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.
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.
The giant corn dolly Kern Baby is a five meter high sculpture, created by artist Faye Claridge as a result of a research residency where she studied the images and archives of Sir Benjamin Stone. The sculpture has been exhibited at Compton Verney and at the Library of Birmingham, accompanied by a series of handmade prints entitled A Child for Sacrifice.
Claridge uses folklore and reminiscence to examine our past relationships and our current sense of national and personal identity. In making this work she also worked with young people from a Warwickshire village to re-interpret customs using artefacts from the Marton Museum of Country Bygones.
The artist duo Broomberg & Chanarin were invited to respond to a Grain commission at the Library of Birmingham. Over two years they encountered, researched and questioned the photography collections at the library. In the book ‘Spirit is a Bone’ they have made connections with the archive and their own work and concerns.
The book combines a new series of portraits made with a Russian camera which was made for face recognition and surveillance, ‘non collaborative portraits’, where human contact is not made, with a new critically engaged essay by Eyal Weizman and a response to images from the Sir Benjamin Stone archive.
In the book photographs open up the relationship between technology and ideology – theories of race, class and occupation. The photographs collected by Stone in the second half of the nineteenth century, in the Library of Birmingham archive, are visual evidence of his interest in history, science, nature and cultures. Like many, widespread in the Victorian period, Stone had a need to classify, know, collect, control and own. His album no 50 ‘Types and Races of Mankind’ includes what might be called non-consensual images, made for the scrutiny of others and to increase understanding.
The book and essay prompt questions about engaging with archives and access to them.
In 2014 Grain commissioned acclaimed British artist Mat Collishaw to make new work in response to the Library of Birmingham photography collection.
In Camera is an installation created around a series of 12 crime scene negatives made for Birmingham City Police Force during the 1930s and 1940s. Collishaw discovered these uncatalogued images, made to provide evidence in alleged in actual crimes committed in the city, hidden amongst an archive of orphaned police negatives whilst exploring the Library’s photography collections.
The exhibition of new work ran from September 2015 – January 2016 at The Gallery, Library of Birmingham, in parallel with the major survey show of Collishaw’s work at The New Art Gallery Walsall.
The work prompts questions about the medium of photography, its historical role as witness and the way in which our reading of images are affected when they shift from public to private. The work sees Collishaw continuing to explore the potential for images to be both shocking and alluring.
During 2012 artists Sophy Rickett and Bettina von Zwehl were commissioned to develop new work in response to the Sir Benjamin Stone Collection at the Library of Birmingham. The artists decided to focus upon one album in particular, a miscellaneous album which did not follow Stone’s usual rules of classification, known as Album 31.
The first outcome, which included the production and exhibition of 11 Album Pages, was exhibited at the Library of Birmingham during Spring 2014. Following the positive reviews and reception the project was extended and new support and partners sought to create a major exhibition opportunity and an international outcome.
In 2015 the new exhibition of Album 31 was shown at the Library of Birmingham Gallery and at Ffoto Galleriet, Oslo, Norway. The exhibition of new work by Rickett and von Zwehl was befitting of the Stone album where images were collated apparently at random, as if the ‘rules’ that applied to the rest of the collection were temporarily waived, so that subject matters, processes, time frames and approaches co-existed, creating a kind of chaotic spontaneity full of poetry, humour, and also some darkness.
In 2013 Mat Collishaw was invited to create a limited edition as a Grain, New Art Gallery Walsall and Library of Birmingham co-commission. The print is available to purchase at a special price. Visit www.grainphotographyhub.co.uk for more information.
Collishaw makes alluring, poetic and shocking work with a visual language that embraces diverse media. Themes and subjects from histories and religion are explored, often the darker side of nature and human character, and yet the work is beautiful and awe-inspiring. He is interested in the history of photography, in its subjects, techniques and machinery and often references histories in his work, in particular the Victorian period.
As an extension to the Reference Works project, artists Andrew Lacon and Stuart Whipps were commissioned to develop a new relationship with Guangzhou Library, China. The commission was supported by Arts Council England and the British Council.
The artists developed a new proposal that interrogated and explored the shared and divergent histories of the two cities and the series of complex relationships; the relationship between the materials of the former and current library buildings, the similarities and differences that exist between the material housed in the two libraries, and the relationships between the people of the respective cities and their former and present libraries and collections. Following a period of research and making formal studies in the studio in the UK they spent an intensive period in Guangzhou in November 2014 making and exhibiting new work throughout the duration of their stay.
The work was exhibited at Guangzhou Library and gifted to their collections as part of this international Artists Exchange and Exhibition supported by British Council, Arts Council England and the two libraries.