In 2017 I commissioned photographer and anthropologist Liz Hingley to make new work for exhibition in collaboration with Syrian families. Through workshops the participants contributed their ideas and stories and Liz explored the city and its collections to create a project that represented how people settled in Coventry and made the city the culturally rich place it is today.
Following a series of collaborative workshops and conversations the new work was a culmination of sculptural works, made by local craftspeople in silver and gold, a display from the historical collections that represented time and ‘keys to the city’ and a series of images in lightboxes. Exhibited as a contemporary gallery installation in a unique structure in the darkness the work appeared like a place of worship, a space for quiet contemplation. Representing each of the participants the work reflects on the value and meaning of personal experiences, people’s journeys and arrivals in a new city.
The installation was exhibited at The Herbert Museum & Art Gallery from December 2017 to February 2018.
This project was commissioned by GRAIN Projects and is generously supported by Arts Council England, Rubery Owen Trust, Coventry University and The Herbert Art Gallery.
It was an enormous pleasure working with Sam Ivin and the Appetite team on ‘Settling’, a new community photography archive in Stoke on Trent. Sam led workshops with people that have made their home in the city, working with individuals who had moved to Stoke following WW2 and those that were seeking asylum from present day war atrocities. A diverse range of stories, cultures, memories and visual references were represented.
Following numerous workshops hosted by community groups Sam worked with the team at the Big Feast Festival to curate a small display of people’s photographs.
Photography is part of the people’s journey; from the places, family and communities they left to their new lives in Stoke-on-Trent. Sam created an archive of photographs that spoke of arrival, familiar memories and new experiences, bold and brave journeys and extraordinary situations. The residency took place from June to September 2017 and we are now looking at ways in which we can sustain the activity and develop the archive.
Following an Open Call process it was a priviledge to award emerging photographer and collaborative practitioner Sam Ivin the residency in Stoke on Trent, in partnership with Appetite and Creative People and Places. Saw was appointed to create a new community photography archive and exhibition. Sam had previously made ‘Lingering Ghosts’, a celebrated project in partnership with Fabrica.
‘Lingering Ghosts’, saw Sam visit Sanctus St. Mark’s, a refugee support group based in St. Mark’s church in Stoke-on-Trent. This body of work, commissioned by Fabrica, Treviso, Italy, saw him working with refugees in all parts of the UK. Since publishing the award winning and critically acclaimed Lingering Ghosts in February 2016 and exhibiting the work around Europe Ivin has become increasingly interested in the integration of migrants in UK cities.
Sam Ivin is a photographer whose work focuses on social issues and the people connected with them. His pictures attempt to demonstrate the impact situations have on his subjects. By documenting their stories and perspectives he hopes to provide a more personal, tangible understanding of them. He studied Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport graduating in 2014. Since then he has been awarded numerous significant photography prizes including the Magnum Photos Graduate Photographers Award, May 2017, The GMC First Prize, Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, March 2017, the Best Graduate Single Image, Runner Up, British Journal of Photography (BJP) Breakthrough Award 2016 and the Winner of Best Single Image, Human Category at Renaissance Photography Prize 2015.
The project is a collaboration between GRAIN Projects and Appetite, supported by Arts Council England and is part of the Creative People and Places Programme.
Curating and producing The State of Photography symposium, held in 2017, provided an opportunity to explore, debate and review how photographers and photography practice develops and responds in our current challenging times.
Acclaimed and outstanding photographers and artists who document the world around us were invited to showcase their recent work. Each have different approaches to making their work. They have been artist, story teller, observer, participant, explorer and poet. Their work has been made through collaboration, participation, community engagement, research and obstinacy.
During the Symposium we heard from the perspective of the photographer, curator and academic. They shared our concerns about the present and offered a diverse range of practices, experiences and stories that document the state of humanity and the world today. The documentary role of photography is changing, particularly as work is commissioned and made for gallery settings. Photography can impart the greatest truth of our times and sheds light on injustices, inequality and other aspects of our society. It has been and remains one of the strongest vehicles for change as photographers explore polities, gender, society, sexuality, diversity, economics and environment. It seems today – a time of political unrest, flux and crisis – more essential than ever to explore the role that photography can play.
Speakers included celebrated photographers, curators and academics, those that create self-initiated projects and commissioned bodies of work; Andrew Jackson, Anthony Luvera, Camilla Brown, Edgar Martins, John Hillman, Kajal Nisha Patel, Michelle Sank and Simon Constantine.
Inviting acclaimed photographer and anthropologist Liz Hingley to respond to the Grain Projects Commission Opportunity and work with Syrian families and refugees in Coventry was a fantastic proposition. Commissioning Liz to make new work for an installation at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, during the City of Culture selection phase, created an ideal opportunity for collaboration. Having got to know Liz and her work ‘Under Gods’, ‘The Jones Family’ and seeing the results of her work from her time in Shanghai, she was ideally suited for a project that engaged with the community and told a unique story of people and their city.
This major survey exhibition of Idris Khan’s work at The New Art Gallery Walsall features many of his significant bodies of work drawing from his range of interests from classical music to religion. Khan works with photography, sculpture, film, painting and installation adding layers upon layers to conceal and reveal.
As well as his earliest work White Court (2001), a photograph of a squash court taken at his former primary school in Walsall where his mother use to play, there are new sculptural works, seen for the first time. The exhibition is a quiet, sublime, sensitive and immaculate monochrome display.
Working in collaboration with photographer Mark Wright to present his ongoing project at Format International Photography Festival 2017 and to commission new writing by Gemma Padley and Simon Constantine in the form of a new exhibition and publication.
