The FORMAT International Photography Festival Conference

The FORMAT International Photography Festival Conference under the festival’s theme of ‘Evidence’ occurred on Friday 10th April, on the year of FORMAT’s 10th anniversary. The day featured talks by 28 speakers split into four parts over the day: the Political, the Authentic, Scientific Evidence and The Landscape & the Evidence of Evidence. The talks were dynamic and illustrated the numerous ways photography can be applied as evidence, both artistically, politically, scientifically and socially today. Within this article I will be focusing on 7 speakers from the day, some of which were also exhibiting artists as part of the FORMAT Festival.

The first speaker Stéphanie Solinas’ talk, How Photography Invented Identity, focused on the appearance of objectivity in photography and identification. In the 1880s Alphonse Bertillon created an anthropometric method using photography to recognize repeat offenders. This process was a pre-requisite for passport photographs as identification today. Photography is the method that has endured above all others to be used as official piece of evidence.

format1©Niamh Treacy

Solinas stated that if the photograph here does not lie, it simply says nothing. That identity can only exist in relation to classification of the other. Her work Sans titre, M.Bertillon in book form asks everyone to conceive their own image of Bertillon’s 3D face. This was exhibited at QUAD Gallery during the festival.

format2    format3Alphonse Bertillon                              ©Stéphanie Solinas

Debbie Adele Cooper is Artist in Residence at W W Winters Photography, a commercial portrait studio established in Derby in the 1850s and is still active today. With support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Winters and a group of volunteers are starting to catalogue their archive. The photographs housed within Winters not only tell the history of Derby and its residents but the history of photographic processes which they have used since the studio’s inception.

Cooper takes inspiration from the glass plates found stored at winters from which she has formed two fascinating projects. She is currently photographing local people, using the same glass plate process, who look like those within the archive. The other is a life-size greenhouse created using images from the archive’s glass plate photographs. The idea was formed from seeing Winters’ dig for victory campaign, the greenhouse was shown in St. Werburgh’s Church during the festival.

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Kim Knoppers (curator at FOAM, Amsterdam) spoke on the how research and evidence are inseparable and how meaning is formed through the context seen. Knoppers referenced the 17th August 1992 Time Magazine cover, where a Bosnian Muslim appears to be held within a Serbian detention camp. This image was believed the world over, but was in fact later revealed to be a deception.

17th August 1992 Time Magazine cover

Knoppers states that research and evidence are inseparable, research is useless without the need to prove something and evidence cannot mean anything without research. Knoppers uses FOAM as a platform to move focus away from official history and onto other histories that have voices of their own. For example Foto Galatasaray (2013) exhibition investigated minorities that were under represented in Turkish history, and The Citadel (2014) curated by Vali Mahlouji featured photographs by Iranian documentary photographer Kaveh Golestan. These were exhibited alongside newspapers and other artifacts to support the reading of the images. Through this work you face those who are marginalised, the images used are a testimony into the lives of women who would have disappeared from collective memory. Here the photograph acts as a tool to bring alternate histories to the foreground, to reveal, document and to give minorities a place in visual history.

Director of Forensic Architecture, Eyal Weizman’s talk on Violence at the Threshold of Detectability was mind blowing and the highlight of the day. He started with the context of the David Irving Holocaust trial at the Old Bailey, part of which consisted of researching 4 holes that represent the only remaining gas chamber from Auschwitz-Birkenau. The existence of 4 holes in the roof of the building illustrate where the fatal gas would have been released. However, no one could find the holes. Irving also claimed that images of the Holocaust were paint brushed onto the photographs. From looking at the molecular level of the film to the grain size of silver salt particles, what Wiezman terms the ‘edge of detectability’, the salt grain is exactly the same size as human heads depicted in Holocaust photographs.

This has parallels with modern drone strikes; Forensic Architecture was asked to investigate drone warfare for the UN. When drones attack the only visible trace from above is a hole within the ceiling. Weizman and his team were asked to investigate drone strikes using satellite imagery, however the resolution is no sharper than ½ a metre a pixel, therefore the hole in the roof is smaller than one pixel and is subsequently undetectable.

Wiezman referred to a video that was broadcast by NBC showing the aftermath of an attack filmed anomalously through a window. His team took apart the video to make a large composite image using the film’s frame stills, from this they could determine road and building structures and match them to aerial imagery to locate the video site. In addition, from the length and angle of shadows they determined the time of day the video was filmed. From video footage taken inside the blast space, the team could map out all locations of blast fire, areas where there were less or no fragments on the wall marked where bodies had previously been.

format9   format8 ©Niamh Treacy

The second video illustrated how trauma can obscure memory. They encouraged a victim to build a model of her own house, from entering the model virtually it helped to reconstruct her memory.

The talk showcased the amount of vital information that can be gathered from images that would otherwise be simply discarded. His team includes a combination of different practices working together, and illustrates how creative thought and process can become central in these situations. Wiezman’s work on investigating the identify and presumed death of Nazi Josef Megele was displayed within QUAD during FORMAT. In a discussion Weizman spoke how exhibiting the work within a gallery context enables the work to be presented for questioning.

Michelle Bogre in her talk The Photograph: Mirror or Memory stated that ‘truth is malleable’. One specific reference that sticks to mind is the work of Azadeh Akhlaghi, By An Eyewitness, where Iranian death scenes are recreated from written accounts for the camera.

format10©Azadeh Akhlaghi

Here Bogre asks does manipulation really matter? How much weight should we put on actual truth verses situational truth? Work by Akhlaghi is created to preserve collective memories of the events that have happened. However, in the future when these images are taken away from this context, the photographs will be read as true documents of the events happened. Thinking about this work, how much does it matter that it wasn’t the actual moment captured, when the story and the history are being retold. Through this Bogre also gets us to think if reconstruction images can be a more effective messages of truth.

Photographic artist Natasha Caruana discussed how gathering evidence is key to the personal narratives documented in her practice. She uses photography as a tool to investigate her own relationships and her feelings resulting from them. In her series Married Man she focused on how technology is changing relationships today. Caruana went on 80 first dates with married men and captured what seems like banal moments on disposable cameras. In Love Bomb (on show at QUAD Gallery) she questions why the tough side of love is hardly written about in the news. Confused in a relationship she visited Internet cafes to buy ingredients for love potion recipes and researched how to make homemade bombs. The work presented at FORMAT became an archive of the relationship with this person. Caruana, who is now married, then talked about At First Sight Coup de Foudre, where she has been researching into the phenomenon of love at first sight using key scientific experiments. Her dedication to involving herself and her relationship struggles within her work bring it truth and conviction.

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©Niamh Treacy

Sarah Pickering’s talk Art and Antiquities focused on the exhibition of the same name shown within Derby Museum & Art Gallery as part of FORMAT. The work has many levels in response to Shaun Greenhalgh’s forgeries. Pickering’s initial ideas came from a Metropolitan Police display seen at the V&A, which exhibited a neatened version of the shed Greenhalgh worked in. Her exhibition includes props from a TV series looking into Greenhalgh’s work, images he took for evaluations, exhibition catalogues featuring Gauguin’s Faun (a forgery made by Greenhalgh) and salt prints made by Pickering of the faked artworks. The in-depth research that curators conduct is similar to what Greenhalgh used for his forgeries. Her talk and work challenges representation and authenticity not only in photography but also the art world.

format13©Niamh Treacy

In conclusion, a point raised in the plenary session of the day was ‘there is a purpose to it’.

