Producer, Curator, Project Manager, Mentor and Consultant specialising in photography, commissioning, exhibitions, the public realm and socially engaged practice.

Interested in projects that explore representation, identity, communities and engagement.

Director of Grain Projects  www.grainphotographyhub.co.uk

Providing project management, production, commissioning, research and consultancy services, working with a range of artists, organisations, museums, galleries and libraries as well as private sector and commercial clients.

This blog includes examples of my work under the first heading Projects and images and work I have admired in Journal.

Tweets @NicolaShipley1 and @grainphotohub

Noises in the Blood; Lua Ribeira

Noises in the Blood,  Lua Ribeira
Noises in the Blood, Lua Ribeira












Working with critically acclaimed photographer Lúa Ribeira and Argentea Gallery to exhibit her award winning body of work Noises in the Blood was a wonderful experience and provided an opportunity for audiences to see much of the work for the first time.  The exhibition took place soon after Lua was awarded the Jerwood Photography Prize and just prior to her been nominated to Magnum Photos.

Noises in the Blood is inspired by contemporary Jamaican dancehall ritual.  Made in collaboration with a group of British Jamaican women in Birmingham, Ribeira recreated scenes from dancehall culture at the participants’ homes. By embracing the impossibility of fully understanding this cultural expression so very different from her own, Ribeira playfully dissects the ideas of femininity and sexuality within the performances.   Ribeira does not intend the images to comment on the Dancehall, but to become the ritual itself.

The power of the transformations of the women and the innovation and provocation that they engage, often clash with Western ideas of femininity. ‘Mythological powers, the concept of female divinity and sacredness in Afro-Caribbean culture, were very present in my visual search. Fed by their folklore and my imagination, universal subjects such as birth, love, death and sex are central to the encounters.’ – Lúa Riberia

The title is borrowed from author Dr Carolyn Cooper’s book ‘Noises in the Blood: Orality, Gender, and the”Vulgar” Body of Jamaican Popular Culture’. Through Noises in the Blood Ribeira did not attempt to produce a series that reinforced the mass media’s view of dancehall and the female body as a denigration of women.  She did not wish to ignore the display of the participants’ bodies nor their perception of femininity to create westernised versions of the dancehall ritual. Both strategies, she felt, would ultimately fail to acknowledge the complexity of cultural expression.

Lúa Ribeira Cendán (born 1986) is a Spanish documentary photographer based in Bristol. S he graduated in Graphic Design Degree BAU, Barcelona 2011, and with a BA in Documentary Photography from the University of South Wales, Newport in 2016. She was awarded the Jerwood Photoworks Grant 2018, the Reginald Salisbury Fund 2016, Firecracker Grant 2015 and Ditto Press Scholarship in 2015. She has participated in The Independent Air Residency, Denmark 2015, Photo España 2014, Emcontros da Imagem Discovery Awards 2015, Gazebook Photobook Festival 2015,  and ‘A Fine Beginning’, Contemporary Welsh Photography exhibition London 2014 . Her work was selected by Susan Meiselas for inclusion in Raw View magazine’s “Women looking at Women” issue and has featured in the British Journal of Photography.

For the exhibition we commissioned new writing by curator, writer and photographer Colin Pantall, ‘Lose the Noise and you Lose the Meaning.   To read more visit GRAIN Projects website. 


Inverted Landscapes – Camera Obscura; David Bethell

Camera Obscura, David Bethell
Camera Obscura, David Bethell










Having worked with artist David Bethell on two previous occasions it was exciting to invite him to respond to the Peak District landscape and to create a camera obscura.  In his practice David is inspired by the rural landscape and natural environment.   He frequently uses performance, film and photography in his work to animate his installations and sculptures within the location and to explore a narrative.  David worked with GRAIN Projects to create a unique camera obscura for Ilam Park in the Peak District, inspired by the landscape and heritage there and in collaboration with the National Trust.

Ilam Park is a 158-acre country park situated in Ilam, on both banks of the River Manifold five miles north west of Ashbourne, and is owned and managed by the National Trust. The estate includes the remains of Ilam Hall, built in the 1820s.  Nearby, within the village, a Saxon church stands which houses the shrine of a Mercian king.  Most significant is the beautiful landscape, an area of outstanding natural beauty, including Bunster hill just beyond the church and the magnificent example of a picturesque landscape in the foreground.

