issue. The discussion will be dynamic and interactive, offering an insight into how the artists respond to the topic, whilst connecting specialists in urban planning and audience members. With this arrangement, we hope to create new models of looking which could potentially have a hand in tackling key social and political issues of our time. The discussions and themes we address will also manifest in some capacity on Unseen Platform.

We very much don’t see photography as a standalone product to be hung on a wall but as an opportunity to see the world around us in a different light. To that end, we are creating partnerships with key media outlets, artists, galleries, institutions and stakeholders whose vision we share, to create dynamic storytelling formats that engage audiences in honest but experimental ways.

We can’t see exactly what is coming next as Unseen Platform is emerging in collaboration with our growing community, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. And that, I suppose, is just the nature of Unseen.

Featured images: Chloe Sells - Keeping Secrets, from the series Ah, Hey!, 2018 (detail). © Chloe Sells/Michael Hoppen Gallery; Ulrich Gebert - Gestalt 61, from the series Gestalt, 2018. Silver Gelatin Prints mounted on aluminium composite material, 43 x 52 cm, Ed. 3/3 + 1 a.p. © Ulrich Gebert / Klemm’s Gallery; Tanya Habjouqa - Twins on a farm, from the series Un/HOLY LAND, 2018. © Tanya Habjouqa/ILEX. All images courtesy Unseen.