The work is made with the communities affected by fracking decisions in northern England. In his work Wright considers the experiences, lifestyles and habitats of the communities affected by policy decisions that will impact on the landscape and their way of life. Wright has spent time with these communities working on interviews and photography. Village, rural and agricultural communities are the most obviously affected by national government policies relating to the new gas drilling procedures by giant, global chemical companies.
Wright’s practice is based upon in-depth research, written material and absorbing himself in a landscape or community. In the new work fracking is clearly seen, not as a ‘local’ problem but one that gravitates around a central place and a collection of people. The environmental and social concerns are universal and relevant to all of us. In his work Wright makes the issues identifiable rather than literal or geographically specific.
Evolution Explored is an exhibition of works curated from the Magnum Photos archive and presented in the public realm in Shrewsbury, from February – April 2017. The project is a Grain Projects collaboration with Shrewsbury Business Improvement District and The Hive Arts Centre.Acclaimed photography agency Magnum Photos have worked in collaboration to curate an exhibition of stunning photographs made internationally by the world’s leading photographers.
The exhibition will be on show at two locations. The event coincides with International Darwin Day and Darwin’s birthday on 12th February.
The exhibition also links to Magnum Photos’ 70th anniversary which is to be marked by a series of international events, projects and partnerships.
Magnum Photos is a photographic co-operative owned by its photographer members. Noted for its diverse and distinctive work, Magnum chronicles the world and interprets its people, events, issues and personalities. It was founded in 1947 by four pioneers, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and David Seymour.
Paris Photo, in its 20th anniversary year, was an inspiring, mesmerising and hectic celebration of all things photography. It was wonderful to experience the fair and all the participating events, galleries and museums around the city in such a vibrant atmosphere after the horrific attacks and tragedy of last year.
The fair included over 180 galleries and publishers in the most beautiful of spaces, the Grand Palais. On entering one is in no doubt that one is at the largest, most prestigious and important photography fair internationally. Amongst my favourite galleries Gagosian, Flowers, Purdy Hicks, Hamiltons and East Wing stood out. The fair showcased work by the most established galleries and masters of photography as well as smaller and more emerging galleries and photographers. Walking and negotiating yourself through the very busy isles and stumbling across photographs by Cecil Beaton, Edward Weston, Man Ray, Weegee and Sally Mann, to name but a few, was such a treat. The fair was a hotbed of the very best in photography old and new.
Paris Photo 2016
As well as the commercial galleries Paris Photo offers so much more and ‘The Pencil of Culture’ exhibition was a highlight. The exhibition included 100 remarkable works drawn from the Centre Pompidou designed to tell the story of its acquisitions. The institution has over 400,000 prints in its collections, one of the most important photography centres in the world. Andreas Gursky, Sherrie Levine, August Sander and Allan Sekula were amongst those on display. The title of the exhibition ‘Pencil of Culture’ refers to the progression of photography from Fox Talbot’s Pencil of Nature and remarks on photography’s progression to become an indicator of culture.
The fair, the participating galleries, curated spaces and the photo books space, which was a hive of activity, were a significant reflection on the changes in photography, photography consumption and audience engagement.
On venturing outside the fair and to three of my favourite spaces for photography I visited Le Bal, Jeu De Paume and Maison Europeene de la Photographie, all of which had the most stunning, unique and fascinating exhibitions.
Le Bal was hosting ‘Provoke’ an exhibition of Japanese photography from the 1960s which took the audience through political and social change and tensions via documentary photography and the back lash from art photography at that time. The exhibition was dynamic in its curation and mixed media and a feast for the eyes and senses informing us so much about Japanese society at that time. Jeu De Paume had the equally provocative and extraordinary ‘Uprisings’. This exhibition asked the audience member, what makes us rise up? The exhibition explored upheaval, tension, burden, unrest, insurrections and condemnations without scenes of aggression and violence. Both exhibitions showed people in solidarity through times of conflict and the essential role that photography plays as document and vehicle for change.
Maison Europeenne de la Photographie had five remarkable exhibitions, too many to see in one visit. Focussing on two solo exhibitions in the museum, the photographs of Andreas Serrano celebrated his portraiture and the way in which he depicts our troubled times through the people he chooses to photograph. His America series featured portraits of Ku Klux Klan members, beauty queens and many individuals of post 9/11 American politics and society including Donald Trump. The series made in his native Cuba were portraits of the beautiful, eccentric and bizaar. All were contemporary, loud and troubled portraits and yet evocative of the oil paintings of portraits by old masters. Works from his ‘Sign of the Times’ were also exhibited, a series of large scale portraits of homeless people, also exhibited were their signs as messages for help.
In huge contrast was Harry Callahan’s ‘Aix-en-Provence’. This exhibition featured the photographer’s black and white photographs from the late 1950s when he secured a sabbatical from his teaching at the Institute of Design in Chicago and settled in Provence. He photographed figures moving through the lights and shadows of the old town reminiscent of a scene from a Hitchcock film.
Paris Photo will never disappoint but 2017 was a remarkable year and befitting of an anniversary.
Ewen Spencer’s ‘Kick Over the Statues’ at Fabrica for Brighton Photo Biennial is an energetic, atmospheric, statement exhibition. Spencer is known for shooting for visually driven style magazines, focusing on youth culture and creating artwork and campaigns for bands such as The Streets and The White Stripes. The photographer created this work during the summer, along the streets of London’s Notting Hill Carnival, setting out to celebrate the culture, style and subcultures.
The exhibition is an honest depiction of youth culture and the streets. Here subculture is in the hands of the young, as they take and reinterpret the youth cultures of the past, re-appropriate, occupy the streets and urban spaces and fill them full of colour, energy and atmosphere. The space at Fabrica is curated to show the work as a visual, imposing feast, jauntily dominating and creating an unnerving but very enjoyable experience.