Countdown to WHOLE festival – Interviews with Photographers Chris & Eric Phillips, Victor Luque, Pedro Pablo Errazuriz, and Rafael Medina
@ Victor Luque
Just two more months to go! The third edition of WHOLE – United Queer Festival will take place June 14th–17th at Gremmniner See just next to Ferropolis. Tickets are still available OVER HERE. This is the only festival of this kind in Europe creating an inclusive environment for the acceptance of all gender identities & sexual orientations, in a relaxing, outdoor environment, far from the hectic confines of the city. We discussed the core of the festival and last year impressions with photographers Chris & Eric Phillips, Victor Luque, Pedro Pablo Errazuriz, and Rafael Medina.
In only two editions, WHOLE festival managed to create an event as we’d never seen before. A safe space for queers from all the spectrum where you can enjoy yourself freely and exchange with people from all around the world. Last year included 11 collectives. This year the number has grown to 27, see the full line up here. A festival by the queers for the queers, where feminine representation and persons or colour are not underrepresented, where not only electronic music, but also workshops, performances, and discussions have been planned all along.
Thinking about it, it’s crazy that an event like this hasn’t happened before but, on the other hand, this is finally happening now. We’re so excited to be a part of this adventure because WHOLE is way much more than just a festival, it’s a lifestyle, a movement. The Whole festival is a real game changer.
Waiting for the next edition, we thought about having a little visual flashback on last year’s edition with photographers Chris & Eric Phillips, Victor Luque, Pedro Pablo Errazuriz, and Rafael Medina that were taking pictures there
Chris & Eric Phillips
KALTBLUT: The summer is here finally and a lot of things are happening, such as this year’s WHOLE Festival. In last year’s festival, what was your own personal experience? Eric: WHOLE was a utopian micro-universe of queerness, a welcome escape from the daily oppression of heteronormativity. If queer people were in control, the world would be a much better place. It was amazing to experience what that would be like.
KALTBLUT: How would you describe your visual aesthetic as a photographer? Eric: Being twins, we have many similarities and the same can be said about our work, although our aesthetics differ slightly. I guess you could say both our work is queer and colorful.
KALTBLUT: Was this your first time shooting at a festival? Chris: I usually have my camera with me, so I’ve shot a few times before at other festivals for fun.
KALTBLUT: What specific approach did you bring to this experience? Eric: We wanted to capture the richness of the audience, that was the highlight of the festival.
KALTBLUT: How do you believe the philosophy of WHOLE – United Queer Festival is matching yours? Chris: Being a photographer has always been about connecting with people and also finding a way to celebrate what’s different. I guess that this is a similar motivation to also to photograph there besides organizing it. Especially because WHOLE is so much about expressing yourself.
KALTLBUT: How is it so important to have an event like this taking place? Eric: Being queer can often be an isolating experience, so being around this many inspiring people can be incredibly empowering.
KALTBLUT: What was your favorite photo from the series you shot from last year’s festival and why? Chris: I quite like a photo that I took from a friend (Lea) swimming naked in the lake. Her red hair really contrasts with the dark blue water.
KALTBLUT: The summer is here finally and a lot of things are happening, such as this year’s WHOLE Festival. In last year’s festival, what was your own personal experience? Victor: It was great to spend time among many familiar faces in a much bigger playground than our usual gardens. The music was outstanding. There was a cheeky feeling of freedom and people made good use of it. I can say that it was probably the best festival I had ever been so I guess that I will go back.
KALTBLUT: How would you describe your visual aesthetic as a photographer? Victor: I’m attracted to certain moods. I try to create and capture them through stories with an open-ended narrative. I want my pictures, more than giving answers, to raise questions in the viewer. My visual aesthetic follows these goals. When looking at pictures from a festival, one expects to see a crowd moving together. Even when this movement can be visually very inspiring, I could not help but focus on the unique individuals when I took the photos last year.
KALTBLUT: Was this your first time shooting at a festival? Victor: Yes, it was. And also the first time I used my camera on LSD.
KALTBLUT: What specific approach did you bring to this experience? Victor: Apart from that drop, I didn’t change my approach. I often work in documentary photography which requires me to be patient until something that catches my attention shows up. After dancing all night, the morning blue hour was my whole trigger this time.
KALTBLUT: How do you believe the philosophy of WHOLE – United Queer Festival is matching yours? Victor: Being outdoors with a bunch of queers on heat really matches with my life philosophy. An outburst of self-liberation surrounded by nature with the perfect soundtrack.
