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Foam Talent Covers 2020

Q&A Foam Editors: Elisa Medde & Mariama Attah

Jan 23, 2020 - Gita Cooper-van Ingen

Why did each of you decide to enter this field?


Elisa Medde (EM): It happened quite naturally. While studying Art History at university I worked as an apprentice in a laboratory specializing in restoring ancient maps and paper documents, while also being a darkroom assistant for a photographer. After my studies I moved into curating, but quite quickly understood that the gallery wall felt limitating for me. So I moved into the publishing field, where making books and magazines felt challenging and liberating. I still feel that way – what I do combines my passions pretty well.


Mariama Attah (MA): I didn’t go to museums or galleries when I was younger and didn’t discover photography until later. I found my interest for photography when I realized how communicative it can be as a medium. I studied photography and started working as a curator, and then as an editor. This really added another dimension to my interest of communicating and storytelling through visuals.

What are you currently researching and why?


MA: At the moment, we’re researching potential themes for the next issue of magazine which will be released in April 2020. Our research period starts straight after going to print on the previous magazine. This has a very different rhythm to it and is my favourite part of the production phase. It gives us a chance to think more widely about what we want to say about photography by focusing on an idea, topic or occurrence that we can share with our audiences.


EM: The themes for the issues to be published are – as usual – secret!


What is the one skill you wished you’d learned before working as an editor?


EM: Extra secret doses of patience.


MA: How to write more quickly!


How would you describe your editorial style?


EM: I have been told my style can be defined as a ‘call to action’. Editing images for a portfolio normally means we are doing a reduction, we need to condense and synthesize an often large body of work into a few spreads. It is important to me to be able to preserve – and possibly enhance – all the key aspects of the work.


MA: My style is based on my interest of storytelling. I try to write and edit in an uncomplicated way that draws together a story about the immediate project while also pointing to a fuller context of how and why this story is being told through photography.

Untitled, from the series Figure as Index. © Luther Konadu, courtesy of the artist

What do you consider to be your first success in your career?


EM: I have a very warm memory of the first show I curated, in 2006. It was a collective exhibition celebrating the 10 years of “Kentu Concas Kentu Berrittas” (hundred heads, hundred hats) a very experimental collective movement in my native Sardinia. Since I have been at Foam, it would probably be the first issue of Foam Magazine I made – it was #31, Ref.


What’s the collaborative process in editing the magazine? Is it collaborative or do you each manage different sections?


EM: We collaborate very closely for the whole process, especially in the creation of the concept and in the research. When it comes to the production phase, Mariama focuses a bit more on the texts and I on the portfolio editings.


MA: Everything about the magazine is collaborative, from the research phase, to approaching photographers and writers, to editing the texts and working on the layouts and designs. This lets us work together to our individual strengths while making sure we share a sweeping range of ideas with our readers.


What are your greatest strengths in your roles as editors?


EM / MA: Alongside our collaborative nature, I think our greatest strengths revolve around genuine passion and curiosity for photography. This is combined with an awareness and need to question our privileged roles as editors and how that shapes the type of photography that we promote, endorse and share.


What were some important previous jobs/projects you worked on that helped shape your interest in photography?


MA: “The Naked Portrait” was one of the first exhibitions I worked on in my first curatorial role at Compton Verney in Warwickshire, UK. The show was a survey of portraits throughout art history and included many artworks that I had just previously learned about during my photography degree. I remember how thrilling it was to be handling these photographs that I had, up until then, only seen in textbooks.


EM: My interest in photography is at the basis of everything I have ever done – I stepped into a darkroom for the first time when I was 12, and that was it. I guess the next step would be working as a paper restorer, learning the craft of printing and binding. I find manual labour very important, and I think that being confident with all phases of production of the magazine makes me use better the editorial tools at my disposal. This being said, My first real museum role at MAN Museum in 2006 shaped greatly the way I still work nowadays.


