Skip navigation


warning: Creating default object from empty value in /var/www/vhosts/ on line 33.

This fall, Amsterdam—known for its innovative photo community— will welcome a new photography festival to its Dutch district. Called Unseen, the festival hopes to be a festival that, well, viewers have never seen before, with a focus on new and emerging talent as well as an aim to showcase never-before-seen work from established favorites including Richard Avedon, Steven Klein, Helmut Newton and Edward Steichen, among others.

Taking place from Sept. 19-23 at Amsterdam’s Westergasfabriek, the fair comprises more than 50 galleries hailing from around the world. With photography from places as diverse as Japan and New York, Dubai and Finland, the scope of the work will range from documentary to conceptual to experimental. Highlights include Miles Aldridge’s Immaculee #3 (Red Madonna), 2012, which reaffirms the long standing relationship between photography and iconographic painting, but pushes the boundary of what we expect as a viewer by asking the virgin figure to maintain eye contact and acknowledge the image maker. Also of interest is Zanzibar, 2010, by Chloe Sells. The American photographer explores the idea of land and nostalgia through her experimental darkroom C-prints. Colorful and graphic with bold colors and strong shapes, yet abstract and ambiguous, her images inspire thoughts of place and placelessness.

While there are many photography fairs around the world, Unseen works to offer a few additions to the typical fair. There will be a collection of affordable photographs, all priced under 1,000 euro (approximately $1280), to both help young photographers reach a new audience, as well as allow the young collector, or photography appreciator to invest in affordable work. And for the book connoisseur, Offprint Amsterdam will be at the fair, curating a new collection of self published and limited edition books.

You can learn more about the galleries featured and the day-to-day events here. Unseen is a project initiated by Foam, Platform A and Vandejong.

Your rating: None


What has been seen cannot be unseen, or simply cannot be unseen, is a catchphrase used to signify one’s incredulous reaction to a revelation of anomalies found in any given image. In similar vein to When You See It…, this widespread axiom suggests that one literally cannot forget or get rid of memories after visually experiencing displeasing photos or videos. While it originated with shock sites and images created with disturbing intent, the phrase can also be applied to images with hidden designs that you continue to notice after they have been pointed out, for example the arrow within the Fed Ex logo.


Although the phrase itself has been used for years to describe the inability to forget emotionally trying experiences[6], its online usage began sometime in 2005. One of the earliest examples appeared on the Tribe Magazine forums[4] to describe Tubgirl on November 3rd, 2005. In 2006, a thread on the eBaum’s World Forum[5] was started, asking other users to share some images that cannot be erased from their minds.


Usage picked up in 2007[13], coinciding with the creation of a demotivational poster featuring the phrase in caption. It was also used to describe looking at 4chan for the first time on the inCrysis gaming forum.[1] Ten days later, it was used in a comment[2] on a Neatorama post, also in reference to Tubgirl. In October 2007, humor blog Blame it on the Voices[3] used it in a photo description, but the image has since been removed.

The single topic blog Can’t Be Unseen[7] was registered in September 2009, focused on photos juxtaposing one image with a second pointing out its design flaws or hidden imageries. In 2010, several blogs began using the phrase as a tag for visually striking or odd images including the Daily What[8], Geekologie[9] and Blame It On The Voices.[10] Buzzfeed[12] highlighted a series of images that cannot be unseen in 2011 and Tumblr tag[11] also hosts a collection of these photos

Notable Examples

Search Interest

Search for the phrase began in October 2007, with “cannot be unseen” overtaking in popularity in November 2009. However, they both have similar search patterns, with matching peaks and drops.

External References

[1] inCrysis – 4chan is full of terrorists!!!!!!!!!!!!111

[2] Neatorama – Comment using “what has been seen…”

[3] Blame It On The Voices – Elvis Camel Toe

[4] Tribe Forums – Cannot be unseen

[5] eBaum’s World Forum – Things that you can’t unsay

[6] Third World Traveler – Excerpts from Power Politics, 2001

[7] Can’t Be Unseen – Home

[8] Geekologie – Posts tagged “cannot be unseen”

[9] The Daily What – Posts tagged “cannot be unseen”

[10] Blame It On The Voices – Posts tagged “cannot be unseen”

[11] Tumblr – Posts tagged “cannot be unseen”

[12] Buzzfeed – 21 Things That Cannot Be Unseen

[13] GenMay Forums – post requesting "Cannot be Unseen cat

Your rating: None