It is the church that forms the basis and design for David Bethell’s site specific, temporary and largescale work which functions as a camera obscura. Visitors were able to engage and experience the surroundings as an inverted landscape from within the installation.   The commission  captured the pastoral and picturesque landscape and the immense beauty of the position.   David is now creating a legacy plate, inspired by the images captured by the camera obscura and a  Wedgwood plate from the eighteenth century Imperial dinner service created for Catherine II, that featured the same view of Ilam.   For more information read the commissioned writing by Selina Oakes and see www.grainphotographyhub.co.uk


Commission; Indre Serpytyte

Image of Trench Art Vase from ebay
Image of Trench Art Vase from eBay














Commissioning acclaimed artist Indre Serpytyte to research and make new work in response to the history of women and conflict in Birmingham has been inspiring.

Both world wars radically altered the conception of the domestic and its associated realms of decoration and display, especially in terms of gender and labour. With women being drafted into industrial labour, such as working in munitions factories and men sent to fight in war, the ways in which the home was occupied, used, maintained and thought of shifted dramatically.

Throughout the war, the home became a place of waiting and loss, repositories of memory, as well as objects and artefacts sent home from family and friends involved in the war abroad.  Domestic objects acquired uncanny significances, reminders of death as much as domestic order, figuring absences as they haunted shelves and mantelpieces.    No more is this more unsettlingly the case than in the vases made from spent ammunition casings, many of which were decorated with ornaments depicting flowers or commemorative inscriptions and imagery.

Mostly women had made the original ammunition casings which were sent over for the use in battle, and which were then returned by those who had used them, though now bearing the marks of domesticity from the sites associated with home. But this home to which these vases were sent and which they reference in the manner of their ornamentation and their shapes was now a very different one; not least because many of the women who were often the recipients of these vases were often working long shifts and sometimes rehoused by the factories that had created the casings. The vases were, then, both a memory of a conception of a home no longer there, sometimes quite literally, and the very things which had so unsettled that notion and, in fact, had destroyed its physical fabric abroad.

The GRAIN project with Indre will use these vases as a way to explore the complex relationship between domesticity, ornament, labour, class, gender, war and trauma that these vases contain and gather. Through various forms of display, which we are currently considering, the project will explore the forms of material culture that emerge at this historically specific moment while also thinking about conflict and material culture more generally. Exploring the vases’ forms and ornamental inscriptions, the project will consider these objects and their decoration in terms of the bodily and psycho-social relations they established. The work will explore the objects and materials of war, while thinking about what stories are told in the manner of their display and contextual re-positioning.








What Photography has in Common with an Empty Vase; Edgar Martins


Edgar Martins
Edgar Martins

Taking as a starting point a collaboration with HMP Birmingham, its inmates and their families, in his new work Edgar uses the social context of incarceration in order to explore the philosophical concept of absence and address a broader consideration of the status of the photograph when questions of visibility and documentation overlap.

It has been enormously inspiring working with Edgar Martins as part of his Grain commission.  The work seeks to reflect on how one deals with the absence of a loved one, brought on by enforced separation.

From an ontological perspective it seeks answers to the following questions: how does one represent a subject that eludes visualization, that is absent or hidden from view? How does Photography address the politics of visibility in an era that privileges transparency but is also skeptical of fact? And what does it mean for photography, in an epistemological, ontological, aesthetic and ethical sense, if it does not identify with the referent but the absence of the referent?

Finally, can photography exist outside a relationship with evidence and memory and does this invalidate its capacity to document and represent?

Edgar Martin’s work employs a multifaceted approach encompassing speculative, documentary and historical archive imagery (ranging from portraiture, landscape, still-life, abstraction, etc.), text, projection, audio and photo-installation, signalling his growing inclination towards a more interdisciplinary perspective of the practice of photography and the experience of images.

This project is structured in 3 distinct chapters/moments and the outcome is a research project, photobook and exhibition.

Based on a commission by GRAIN Projects, in collaboration with HMP Birmingham and supported by Arts Council England and Birmingham City University.



Elalmadinah… To The City; Liz Hingley











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.

Settling; Sam Ivin


















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.


Photography Residency; Sam Ivin, A collaboration with Appetite

Sam Ivin, Sudan from Lingering Ghosts. 2015, Fabrica.
Sam Ivin, Sudan from Lingering Ghosts. 2015, Fabrica.
















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.

The State of Photography Symposium II

Photographers Edgar Martin and Andrew Jackson at the symposium
Photographers Edgar Martin and Andrew Jackson at the symposium











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.

Sacred Things; Liz Hingley

Liz Hingley, Dressing for mosque, Soho road, 2009 from the series Under Gods
Liz Hingley, Dressing for mosque, Soho road, 2009 from the series Under Gods

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.