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The State of Photography – GRAIN Symposium

23rd January 2015, Library of Birmingham

The Library of Birmingham

Having returned from The Library of Birmingham, and the excellent GRAIN Symposium on The State of Photography, late last month, I find myself reflecting back on a positive and enthusiastic response to the theme.

Spending a day in a room full of people sharing ideas, motivation, passions and with such a diverse set of approaches to how they contribute to photography left me feeling inspired, energised, positive and confident.

It was a long day, with intriguing and diverse presentations, each followed by a panel discussion giving new light on the topics raised in the individual presentations and providing opportunity for audience participation, discussion, disagreement and energetic debate.

In my work as a freelance photographer, university lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University and co-founder of the photographic collective Document Scotland, drive, dynamism and commitment are themes I can relate to, whether channelling them or battling with them. To see these qualities in so many at this event was inspiring to say the least.

The conclusions of the day, if there were any to have, was that photography is in a state of flux. Be this satisfying or frustrating, encouraging or concerning, the day demonstrated the diversity, enthusiasm and passion shown by all of those presenting, and many of those attending. For me and others the conversations and debates planted seeds of thought, highlighted diversity, showcased examples, celebrated individuality and praised passion, drive and commitment. Set in the context of the vulnerability of the Library of Birmingham archive, the day highlighted the drive, adaptability and dynamism demonstrated by many of those working in photography today.

I’ll go through the day and dwell on some aspects of it in greater detail than others. There was a lively social media following happening in parallel to the conversations of the day – take a look at #stateofphoto and #stateofphotog on Twitter to see some of the comments, photographs, conversations and thoughts which were taking place online.

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin started the day by presenting work from Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt and their book War Primer 2, (recently included in the exhibition The Kings’ Peace: Realism and War at Stills Gallery, Edinburgh August – October 2014). This project, a reworking of Bertolt Brecht’s “Kriegsfibel” (“War Primer”), won the 2013 Deutsche Börse photography prize, and uses montage and found photography to comment on photography’s role in conflict and warfare. Describing it as an ‘illustrated bible”, the pair worked with The Archive of Modern Conflict on the project creating relationships between text and image.

Their work poses wider questions about photography and memory – what fragments of images do we hold in our visual memories, how we interpret, communicate and translate those fragments, and then create new meaning. When you consider photography’s role in ‘bearing witness’, Broomberg and Chanarin’s work hopefully, makes us think again. Re-thinking images and photography, juxtaposing them with text and questioning meaning.

I’ve seen this work before, at The Photographers’ Gallery, today it’s an intense start to the proceedings. There is a playful element too, we are asked to recreate an image shown to us on the screen ear;ire in their presentation – a test of memory and visual recognition I think. In any case, slow motion images of falling figures from the World Trade Centre Twin Towers on September 11th 2001and graphic Wikileaked footage of Reuters journalist Saeed Chmagh being killed by US airstrike in 2007 are now embedded in my mind.

I’m left with a renewed feeling of how important it is to question what we see.

David Birkitt

David Birkitt of DMB Media, is up next, he leads the discussion towards the commercial and the agency – or not – as he points out, “I see DMB Media’s role not as the photographic agent – but as one who supplies visual conversations.” He points out a remarkable fact: “Imagery isn’t going anywhere. More images will be taken this year than have been taken since the beginning of photography. That’s something to consider…”

“Photography has always been about telling stories,” David continues, DMB see themselves as a management company – just as a band might need management – so do many photographers. “In today’s industry,  the journey of making the work has become almost as important (to the client) as the final work itself.”

A case in point is a recent campaign shot by Simon Roberts for Citizen watches.

It’s an interesting point to consider – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc have brought a new client expectation, and one which is, potentially, increasing the responsibility of the photographer to maintain communication about what they are doing. In DMS’s case both photographer and management contribute to building and maintaining the relationship with the client. For advertising – David explains that 62-65% of the £112 billion budget for imagery is going to be spent on digital media in the future. A very high percentage – it’s clearly something clients are looking for in increasing amounts.

For DMB, this process includes careful branding of their artists, “we create a very narrow portfolio of each person, choosing the font, design etc very carefully. We marry up the personalities – we spend time, and in some way, have created one big massive family. In the past a physical portfolio was what everyone needed, now, they hardly exist. More often that not, when I first meet clients, I don’t take anything along with me.”

It’s interesting to consider how agencies, representation, management, social networking and personal contact all contribute to building and maintaining relationships and client satisfaction. There are many contributing factors, and blurred lines between each, David explains that DMB’s role is to “step into the middle and find a way for the artist to deliver what they need.”

He finishes by reinforcing his earlier point, “Process is key. It’s how we deliver it which becomes most important”.

Next to present was Louise Clements – talking about her role as director of Format Photography Festival in Derby, the history of photography festivals and the affect on them from the web.

“Photo festivals are my thing.”  Louise explains, describing a history of photography festivals …

“The first photography festivals were about 25 years ago, including Hereford, Arles, and Houston, now there are many many more – perhaps 100s around the world.

Ten years ago, the best advice of starting out might have been to get a degree, put together a print portfolio, assist and get out there. Today that may well still be true – however online platforms have changed everything. Social networking, blogging and self representation is a huge part of how photographers make an impact now.

Photography and social media is an important part of the globally connected landscape. On and offline there is great activity happening all year, there are continuing opportunities. Benefitting from those opportunities is hard work, emerging and established photographers are still finding it hard. Today, photographers must have many strings to their bows, most people do more than one thing.

Photo festivals are key to developing and mediating opportunities and to building relationships. All throughout the year portfolio reviewers (of which Louise is one) travel to shows and festivals, spot talent, and develop contacts.” As she points out – “you could do it all year – there seems to be a never ending stream of photo festivals and portfolio reviews.”

Format Festival started in 2004 (the same year that Facebook began) and runs every 2 years. A successful team and a lot of work makes it a success. Starting with £5k and lots of help, by 2012 they had 100,000 participants including 45 volunteers per day and 300 artists.

Louise continues, “The important things about festivals are that they offer insight into contemporary trends, the zeitgeist, current commissions, create vitality, act as catalyst for production, and places where you can meet hard to reach photography professionals. They play an important part in defining and understanding our lives and histories. Format builds on a legacy of photo festivals, exhibitions, processes which happened in the City”

What’s been important is the collaboration. “Working with partners is an interesting way of trying out new curatorial ideas”. Format have worked with some exciting projects and individuals, they’ve built relationships with local property agents etc enables them to use fascinating venues, and create dynamic exhibitions, they’ve worked with a number of interesting organisations, individuals, groups and partners. To list a few:

The Caravan Gallery (who’ve also worked with Street Level Photoworks in summer 2014).
The Human Printer printing images by hand, format did a live event.
Archive of Modern Conflict – involving a ‘zine making workshop.
Slideluck – retrospective – Hungry Still publication and exhibition
Eye Em involving the public working on images, curating the space and geo tagging element. (pictured below)
– curator Eric Kessels (pictured below)

Eye Em involving the public working on images, curating the space and geo tagging element.