KALTLBUT: How is it so important to have an event like this taking place? Victor: It is the first queer electronic festival in Europe, and this is a big step for our community. It’s impressive the strong feeling of belonging that shaking our butts together create and how political dancing still is and has always been through queer history.
KALTBLUT: What was your favorite photo from the series you shot from last year’s festival and why? Victor: I have two favorites and I couldn’t pick out one of them. I was walking around the camping area on Monday morning when I saw somebody’s legs and ass showing through the opening of the tent. I stole this shoot. I didn’t ask for permission, which is rare for me, but I thought they wouldn’t be bothered as we were probably sharing the same state of mind. This was a fitting image of how relaxed people felt, and even when I could have seen it as a sexy invitation, I saw a lot of innocence in it. There is something very spiritual about being on your own, enjoying the sunlight on your naked body. In the other one, two straight kids were truly enjoying themselves and their behavior was unfiltered when I pointed my camera at them. Labeling them as hetero can sound strange when this festival is about inclusivity (you can never be too politically correct nowadays) but I’d like to think that this was their first time hanging out with such a colorful and wild crowd, and the fact that they felt welcomed like everybody else around them. Straight dudes can be queer too.
KALTBLUT: The summer is here finally and a lot of things are happening, such as this year’s WHOLE Festival. In last year’s festival, what was your own personal experience? Pedro: I had an amazing experience where time froze for three days so all of us from the queer Berlin family could live our dream together and experience our longing for absolute safeness, acceptance and carefree fun. It wasn’t new though since I already went to Whole in 2017 where I also took pictures. But that made it even more special to witness how this event is growing and bringing and bonding in more people together. Also, in that version I got to meet my boyfriend, so you can imagine how especial Whole is for me. As an attendant, it gives me the feeling that I am privileged for experiencing something unique and magical, and I’ve been waiting all this year for the next version. I’m from South America, and there we have nothing like festivals, not at least like the ones here in Northern Europe. I always wanted to go to one, but after Whole, I don’t think I could enjoy any other. The festivity vibe that you feel is hard to achieve in other festivals that are more straight oriented and where queer people struggle to fit. On the other side, is nothing like the gay circuit parties where I personally always felt constantly assessed and dismiss in the pure function of my proximity /remoteness to a perfect muscle body. In this spirit, Whole for me is one of a kind experience that I long for the whole year and I am always contradicted between the impetus to tell everyone I know about it, and on the other side the fear that if too many people get to know about it the dream could go away.
KALTBLUT: How would you describe your visual aesthetic as a photographer? Pedro: I take pictures mostly for myself, as a form of keeping a visual a record of my life. I’m a bit geeky and obsessive about it, I have a whole google drive full of pictures classified by date and events dating back from 2004 until now. I picture my self when older laughing and getting emotional watching these photos, and I actually I already do sometimes when I’m more melancholic and I start to roll down pictures from 2007, 2008, etc, … As for the aesthetic, sometimes I embarrass my self for how millennial I am, in the sense that you can so obviously tell that I grew up in the 90s and early 2000s and I got super influenced by its pop culture. My boyfriend says that romcoms screwed my thinking haha. I like everything that reflects or reminds me of those times, even if just emotionally. I use analog cameras from then, or disposable cameras whose technology froze in those years and produce pictures that are so simple but at the same time so hypnotic, like you feel dragged to them and then you just want to play Mario Kart lol. I also love taking polaroids, and of course experimenting with other cameras, lately, for example, I’m using a Vito C which was a super popular family camera in West Germany in the 60s.
KALTBLUT: Was this your first time shooting at a festival? Pedro: No, I also took pictures in Whole in 2017. Those are my only experiences.
KALTBLUT: What specific approach did you bring to this experience? Pedro: So I actually like to photograph mostly people, I love portraits, and since I’m very personal about my pictures, I photograph more than nothing people I know and with whom I have a connection of some kind. At Whole, I did some Polaroids with that aim, but then most of the pictures I took were different from what I usually do, and I was trying to capture the feeling of being on the festival, like to enrich my record for when I see them again in a few years. I focused on people that looked like they were right where they had to be, having fun and also chilled, and where you could see a lot of colors. I didn’t want to make a portrait or to make anyone the center of the picture though, but just really nice elements enriching the final frame, because to me Whole was not a festival of instagramers and social media stars, but one where we were all queens on our own and I hope I could capture that. I think Ferropolis, and especially the lake stage, gives great opportunities to do that because of the beautiful effect of the lake under than sun.
