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.
EAST MEETS WEST is an exhibition of contemporary photography and moving image by 16 emerging artists. This remarkable exhibition includes works that represent the talent and ambition of artists in the Midlands today.
The artists responded to an open call to practitioners based within the Midlands, or those who have graduated from a Midlands-based University in the past three years. The opportunity was devised in response to and was required to relate to the theme of ‘Leisure’ – a core theme explored in Doug Fishbone’s Leisure Land Golf exhibition at Quad, an installation exhibited during summer 2016.
The exhibition includes an ambitious, fascinating and diverse collection of interpretations, from projects delving into a broad range of ‘leisure’ activities and events including walking, swimming, collecting, drinking and travelling. The exhibition is a remarkable commentary on what people do today in their leisure time.
The exhibiting artists are; Jim Brouwer & Simon Raven, Jakki Carey, Theo Ellison, Attilio Fiumarella, Emma Georgiou, Anne Giddings, Daniel Hayes, Geoff Hodgson, Amy Huggett, Holger Martin, Tracey McMaster, George Miles, Marta Soul, Clive Wheeler and Dan Wheeler.
The project is a partnership with Format International Photography Festival, Quad, Derby and GRAIN Projects, supported by Arts Council England and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.
Seven Day Suit is an artist-led collaborative exhibition, devised and curated by a group of emerging artists working in photography and moving image. In 2015 I was invited to mentor the group as part of the Redeye Lightbox programme. On meeting the group it was decided to work towards and propose an exhibition at Brighton Photo Biennial.
In response to the Biennial’s theme of fashion and identity the artists have taken the tracksuit as their area of research and subject to explore identity and representation – personal and projected images, influences, gender, and politics of style, subcultures and the subversion of social and cultural norms. Through the tracksuit the new photographic and moving image work features identity, subcultures, politics and social and economic impact through the fashion of one garment. The tracksuit has become part of the identity of the wearer, individual and group/tribe. It is an example of fashion that transcends class and cultures, existing in both low and high fashion. The tracksuit has become historically significant, yet has remained relevant to this day, having been recurrent within developing fashion trends. Seven Day Suit opens at Brighton Photo Biennial on 1st October until 30th October 2016.
Working with curator, educator and writer Moritz Neumuller an international exhibition exchange was curated and produced to support five emerging photographers who were based in the Midlands to exhibit alongside five Madrid based practitioners. The exhibition took place at the Altamira Palace Gallery, IED Madrid in Autumn 2014 and then toured to the Library of Birmingham in Spring 2015.
The selected photographers were; David Shepherd, Dean O’Brien, Lauren Spencer, Nicola Onions and Oscar Parasiego, and from Madrid; Angela Losa, Anna Fawcus, Eoin Moylan, Inge Trienekens and Juan Pablo Fassi.
The projects exhibited were selected because of their exploration and themes of memory, identity, space, the human condition and eternal subjects in the field of photographic creation. Following the exhibition at the Library the works entered the photography archive.
Following her acclaimed exhibition in New Art West Midlands at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery Lucy was awarded the residency by Grain and Turning Point West Midlands in 2014.
The residency provided an opportunity for the artist to make new work in response to the photography collection. Following a period of research the artist chose to work with a unique Victorian carte de visite archive that has certain resonances with her own artistic concerns. Lucy is interested in the construction of class and her study of the carte de visite portraits enabled her to see first hand constructions of Victorian class, status and taste.
Lucy is a Fine Art graduate from Coventry University and is based in Birmingham. As a result of the residency Lucy exhibited the new work at the Library of Birmingham and at Croome Abbey.
Reference Works was devised as a major new photography commission in which four leading photographers made unique creative responses to the old Central Library building and to the build, transition and relocation to the new Library of Birmingham. Launched in April 2012 the commissions were awarded to Brian Griffin, Michael Collins, Andrew Lacon and Stuart Whipps. Alongside the main commissions a mentoring and professional development programme was delivered in collaboration with Birmingham City University.
The commission was established to reflect and record a momentous event in the city’s cultural history, the project, supported by Arts Council England, represented the largest and most significant photography commission ever undertaken in Birmingham.
In September 2013 four exhibitions were curated as part of the Reference Works commission, including a major new show in The Gallery at the new Library of Birmingham, complimented by a series of events and artists’ talks.
Art of Ideas was a large scale initiative devised and produced to contribute towards art market development in the region, supported by Arts Council England. The programme was delivered to promote contemporary visual art in the region making it accessible to audiences and new potential buyers. The event included a curated and selling exhibition, The Witching Hour, co-curated by Matthew Collings and Matt Price, a special issue publication about collections and collecting and a series of talks/panels that explored art market issues, including by Paul Hobson, Matthew Collings and Wendy Law.
The project had at its centre a high profile exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery entitled The Witching Hour which resulted in sales, new opportunities, commissions and a strong portfolio of new contacts. Following the success of the exhibition in Birmingham the exhibition was taken into London.