Exhibition at Format curated by Eric Kessels

Louise summarises, “essentially photography is one of most social mediums. Open Calls and portfolio reviews are a big part of the scene. Individuals have to choose which are the best ones. There are many benefits to having your work seen by the reviewers – they might not be immediate but spin off benefits can be important.” After seeing work, Louise adds it to her ongoing files of interesting work which might contribute to projects in the future. These events provide opportunities – which might pay off at any time.

“Photography festivals facilitate the meeting place, are a rich breeding ground for ideas which can lead to collaboration, they lead to great conversations and bring people together. Festivals are the explorers of the future.”

Format Festival takes place in Derby from 13th March 2015 and is one of a number of international photography festivals connecting and promoting each through a network called Festival of Light.

Some links about Format and The Festival of Light shared by Louise Clements of Format Festival, Derby

The panel (L-R) Louise Clements, Oliver Chanarin, David Birkitt and Adam Broomberg.

The four speakers then took part in a panel discussion, combining much of the conversation from their presentations and crossing over of themes. We started off on the subject of branding – not an altogether comfortable subject for many in the room.

Oliver Chanarin: As an Artist there’s a pressure to define yourself, “black and white, landscape” etc The community wants to box people. Adam and I resist that as much as possible. With our work it’s is hard to pin point a style, hard to define us, we use different strategies for different projects that make sense to us. That has, perhaps, been an impediment to us in our careers.

David Birkitt: The brand will take care if itself. You guys have a name, people know it. You are a brand, perhaps of methodology rather than visual style.

Louise Clements – It takes time to form brand identity. We take our events around the world, and we care how people perceive us. It makes me happy when I go to South Korea and people tell me what they think of Format. It is hard to control and you have to do that through working hard.

Adam Broomberg: The word brand is so revolting. It’s everything that work shouldn’t be for me. Ultimately the art world is very conservative. They want something quotable. The idea of a “brand for an artist” is worrying for me.

Oliver Chanarin: We curated “Alias” at the Krakow photo festival in 2011 as an opportunity for photographers to work outside their own visual style. All worked under a different name, for some the process was liberating, for some it was impossible. Often it might be that the work that doesn’t fit with your usual way of working, or “brand” is interesting and really exciting – it’s important to experience that also.”

Adam Broomberg: Adam talked of an example of a photographer who demanded that a panel discussion not discus her work from before a certain date.  Did this mean they were ashamed of that work? Prejudice exists but I think that’s a shame, I feel it’s more interesting if that work is brought into the conversation – it’s part of where they came from, it’s informed where they are now. There’s also a n example of a photographer who turned down a Prada campaign because they felt it would undermine everything they’ve worked towards. This is something that makes people uncomfortable.

David Birkitt: I think in part it’s circumstantial, what might work at one time, might not at another in your career.

Oliver Chanarin: I think that it can how much you care about your audience is what determines how much info you give your audience. Sometimes it’s important to give your audience a long text and a lot of context, to explain everything about the work. At other times that miscommunication, ambiguity etc is important. You don’t always want to give too much away. It depends. Sometimes that ambiguity is important for the audience to figure out themselves.

Adam Broomberg: Instagram could be seen buy some as a kind of mode of grading self worth, a validation. I decided recently to not put photographs on there of my kids, because I realised in the future they might question why I did that – I never asked them. So I’ve taken the pictures down.

Oliver Chanarin: We shifted to contemporary art market because in some ways we couldn’t see another context for our work. The abstract afghan work for example – the only way to show that was in an art gallery.

Angel Luis Gonzalez Fernandez of Photo Ireland and The Library Project

Next to present a key note speech was Angel Luis Gonzalez Fernandez who gave a fascinating presentation on Photo Ireland festival and The Library Book Project. Following his journey from first coming to Ireland and finding the contemporary photography scene to be lacking – (or in his words “Photography = Camera Club”), and going on to create a successful, dynamic and international photography festival in Dublin, was both energetic and exhausting. What he has helped create, is an exciting platform which adds many more voices to photography in Ireland, has stimulated the photography scene in the country, and which promotes local photographers’ work overseas.

Working between Zurich and Dublin for a year developing the model, Angel started the first Photo Ireland photography festival in 2008. It spanned 11 days and took place in 39 venues across Dublin, included a newspaper publication, numerous talks, events, night projections and portfolio reviews. By 2014 the festival now includes a project called New Irish Works featuring 25 selected Irish photographers, and takes place in venues in Dublin, Cork and Limerick.

Alongside this is The Library Project – a research library of sorts which in turn organises and hosts talks, events and work by collectives. What it’s NOT, Angel is passionate to point out, is “a f*cking Pop Up” – however – so best not ask him about that.

The whole project takes place on a budget of €40,000, €8000 of which comes from the Arts Council. According to Angel photography is underfunded, all the visual arts are underfunded. He has an ambition to change that, and argues that there is a critical demand for photography.

Many in the room agreed with his closing statement: “We must ensure we continue to demand an ongoing critical debate within photography. Photography is currency, everyone can communicate with it. There is visual literacy and context, – the state of photography is a state of flux. Long may we keep it that way.”

Fiona Yaron- Field – of Uncertain States – an artist led, non-profit lens based project, started by showing work (including my own) from their free newspaper.  “We are about the slowed down and the considered, not the immediate and the fast.”

Fiona outlines some of the work the group undertake, including a free newspaper featuring contemporary photographers, talks, presentations, exhibitions and print sales.

“What Uncertain States has done is make us all think about what it means to work in a group. We’re democratic, and nomadic, there’s no office, no central base – this is freeing but it’s hard work too. We appreciate that this structure is vulnerable, we have trust, respect as well as arguments.”

She continues – “We hold exhibitions as well as publishing our free newspapers, because we feel that engagement with the artefact is important. Our informal salon talks create dialogue, we’ve partnered with the V&A mini symposiums, we’ve worked with Four Corners on print limited editions, we had our first open call this year to expand our reach and meet new people. Individuals such as Zelda Cheatle, and Pete James have been key contributors to that. A really really fabulous and unintentional part of all this is that it’s built a community. ”

Fiona then outlines some of the qualities they’ve found from working in a group; support, the ability to reflect, the capacity to overcome. She recognises that it’s not always easy, it can be a difficult balance, they have a good dynamic, and that’s partly because they appreciate the above, but have learned the importance of not always compromising, “it’s important not to lose your position, and to challenge things you feel strongly on.

I recognise these points she makes – working as a group brings with it challenges and enormous benefits. It took a little time to appreciate it, in my experiences but it’s important to recognise that if everyone agrees all the time, or looks to come to a mutual consensus about everything – then the group runs the risk of their message, or reason for existing, becoming diluted. Keeping passionate about those things you feel strongly about isn’t always easy – but works better for the group int he long run. Disagreements can be incredibly productive and important.  