What are some of the most urgent questions facing photography today?


MA: I think urgency is based around actively supporting and working with photographers in areas (geographic or otherwise) that have been underrepresented and overlooked. Adding perspectives and points of view will help to maintain the ‘democratic nature’ of photography that is so often mentioned when discussing the inherent strengths of the medium.


What’s the decision-making process in deciding on themes for the magazine and how do these relate to the curatorial program at Foam?


EM: The magazine works independently from the exhibition departement of the museum, yet we are synergical. We share information and ideas, and very often happens that we look at the same themes creating complementary projects, so that magazine themes become exhibitions and vice versa. It happens yearly with the Talent program, but also with themed issues such as Back to the Future and Adorned – The Fashionable Issue.


MA: Selecting a theme for the magazine happens quite naturally. Either we will have noticed a trend or pattern emerging in the work that we encounter or is shared with us, or we’ll return to an idea we previously had if we feel the timing is now right. We always say that the theme has to be both timely and timeless; they have to be relevant to contemporary time, but also be able to withstand the passing of time and continue to be useful, provocative, unexpected or thoughtful.



Tell us about the new issue and about the process of making it!


MA: The talent issue has just been released and marks the start of the Talent programme which will run throughout 2020 and includes the magazine, as well as an internationally touring exhibition and events. Photographers were able to share two bodies of work with us via an open call which closed in March 2019. From there, we looked at every photograph (this year we received 30,457 images in total) and slowly work towards a final selection of 20 photographers and then start working on layouts and commissioning a portfolio text for each artist. We receive submissions from all parts of the world which introduces us to hundreds of photographers we weren’t previously aware of. It’s such a joy to have so many ideas and projects shared with us.


How important is nurturing relationships with your previous contributors and talents and how would you describe these?


EM: That is very important, I would say essential. It is so precious to see how artistic practice evolves, and it is a big privilege to be involved in that growth and be able to offer a platform to it.




Each year, Foam invites photographers to submit their portfolios via the Talent Call, an international search for exceptionally talented photographers under the age of 35. Selected photographers gain international exposure and recognition within the photography industry through a number of career-building opportunities offered by Foam, including publication in Foam Magazine, participation in a travelling group exhibition. and the opportunity for their work to be added to the prestigious Art Collection Deutsche Börse of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation in Frankfurt, funding partner of the Talent Programme. This year Foam received 1.619 submissions from 69 countries.


The 13th edition of Foam Talent Call ran until 24 March 2019. The selected photographers included in Foam Magazine #55 Talent Issue are:


Aàdesokan (Nigeria), Sofia Borges (Brazil), Adji Dieye (Senegal/Italy), Rahima Gambo (Nigeria), Karla Hiraldo Voleau (France/Dominican Republic), Benoît Jeannet (Switzerland/Spain), Luther Konadu (Canada/Ghana), Matthew Leifheit (United States), Douglas Mandry (Switzerland), Philip Montgomery (United States), Camillo Pasquarelli (Italy), Simone Sapienza (Italy), Micha Serraf (Zimbabwe/South Africa), Hashem Shakeri (Iran), Gao Shang (China), Kamonlak Sukchai (Thailand), Guanyu Xu (China/United States), Yorgos Yatromanolakis (Greece), Alba Zari (Italy/Thailand).


To read about the Foam Talent Call 2020 click here



Foam is an internationally operating organisation in the field of photography, based in Amsterdam.


Foam Magazine is an international photography magazine that appears three times a year, each issue surrounding a specific theme. The magazine functions as a platform for all genres of photography: from documentary to fine art and from contemporary to historical. Both well-known and relatively unknown talent can be found in Foam Magazine.


One of its noteworthy and distinguishing characteristics is the high-quality, innovative graphic design, chosen for each issue, in which form and content always reinforce one another. Original, distinguishing, and always exceedingly relevant. The magazine is distributed in over 25 countries worldwide.