#ASK Marcel Kollen

For the section #ASK, we ask a number of questions to a fascinating person who is active in the field of art, design & architecture in Rotterdam. This time we ask some questions to Marcel Kollen, the CEO and initiator of Rotterdam Photo.

What is actually involved in organising a photography festival?

Of course it all starts with an idea, that has to be developed into a thorough project plan. For Rotterdam Photo, we always work with a socially engaged theme that must be widely interpretable for photographers. The idea here is that as many photographers as possible can participate. After that, it is important that the finances are taken care of, with the help of subsidies, funds, sponsors and partners. There is also an element of entrepreneurial risk involved, for example in ticket sales. In principle, we start working on the next edition nearly a year before the festival. In our case, we also work with an open call. Each edition, we are issuing an international call to photographers in which we invite them to submit their work. From this input, a jury selects the best projects, the projects that fit the chosen theme best. Then, the programming process starts. The photography, but also the side program. Consider speakers, musicians, DJs, food trucks and so on. At the same time, we start applying for the permits for the location, after which the content of the exhibitions is further designed and prepared. The promotion and communication process also starts about 3 months prior to the festival. Then we update the website and share information via advertisements, social media, posters and flyers. Finally, the real production phase begins, where the hardware is ordered and the location is set up. And then there are of course the show days themselves, and the evaluation afterwards with all the necessary administration.

What part do you enjoy the most?

Organising an event is always a lot of work, a collaborative project in which you and your team work very hard on something for a longer period of time. It all starts with an idea and then at a certain point, it is realised. And that’s what you can get a kick out of. Once it’s there as you envisioned it, that can offer a real sense of happiness. In addition, I really enjoy the photo selection process. This is quite interesting, both in content and in a visual sense.

What was the biggest challenge you experienced during the organisation?

Every year you are faced with new challenges: will you manage to get the finances in order, will you succeed in obtaining the permit? Of course, the pandemic has also played a role in the last two years: can we organise the event at all and what adjustments do we need to make for that?

How would you describe your relationship with the city of Rotterdam?

I was born and raised in Rotterdam and I consider it to be an interesting and dynamic city. In addition to the various events that I organise in the city, I also make various interesting photo reports, assignments and books about the city of Rotterdam.

What are you looking forward to the most during the upcoming edition of Rotterdam Art Week?

Actually, during Rotterdam Photo, I am often too busy to view other Rotterdam Art Week events, but Tec Art and AVL Mundo always have great exhibitions and projects. Usually, their events have a bit of a raw edge and I like that. I also think that fits well with the city of Rotterdam.