“So … the future of photography” – she finishes with – “well it’s a bit uncertain but we like it that way”.

There followed further excellent presentations from Lara Ratnaraja – a freelance consultant who discussed ‘mining the archive’, collaboration and the future. She spoke passionately about the exciting opportunities to come from collaborations between universities, artists, academics and arts organisations.

“There is a symbiotic relationship between Higher Education, organisations and artists – and it’s important to always realise that collaboration + partnerships = success.”

Karen Newman of Birmingham Open Media (B.O.M.) spoke next about how they have created a collaborative workplace with a creative hacker mentality at their core. B.O.M. is a combination of Art, Hactivism and Open Culture.  #Hactivism
Prior to BOMB Karen was curator at Liverpool’s Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (F.A.C.T.) and the city’s Open Eye Gallery. With B.O.M. they accessed a derelict building and created a social enterprise. There is cafe, a hub, a network, they welcome 6000 visitors and have delivered 33 events in the last 2 months. Some of the questions being addressed with B.O.M. are:

How do we address the skills gap between the current generation of artists using creative tech?

How do we prepare for the next super skilled generation of artists, producers and audiences?
How do we develop programmes with real culture and economic value?

The project appears to thrive on experimenting, combining technologies, ideas, and exploration. For example she describes a photo dark room combined with a biology lab in the building. Karen finishes by explaining that with B.O.M. they are “taking a set of educated risks. Time will tell”

Panel discussion with (L-R) Lara Ratnaraja, Fiona Yaron-Field, Karen Newman and Angel Luis Gonzalez Ferdandez

The panel discussion following these four speakers touched on commercialism and value – amongst other things. There were arguments from Angel for charging for all the visual arts in the UK – something which happens in dance and music, but for some reason “we expect all our visual art for free” – is this then responsible for de-valuing it in someway? An interesting point. One which Lara disagreed with “I believe in the fact that are country’s art galleries and museums are free”. Karen then differentiated between something being free, and it’s value – “it’s about the impact and how you value that, some impacts are very hard to track.”

This all raised a number of interesting questions – all agreed that it’s important for everyone to feel as comfortable and safe in a gallery environment, therefore is it not likely that charging entry would probably result in that not being the case? By making something free, doesn’t mean necessarily that people will come. If it’s free, does it communicate less value? Is charging for a library for example, out of the question?  Why is it accepted that the Tate who receive large amounts of government funding, charge high prices for exhibitions when small arts organisations are expected not to? In the current context of the archive at Birmingham library this is all certainly food for thought.

We then heard from Tim Clark editor of the excellent 1000 Words Magazine – launching a new website this week and a place for contemporary art photography. The online resource presents a carefully curated set of photography in each issue, and has accumulated 30,000 Twitter followers and 140,000 visits to the site every month.

It’s published quarterly partly, as Tim explains to give their readers a “laid back digital experience” in these times of such fast paced web traffic. #slowwebmovement

Tim describes the experience of browsing the site as a “little adventure through contemporary photography”.

Faye Claridge then presented her intriguing work which uses archives and explores themes such as folklore and reminiscence. She looks at personal and national identity, based on tradition and working with archives. Her working processes and methodology is fascinating, as are the finished works. One of her pieces at the moment involves the construction of a 5 metre high corn dolly – and with images and thoughts on that she reminded us that “we must not lose sight of the visual and critical literacy when we think of digital literacy.” 

Peta Murphy-Burke, Relationship Manager, Digital and Creative Economy at Arts Council England, gave a run through of the ways photographers can access the funding available from the arts Council England, and showed examples of successful projects and bodies of work supported by them from local and national photographers, groups and organisations.

Paul Herrmann from Red Eye was the final speaker, with the job of summarising and winding up the day.

He started with this image and talked of pigeon holes and divisions – “photography is not a selection of segregated boxes and categories anymore”. Instead, today, photographers are working across different genres, as one big happy family.

Paul continues, “In this culture visual literacy, education and communication are vital. Not everyone can become a photographer, but they can become visually literate. The link with visual communications is vital, Red Eye are involved with that, in building networks with the Library of Birmingham for example.

Photography does interconnect, it needs to remind itself where its common ground is. Photography needs a voice, and we need to understand better the value of the photograph. The brains of photography need strengthening, ie the metadata needs to be there. Photography needs to look inside itself and grow sustainably. It’s got to keep moving, and changing and producing.”

He asks that we please keep testing our work as photographers, self publishing and portfolio reviews are all part of that. “It’s important to understand failure.”

The final panel (L-R) Paul Herrmann, Tim Clarke, Faye Claridge, Peta Murphy-Burke and Pete james make their observations.

Pete James summarises, “so photography is in a state of flux, and it seems like if it wasn’t then it wouldn’t be interesting.”

Faye Claridge adds Being an image maker may be quicker than ever now, but engaging in the conversation and the debate – that’s more than a lifetime’s work. There’s not enough time, but it’s still worth it.” 

After a question from the audience about whether we have the time to be photographers, Tim Clark talks about the numbers. “Traffic” he explains “is what I’m talking to my funders about, it’s the less sexy side of photography, the behind the scenes stuff. They want to know about demographics, survey monkey, Google analytics, etc. The audience for photography is larger than ever, the possibility for circulation is vast using eg Instagram etc. The challenges are attention span, dissemination, exposure, critique, and adding value and contributing to the conversation.”
Tim continues with a critical voice “Individuals innovate, not institutions. If we look to the USA, they are 50 years ahead of the UK, the Tate only got its first curator of photography recently in Simon Baker. Lots of institutions in the UK haven’t given contemporary photography its dues. Perhaps that’s because older generations are protective of their ideas therefore that can trickle down into education. Overseas the UK is known for its social documentary of the 70s and 80s, that represents only a sliver of the contemporary photography happening within Europe. Our history casts a long shadow over where we stand at present.”

To end, Paul Herrmann from Red Eye makes his closing statements which he summarises into 4 points:

1. “If you come up with a good idea – people will give you the authority.”This highlights how important it is that we continue to have these ideas. A lot of the old models are around the table, we need to continue looking at the new ideas.”

2. “It’s important that we continue to work within constraints but without compromising artistic integrity.”

3. “We’ve talked a lot today about collaboration, mutual respect, leaving your egos at the door, that’s looking to be an important part of the successful future.”

4. “Discussion and debate is vital, storytelling is vital.” 

Sophie Gerrard, January 2015
See more on the GRAIN website and their Flickr pages

The GRAIN newspaper publication available at the symposium.

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Carlisle Photo Festival 2014

Now in its third year, the Carlisle Photo Festival, has for the first time invited Street Level Photoworks to show a series of work called ‘Working the Border’.