KALTBLUT: How do you believe the philosophy of WHOLE – United Queer Festival is matching yours? Pedro: Well I think I already described it, but yes, it gives me the idea of that we are not alone on this, but that actually we are a lot and when we are together we can move mountains, even if it’s just for three days. I really like the “United Queer Festival” thing, it gives a political perspective and I’m hopeful that the magic that happens in those days is not ephemeral, but remains in forms of new friendships, relationships, good memories, changes of mindsets, and empowerment to dare to do all that we are always thinking about but we think we don’t have what it takes to achieve it and then we just procrastinate it until it dies. It’s a super energizing experience.
KALTLBUT: How is it so important to have an event like this taking place? Pedro: Well it is just crazy that there wasn’t one before, right? I mean you have dozens of festivals around Europe every year, quite a few of them around Berlin, and then you have the most amazing queer scene happening in our town, it was only logical that it would happen, right? And yet, it didn’t until Whole. I think for many folks normal festivals are not welcoming and challenging instead, so it’s cool that we now have this safe space to have fun being our selves without even thinking about.
KALTBLUT: What was your favorite photo from the series you shot from last year’s festival and why? Pedro: I think my favorite one is the one in the Crane with one guy is surrounded by ravers and is giving his back and raising his arms like in a sign of victory, which is exactly how it felt for me that moment, the very lasts of the Festival when Freddy K was closing. It reminds me to Reese Witherspoon at the end of Legally Blond rallying his class of 2004 “We did it!!” (millennial movie reference warning lol)
KALTBLUT: The summer is here finally and a lot of things are happening, such as this year’s WHOLE Festival. In last year’s festival, what was your own personal experience? Rafael: I have been to both editions of the whole festival. And even thou both were somehow different because of the change of the location and size (last years it grows much bigger than the first). The general feeling was the same. It feels like a queer utopia. Everyone was so friendly and open. To live together for these 3 days. It was a microworld where I could see that it was possible to have emotional support and freedom despite your self-expression, gender orientation, and sexual preferences. Cooperation and solidarity without judgment. I could experience what community really means. It felt like a non-normative world was possible.
KALTBLUT: How would you describe your visual aesthetic as a photographer? Rafael: I’ m interested in documenting queer life. Here in Berlin and also before when I was living in Rio, where I come from. I´ve been taking pictures of parties, portraying queer people. I also shoot nudes. The awareness of positivity representation is something important for me. I think it’s fundamental that we represent also non-normative body types and expressions. I’m interested in what makes every one of us unique. I´ve been working with analog photography for the past 2 years and I explore different possibilities that the film can give me. For example lately, I´ve been experimenting on double exposure and how one image can contain multiple layers of time.
KALTBLUT: Was this your first time shooting at a festival? Rafael: Nope. Well, I already shot the first edition of Whole Festival and also been shooting several festivals in Brazil, but most of them were more commercial Festival. This is the first time I have the chance to shoot an independent festival.
KALTBLUT: What specific approach did you bring to this experience? Rafael: My aim during my photography work during the festival is to bring a point of view of someone who is also part of the festival. I often make an effort not to just have an objective outside view. But more of a feeling of the inside of how I as a gay man and a dance music lover experience the festival.
KALTBLUT: How do you believe the philosophy of WHOLE – United Queer Festival is matching yours? Rafael: Well I think that the whole aim is to create a sex body positive environment where queer bodies can express themselves in a joyful and freeway. Creating a unique sense of community thru cooperation and affection. I myself also believe that we should give voice and space for queer expressions. And that’s what I try to do with my photography work. Give visibility to a greater range of bodies, despite their size, age, ethnicity, etc…
KALTLBUT: How is it so important to have an event like this taking place? Rafael: I think that lately the LGBTQ agenda has been taken by corporate interests and the other LGBTQ festivals that I know, end up becoming a space for a majority of rich gay white men. I think that an independent queer festival that celebrates diversity and gives space for self sexual expression without judgment is fundamental not only as a safe space for the queer community but also as an example of what’s possible when we cooperate with one another.
KALTBLUT: What was your favorite photo from the series you shot from last year’s festival and why? Rafael: This is one of my favorite portrait from my series of double exposures. This picture is done completely without planning. I photograph 2 times without knowing exactly how the images are gonna turn out at the end. For me is a challenging experience where I´m able to let something unexpected appear that I don’t have complete control of it. With these pictures, I can think of how one person is influenced by their surroundings. The image challenges our dualistic notion of inner feeling and outside perception. There are no boundaries between these 2 sides.