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LOOK3: Little Charlottesville hosts big photography festival this weekend

Stanley Greene / NOOR, Courtesy of the artist via LOOK3

July 25th, 2011 Guvecci, Turkey: Jisr Shughur, Syrian Border village. School for Syrian refugees who cross over from the border camp.

Lynsey Addario / VII, Courtesy of the artist via LOOK3

Noor Nisa, 20, pregnant, and her mother, Nazer Begam, 40, who live in Weha village, a four hour drive by car to the clinic in Faizabad, wait along the side of the road to be transported to the hospital, after their car broke down, in Badakhshan province, Afghanistan, on Nov. 14, 2009. Nisa's water had just broken. Her husband, Shir Mohammad, who had lost two wives and whose first wife had died during childbirth, was determined to get Nisa to the hospital but his borrowed car broke down, so he went to find another vehicle. Nisa, her mother and her husband were eventually taken by the photographer and her interpreter, who happened to be driving by, to the hospital where Nisa delivered a baby girl.

At the end of this week Charlottesville, Virginia will be taken over by hundreds of photographers – and photography aficionados – as they gather for LOOK3: Festival of the Photograph. What started out as an intimate gathering of friends sharing their work in the backyard of National Geographic photographer Nick Nichols (a Charlottesville resident), has grown into a polished 3-day event showcasing the best in photojournalism, documentary and fine art photography. Over the month of June, the exhibits – which are all open to the public - are expected to draw 25,000 visitors.

Even if you are unable to attend this year’s festival, you can virtually experience all the talks and events, which will be live-blogged on the LOOK3 blog. Also stay tuned to PhotoBlog. I will be heading to Charlottesville later this week and will be be posting a follow up to the blog from the festival.

Alex Webb / Magnum Photos, Courtesy of the artist via LOOK3

Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, 1993.

David Doubilet, Courtesy of the artist via LOOK3

Penguins on Ice, Chinstrap and gentoo penguins on a small ice floe near Danko Island, Antarctic Peninsula.

While LOOK3 is popular with those in the photography industry, involving the people of Charlottesville has been central to the festival’s past success. The city is home to the University of Virginia, as well as an active artist community.

“The beauty of Charlottesville is that it is the one place in America that has perfectly done a pedestrian mall that actually works,” said David Griffin, Visuals Editor at The Washington Post, who curated this year's festival together with National Geographic photographer Vincent J. Musi. “It is an urban space, and is a spine that is conducive to this idea of meeting and talking with people in a causal atmosphere,” said Griffin.

Ernesto Bazan, Courtesy of the artisy via LOOK3

Color images from Cuba.

Each year, LOOK3 invites a curator to select the featured artists and exhibits. Both Griffin and Musi have strong backgrounds in journalism and began their careers working in newspapers. Musi began working with National Geographic in 1993, and Griffin was previously the director of photography at the magazine.

“There’s a balance you want to achieve,” says Griffin. “You try and find an interesting mix of well-established and emerging artists that are a reflection of the time.”

Griffin and Musi’s newspaper and magazine backgrounds are evident in this year’s lineup. It was important for them to have a connection to the featured artists, helping the festival maintain a personal and intimate touch. This year's keynote presentations will be given by Alex Webb, Donna Ferrato and Stanley Greene. Also featured will be David Doubilet, Lynsey Addario, Bruce Gilden, Hank Willis Thomas, Camille Seaman, Robin Schwartz, Ernesto Bazan and Chris Boot. To balance this selection of photojournalists, the nightly slideshow projections will showcase more projects from the art photography field, including Todd Hido and Steve Fitch.

“If anyone has any doubts,” said Griffin. “[LOOK3] is about reviving the importance and power of still photography. I love all the innovative options, but the base you build upon is about capturing that single moment.”

Robin Schwartz, Courtesy of the artist via LOOK3

Trunk Sniff -- Amelia's World: Animal Affinity.