The group exhibition based upon the Anglo-Scottish border has found an ideal location in Carlisle Railway Station. On the bridge connecting the two platforms, travelers and visitors can discover the work of Sophie Gerrard, Colin McPerson and Andy Wiener to name just a few. The exhibition continues in the platform 4 waiting room, with a series of work by ae phor, ‘Working the Border’, Jo Metson Scott, with ‘The Borderland’ project, shown for the first time alongside ‘Shengland’ and the remarkable ‘Debatable Land’ by Alan Knox. Bursary winners Julie Dawn Dennis and Zuzanna Sikorska also have work located in the railway station. On the opposite hoarding from ‘Working the Border’, Zuzanna’s work, ‘Step Back in Time’ shows a series of photographs of the current Carlisle juxtaposed with archived ones taken at the exact same location, illustrating how cities are in a state of constant change. Julie Dwan Dennis’ work ‘ Safe as Houses’ is shown alongside the exhibition ‘Seeing through a Century’ in the waiting room on platform 3, including Danny Brunetti’s and James Sebright’s great series of work connected to Syria and its recent events.

 Sophie Gerrard
(Left : from the series ‘Drawn to the Land: Women working the Scottish Landscape’ by Sophie Gerrard, Right: ‘The Debatable Land’ by Alan Knox)

The festival then takes you to The Citadel, inside the impressive former criminal courts where the community exhibition, ‘Our Carlisle’ shows you an intimate view of the city through photographs of past and present shared by its inhabitants. In the right corner of the room, ‘Possessed’ is an interesting ongoing project by Sarah Faraday questioning the capacity for the camera to capture the emotion invested in the photographed object. A quick trip downstairs from the criminal seats box leads you to the prison where you’ll find the second part of ‘Seeing Through a Century’. Three cells are used a single galleries showing the work of three artists including Michael Daglish’s refreshing ‘Common Land’ series.

(Left : ‘Our Carlisle’ in the Old Criminal Courts, Right: ‘A Functional Ambience’ by John McDougall)

After enjoying a little walk through the pedestrian zone, you’ll reach Lonsdale street and the third part of ‘Seeing Through a Century’. The work of five artists are shown over two floors, including striking black and white photographs of North Wales in the 1980s by Stephen Clarke. You’ll discover the mysterious Star City through Mitch Karunaratne’s work and China’s construction frenzy with Robert Battersby. Also, a very interesting series by Walter Menzies and also Sean Dooley’s ‘After life’ series, portraying stuffed specimens of animal species, extinct or under serious threat.

(Left : from he series ‘Holiday-ed in North Wales’ by Stephen Clarke, Right: ‘Made in China’ by Robert Battersby)

The festival also invites you to discover ‘Work in Progress’ by the BA (Hons) Photography students at the University of Cumbria, showing a distinctive range of work.

Carlisle Photo Festival brought us a very enjoyable and eclectic selection of works by emerging and more established artists in surprising environment across the city. We hope to return next year.

(Left : ‘Dreaming of Syria’ by David Brunetti, Right: ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ by Trish Simonite)

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The 6th National Photography Symposium

IMG_0581The 6th National Photography Symposium was hosted by Birmingham Library from the 12th to the 14th June 2014, and organised by Redeye.

The days were themed, with the Thursday indexed to ‘Routes into Photography’ and a panel session looking at what is on offer to emerging artists to ‘help establish themselves in photography, and who benefits from these multiplying possibilities?’. The first session started off with Richard West, co-editor of the magazine Source, on the pros and cons of portfolio reviews, their cost and their supposed benefits – he gave an example of his undercover [or overt] detective work, on one London photography gallery who have recently started such a platform, with most reviewees happy to pay the £75 for the value of it in return, and not necessarily with any promises of exhibitions etc. He plugged Source magazine’s free portfolio reviews (from pre-selected entrants) as part of the process of discovering new image content for the magazine and sharing it with the sector (= the magazines market / audience / supporters / advertisiers). Even without a published page, or a space in a group show, there seemed to be a general consensus that this process benefits makers through encouragement, and likewise for gallerists or publishers, since it keeps them alert to new talent. Or at least, I think that was the consensus.

‘How the system operates’ underpinned this presentation, illustrated with a diagram constructed from a survey amongst photography galleries on how they select their exhibitions, using colour coding to demarcate exhibitions from open submissions, from those invited, and those undertaken with freelance curators and through collaborations. This is worth revisiting as this was undertaken two years ago, and if we are talking about openness and accountability, then the seemingly ‘closed shop’ approach of many may conflict with a public funding remit, though there has to be room for curatorial priorities, depending on the gallery. More information on exhibition protocol for makers, however, should be available on respective websites.


Source, issue 71 Summer 2012.

There is a tension between supply and demand – the infrastructure can’t sustain or meet the demand from a greater number of photographers – and again I’d say this applies to magazines too as much as galleries, hence the growing number of self-publishing initiatives and collectives emerging to find a way of getting work out. It later came up that there are more photography graduates in the UK than there are jobs in the whole of Europe to accommodate them. A depressing reality, but the message here was about turning obstacles into opportunties.

David Drake mentioned his ambivalent relationship with portfolio reviews and the value versus cost question. How do photographers succeed was the subject of his talk around his work at Ffotogallery (and the festival Diffusion), and through their exhibition springboard for Wales based, early career artists, ‘Wish You Were Here’. His presentation used 3 real case studies to underline the fact that it is a long haul in finding a gallerist or publisher, and a hard slog in self-publishing through crowdfunding or whatever means – there is not one method or strategy – the point is to get your work talked about, and to plug into the right networks – if you can find them! There are no quick results, contact with a gallery or curator will not it translate into an exhibition right away. Jon Levy of Foto8 reinforced the importance of relationship building, finding partners, not remaining isolated, getting the work out there, giving your work a voice, having a coherent strategy and, significantly, being versatile. How do you get to an audience? You only get one bite at the cherry with crowdfunding also, so use it well.

Nathan Troman of Birmingham City University talked of the value of a photographic education though indicated that the worth of a degree is being devalued by increasing qualification requirements for most menial of undertakings. He reinforced some key messages for photographers in a later session also – reminding us that we are all students of photography as there are things to learn all the time. Some of the key competencies included: creativity; technical knowledge; planning and organizing; organisational understanding; teamwork; analysis; initiative; decisiveness; written communication; presentation skills; achievement orientation; interpersonal sensitivity. Connect these to facilities and equipment and a network of photographers who understand the mutual benefits of collaboration, then things will begin to take off.


Val Williams

Keynote presentations were provided by Val Williams and Paul Hill. Val is a curator, writer and Director of the Photography and the Archive Research Centre (PARC) at LCC, who were a major catalyst in the show Street Level were involved in with Marjolaine Ryley in 2012, ‘Growing Up in the New Age’. She was first Director of Impressions, and is a major figure in the development and appreciation of post-war photography in Britain. She outlined more of her important work in uncovering the economic and cultural geographies of forgotten strands of British photography and revealed a keenness on how things sprout, bloom, wither, then bloom again, and spread their seeds in other places – an appropriate metaphor. For her and many others, it is a continually rewarding experience. In this case, it focussed on the Midland Group Gallery in the 70s, which helped create a space for the fragile medium of photography at that time, and its significance alongside other networks, such as Camerawork, and the Photographers Gallery.


Paul Hill

Paul Hill waspart of that Midlands Group and has been a consistent presence and advocate of photography through his work, his influential teaching, and through his study centre The Photographers Place. Exhibitions at the Midlands Group Gallery helped to professionalise photography at a time when it was entirely novel to show photography in galleries – Thomas Joshua Cooper had his first British show there, for example. He referred to ‘thinking photographers’ as the term used at the time to distinguish them from hobbyists or those fixated solely on the craft of the medium.

Small incursions over time make big changes, and the importance played by teachers and students in photography departments in the region, such as that at Trent Polytechnic and others, were central to that. Paul also has a historical relationship to Street Level as the model of The Photographers Place was one of the influences on the early grouping of Glasgow Photography Group who set up Street Level in 1989 – in May of 1988 Paul gave a talk to GPG on ‘The Spirit of Independence in Photography’.


Simon Roberts (left), and Paul Hermann of Redeye

Simon Roberts’ ‘work aims to deconstruct conventional interpretations of landscapes and people, whilst making meaningful commentaries on current social and cultural issues’ with much of it revolving around landscapes and people. In his rather kaleidoscopic presentation he shared with us insights into the making of substantial projects ‘We English’ (‘Roberts travelled around England in a motorhome to produce his large-scale photographs of the English at rest and play’ Sean O’Hagan),’ The Election Project’, ‘Peirdom’ (mapping the economic fortunes of the coastline of Britain, according to Roberts), as well as work commissioned by ‘The Social: Landscapes of Leisure’. He makes 60% to 70% of his income from selling his prints, mostly online? (also represented by The Photographers Gallery Print Department). His advice – be tenacious, have something to say, form relationships for good work.


Edmund Clark

Another considered artist’s presentation (on the final day) was provided by Edmund Clark, whose work deals with politics and representation. Politics, not in a campaigning way, and this talk on ‘Ethics’ revealed a thoughtful, and strong-willed approach around his art and commissions he has undertaken. He covered his major publication/exhibition projects ‘Guantanamo’, ‘Control Orders’ and ‘Still Life, Killing Time’, as well as other projects where personal integrity and belief are put on the line. It was a very sincere presentation.

One day concentrated on ‘key issues of integrity for organisations and institutions. How can they preserve their public service or members’ remit whilst improving commercial income’. The audience was welcomed by Brian Gambles, Director of Library of Birmingham (who that day was awarded an OBE apparently) who applauded the achievement embodied in the development of the library, and more saliently, its combination of community dialogue and cultural capital. Frankie Mullen of Dovetail (‘The Change Making Agency’) talked of a forward looking approach, audiences and marketplaces, the need for connectivity. She threw up challenges for organisations and stated that progressive organisations will respond to these, but need to take advantage of partnerships in the process (the example of the decline of the high street was just one example). The emphasis was on a ‘holistic’ approach a word we hear a lot about in terms of arts management (so much so it can seem absolutely meaningless in the advance of tangible examples), but here she extends it in the need to see the connections between people and roles, recognise opportunities where others see barriers, all of which are features of good ‘leadership’. Diversity and generosity are also important in the exchange between participants and partners (and dare I say, which build a good market for your work)!



A list of photography related organisations in the Midlands that Birmingham Open Media are aiming to work with.

Karen Newman is the Director of Birmingham Open Media, a new agency about to undertake the development of a run down abandoned space in the city centre into a social and production space for exhibitions, research, and education. Although concerned with new media and internet technologies, a photo studio will feature as part of the venture, through a partnership with another small business Fotofilia. In the 90s several photography organisations in Britain stripped away their production resources/darkrooms to focus mainly on exhibitions, leaving certain cities with no open access resources. Newman acknowledged this as a way for BOM proposing to address this gap in Birmingham (if indeed there are no others?). The embrace of the model of the mixed economy funding split is a good start up as new ventures can unlock initial investment but I’d caution against over excitement with the new, as building based projects are resource hungry – they need ongoing financial input to pay the overheads continually.

Emma Chetcuti is the Director of Multistory, a Sandwell based agency who devise projects and commissions for recognised photographers to make work about and to work with the people of Sandwell, such as Black Country Stories project which ‘reinvents the creative documentation of working class Britain by artists from Humphrey Jennings to Stanley Spencer, George Orwell to Bill Brandt’, and which includes photographers Martin Parr and Mark Power. The ambitious ‘Open for Business’ is a collaboration with Magnum and nine of its photographers and involves them documenting and recording the success stories of new manufacturing industries in eight British cities, and with one of the photographers, Stuart Franklin, focusing on renewable energies in Scotland*. Emma had a more humane spin on the notion of ‘resilience’ – a belief in oneself – yet also a belief in something larger than oneself. Multistory is one of many organisations that have had to reshape and reinvent themselves due to financial pressures, but with this example, it has been done to instil further hope and ambition, rather than failure.

* Open for Business is currently on at Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. It will be shown at Street Level in July of 2015. See here for more details:

The discussion on National Photography Collections took a broad sweep at ‘ways forward for managing the national collections of photography’. Francis Hodgson of the Financial Times bemoaned the statutory neglect of collections, mentioning that the UK has no dedicated photography conservators (by statute), a shocking inditement for a country that invented the medium, he stated – by which I can only assume he means the UK. Other speakers represented the formidable collecting institutions of Birmingham Library (Pete James) and National Media Museum (Michael Terwey). Questions proposed such as ‘how can the existing institutions communicate and co-ordinate better, and how can we bring smaller and private archives into the conversation?’ all seemed to be addressed to some degree. Collections enhance understanding and appreciation of photographic culture, but according to Pete, new institutional networks need to provide a model to go forward, networks consisting of reciprocal partnerships between major collections, research organisations, educational institutions, and presumably, the independent gallery sector too.


Stephen Mayes, giving his talk from his kitchen

Stephen Mayes gave a presentation via online link up (quite seamless too) who proposed that the culture of units of intellectual property has been moving rapidly to one of a culture of streaming, seen in the consumption of cinema through netflix, books through kindle, etc.That there are markets outside of traditional media requires a rethinking by photographers of what their ‘value’ is, of moving that from the object of the photograph into the photographer – what they can do, what will people pay for, and this may mean seeing failure as part of the practice in order to succeed (if the failure is rapid that is). Fiona Rogers, of Magnum and Firecracker reiterated some of Mayes points of current systems ‘struggling to maintain an old model in a new system’, and illustrated this through new moves by Magnum to break out of their traditional arena and fixed brand, to make the project more audience centred through new internet platforms, and print sales online. This is the case with the Magnum Foundation which provides support for non-Magnum members and early career photographers. ‘Postcards from America’ was illustrated as an experimental collaboration which used a Tumblr platform to spread into other social media, which then resulted in the book that could be bought online, or the postcards, or the prints. Exhibition displays were also staged in parallel. Her own sideline project Firecracker is a more grassroots and therefore connected affair which started as a blog of one project per month and which has grown dramatically into the website, resource and support giving structure it is now for European Women Photographers.

New models – there are a multitude of ways of making work and new models of bypassing the traditional ‘gatekeepers’ – however, that term, according to Stephen, has historical roots, and is superceded by the new gatekeepers in the shape of Google, Amazon, Apple, etc who are far from democratic (though use the rhetoric of inclusion). Paul Hermann of Redeye, outlined several examples of artists whose ways of working might be said to offer examples of different ways of doing things and who get their work out their in different ways. That includes fundraising for a book, combining where possible making art and teaching, setting up new online connected platforms, etc.



Duffin, left, and Ashton right, with their mobile Camera Obscura in the middle. Jenny Duffin is also the Director of Birmingham Loves Photography


Some Cities exhibition

Some Cities exhibition


Local artists groups/organisations also gave presentations or parallel session, such as Birmingham Loves Photographers– local networking club which holds regular screening evenings, The Swarm, and Some Cities, an online inclusive project that allows anyone to upload their images to an ongoing and accumulating archive of images of Birmingham. This was augmented by an exhibition of their work on The Photographers Wall, and a mobile lo-tech yet highly effective Camera Obscura provided by local artists Duffin and Ashton.



And if this weren’t enough, there were a number of exhibitions in and around the building too: a substantial show of work by Daniel Meadows: Early Photographic Works, curated by Val Williams, comprising of works recently discovered from his archive and from the collection of Library of Birmingham Photography Archives; a commission by Sophy Rickett and Bettina von Zwehl; and an exhibition ‘Aerofilms: Britain from Above’, which is presented in Centenary Square, using the Library’s special outdoor display system. It tells the story through images and text of Aerofilms Ltd, the world’s first firm of commercial aerial photographers – ‘A collection of adventurers, showmen and aviation enthusiasts, the firm married the fledgling technology of flight to the discipline of photography’.   (MD)



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Opening night of Unseen.

Opening night of Unseen.

‘Unseen Photo Fair closed its doors on Sunday 23 September 2012 with reports of strong sales and a high level of gallerist and visitor satisfaction. With the collectors and institutions visiting Amsterdam’s new photo fair from the Middle East, South America, across Europe and the USA, Unseen was an international success.’

We are now approaching the second instalment of Unseen (26 to 29 September 2013),  the first attracting over 22,000 people (according to its website) to its inaugural photofair presenting a dazzling array of works. Highly applauded for its challenging approach to combining the photofair model, with a festival type of programme, and with a wide range of events, it risked dilution, or over saturation of events and works, but its structured approach, “flair and tight organization” averted any of these risks which are sometimes a common experience of photo festivals.

A few of the galleries at the fair in Westergasfabrik.

A few of the galleries at the fair in Westergasfabrik.

Features of it were The Unseen Collection; a Fashion exhibition; launch of Foam Magazine Talent issue; and the Unpublished Dummy Award was also announced at Offprint Amsterdam.

Two of Street Level’s staff, Ida and Julie made the trip, with one even making it as part of their own holiday time, such was the temptation! Here is a look back to last September.

A selection of 55 international galleries presented high-quality work by emerging talents and established photographers.

Although mobbed, we had a chat with Laura Noble, who was launching her new L A Noble Gallery at Unseen. Since 2009, Noble had been the co-founder and director of the London-based photography gallery Diemar/Noble, that recently closed.

Laura Noble launching her L.A. Noble Gallery at Unseen's opening night.

Laura Noble launching her L.A. Noble Gallery at Unseen’s opening night.

Laura recently visited Street Level Photoworks to give us an instruction session around print sales. She showed us some of the works on show in her booth – for example Emily Allchurch whose project ‘Tokyo Story’ consists of digitally manipulated and almost painterly photographs of areas in Tokyo. Later during the fair, Noble sold at least one of Emily Allchurch’s colourful photographs. 540x_EmilyAllchurchAt L A Noble Gallery, the work of German photographer Herb Schmitz was strong and stood out. SwimmerSchmitz early seventies fashion and beauty photographs depicting models with various costumes and make-up, had a soft tone and subdued colours and were also front mounted.

Thursday the 20th

The first official day of Unseen had an interesting line-up of events, including film screenings and talks. Amongst these were the conversation between Danish photographer Trine Søndergaard and deputy director of artistic affairs at Amsterdam’s FOAM Magazine, Marcel Feil. Søndergaard and Feil were discussing her project “Strude”, depicting women wearing an old face costumes worn on the Danish island Fanø (see image below). Søndergaard pointed out that these pictures refer to the idea of “photography as something that was”, as well as a comment on female Muslim head costumes, which was a debate at the time when she made the pictures. Martin Asbæk Galleri represented her at Unseen Photo Fair, showing Søndergaard’s series “Interiors”. She also had one photograph from “Strude” represented in The Unseen Collection. Also during this session of Unseen Speakers, photographer Adam Bromberg gave a talk about his collaborative work with Oliver Chanarin. The work of these artists has been nominated for the 2013 Deutsche Borsceh Prize. Their work deals with politics and racism. They were represented by Galerie Gabriel Rolt at this event.

Unseen Speakers: photographer Trine Søndergaard in conversation with FOAM’s Marcel Feil about her work ‘Strude’.

Unseen Speakers: photographer Trine Søndergaard in conversation with FOAM’s Marcel Feil about her work ‘Strude’.

Shinji Ontani winning the Unpublished Dummy Award at the Offprint Opening

Shinji Ontani winning the Unpublished Dummy Award at the Offprint Opening

Shinji Ontani’s book project is called “The Country of the Rising Sun”. The judges said that Otani’s book was the most consistent in its design, concept and photography. Otani’s book consists of photographs of Swedish suburban neighbourhoods that in a sense share similarities with any suburb and it speaks about the familiar and neutral places.

Unseen Portfolio Pitch was on Thursday evening. 15 young photographers had been selected by FOAM’s Marcel Feil, the director of Vandejong, Pjotr de Jong and Lars Boering from Fotografen Federatie. Each photographer had 3 minutes to present their photographs and it was up to the audience to vote for 3 photographers to participate in an exclusive “Master’s Dinner”. The images shown ranged from documentary to portraits. This event gave a good insight in the work of young photographers.

The Unseen Collection was on display inside a big greenhouse and the concept was to sell prints for what was considered to be an affordable price of under €1000

The Unseen Collection exhibition in a greenhouse

The Unseen Collection exhibition in a greenhouse

There were more than 80 photographs in the collection, of which a few had been sold when we visited on the Friday. Among the 80 photographers were artists such as Roger Ballen (Alex Daniels Reflex Amsterdam, NL), Cooper & Gorfer (Christian Larsen, SE), Ed Van Der Elsken (Annet Gelink Gallery (NL), Elspeth Diederix (Galerie Diana Stigter, NL) and Nina Poppe (Robert Morat Galerie, DE).

The Unseen Collection emphasized the fact that it is important to keep affordable prices for buyers of art to reach a wide audience and it was a good contrast to the Unseen Photo Fair, where some prints were in a much higher price range. This collection also showed the significance of having a broad selection of photographic genres within a selection of prints for sale.

IMG_1779A few of the photographs at the Unseen Collection with for example Nina Poppe’s picture ‘Untitled’ (from the series AMA, 2011, girl by beach, edition of 10) for €500 and Seza Bali’s image ‘Grandma’s Ironing Board’ (from the Home series, 2008, edition of 7) for €1000.

Kurt Tong who previously exhibited at Street Level Photoworks at Unseen Collection. “Rollerskates” from the series In Case it Rains in Heaven, 2009, represented by The Photographer’s Gallery (UK).

Kurt Tong

Kurt Tong

After the Unseen Collection, Foam Magazine hosted their Talent Issue Launch in the Speaker’s Corner venue. This gave the 16 selected photographers a chance to give a presentation of their work. The audience could ask questions to the young photographers. The selected works covered most photographic genres and the images were also exhibited outdoors in Westerpark.

FRIDAY 21st:

On the Friday we went for a meeting with Michelle Lemesle at Rockarchive to speak about her experience of print sales. Michelle is from Paris and has been working in marketing for about 20 years, but has for the past 8 years been the owner/director at Rockarchive in Amsterdam. Rockarchive offer an immense amount of rock photography, also as silver gelatine prints. Rockarchive for instance represents Jean-Pierre Leloir whose photographs include among other famous musicians include Billie Holiday, Frank Zappa and Jimmy Hendrix. More than 50 photographers have their work in the archive.

Michelle points out that the Rockarchive functions more like a permanent collection for people to visit rather than a gallery. She also notes that her visitors don’t come in to see an exhibition but to buy their youth.

Michelle Lemesle in front of a display wall with rock photos at Rockarchive.

Michelle Lemesle in front of a display wall with rock photos at Rockarchive.

One of Rockarchive's print storage and display units.

One of Rockarchive’s print storage and display units.



Reception and sales desk at Foam Editions with prints for sale displayed behind.

Saturday we went for at meeting at Foam Editions with Floor Haverkamp. Foam Editions has been a part of the Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam since 2007 and Foam also publishes a contemporary photography magazine 4 times a year. Floor recently started in the role as manager of Foam Editions and the space is located just around the corner from their museum. It is in a spacious room shared with Foam’s magazine, book and merchandise shop. (The Director of Street Level visited Foam in 2009 and met with their print sales person to discuss their approach to setting up a print sales department – they had in turn used models such as the Photographers Gallery).


Floor Haverkamp at Foam Editions.

Since its inception, Foam Editions have been asking international photographers who have exhibited or are planning to have a show at Foam Photography Museum, to make a special edition of one or more prints to sell at Foam Editions. So as Floor explained they don’t as such represent the artists. Most photographers say yes to selling a special edition, says Floor. The shop has a wide range of photographic works for sale by artists such as Pieter Hugo, Alex Prager, August Sander and Kim Boske. Alex Prager who was exhibiting at Foam Museum during Unseen and also showed her work with The Photographer’s Gallery at the fair, sold all of her editions at Foam Editions’ shop.

Foam Editions have a large display room for the photographs for sale. The room functions as an exhibition space, where the photographs are hung in one smaller room and there are also prints standing on shelves behind the sales desk. Floor explains how they have 4 themes a year for the photographs on display: fashion, film, music and design. This gives the displayed images a coherency, but when they get new editions in these will be displayed even though they don’t relate to the current theme. In the collection, they also have artist books that include a photographic print when bought. Floor told how this was becoming popular and that the prices for these books range from €100-€150, and that they usually come in an edition of 100. For these books+prints, Foam take 40% commission and these books are displayed on top of the print storage unit in the space. At Unseen Photo Fair we saw these books at the

Swedish Gun Gallery and in the Unseen Collection, where Danish photographer Trine Søndergaard sold a print from ‘Strude’ with a book of the series included in the price for €1000.


An example of a book at Foam Editions including a print by Misha de Ridder.

Floor Haverkamp thinks that the sale of prints at Foam is going well, especially because they aim to keep photographs at affordable prices. Floor aims to keep a profound record of the buyers of the special editions at Foam in order to invite them to openings and events –like for instance Unseen Photo Fair. To develop their prints sales, Floor arranges courses on collecting photographs about twice yearly. Laura Noble from L A Noble Gallery has recently been visiting Foam Editions to teach such a course. 28 people attended and the courses were €50.

The lecture ‘Unseen Art of Collecting’ took place in the Speaker’s Corner on Saturday afternoon. Host François Hébel was in conversation with collector Martin Margulies, collector W.M. Hunt, Deutsche Börse’s collection curator Anne-Marie Beckmann, Simone Klein from Sotheby’s Auction House and Ariel Shanberg from Woodstock Photography Centre.


Martin Margulies with Bernd & Hilla Becher photograph.

Private collector Martin Margulies from Miami spoke about his immense photographic collection. Margulies bought his first photograph when he was only about 12 years old and it was one by Thomas Ruff of a young girl whose gaze instantly intrigued Margulies. Since then, Martin Margulies has expanded his collection of photographs and this includes works by artists such as Thomas Struth, Pieter Hugo, Olafur Eliasson, Robert Adams and Bernd & Hilla Becher. As Margulies’s collection grew and he didn’t have enough space in his house for it, he decided to share his collection to the public by displaying exhibitions in an old warehouse, where he arranges lectures and educational programmes about his contemporary photography collection. Margulies explained that he buys prints to encourage his enthusiasm about art. And as he said, he is not into pretty pictures but into something that he can relate to or communicate with.

Deutsche Börse has been collecting contemporary international photography since 1999 and they show about 95% of their collection in their offices and use the collection to educate too. Anne-Marie Beckmann gave a presentation of the images in their collection, which mostly consists of documentary photography. Of the approx. 87 artists and 900 photographs, artists include for instance Diane Arbus, Joel Sternfeld, Tsung Leong, Thomas Kern, David Goldblatt and Beate Güschou. W.M. Hunt, who like Martin Margulies, is a private collector but also a curator, teacher and author of The Unseen Eye. Hunt emphasized how his collection consists of photographs that he feels speak to him somehow. Hunt gave this advice to the audience, pointing out that it is your reaction to a photograph that matters when you consider if you want to buy it. He noted that “collecting should be delight and should be fun”. Hunt has previously shown his photographic collection in Arles.

Simone Klein who is responsible for Sotheby’s in Europe held a short discussion of how photographic prints gets sold at auctions, especially underlining how some photographs are sold at a very high price. At the moment, the most expensive photograph sold at Sotheby’s is Andreas Gursky’s ‘Rhein II’ that comes in an edition of 6 and is sold for $4.3m!!! Finally, Ariel Shanberg talked about the Centre of Photography at Woodstock’s photography collection which consists of works donated by exhibiting artists (see other post on this blog to Street Level’s visit to CPW: Shanberg also noted that they don’t have a budget to buy many photographs for their collection and that they also have a small staff number of 5 people.


The Fashion exhibition.

Both prior to the lecture on collecting and following it, we made a visit to the Unseen Photo Fair. This was very useful as we managed to see a lot of the pictures and speak with both galleries and photographers.

The Foam Talent exhibition outdoors by the canals

The Foam Talent exhibition outdoors by the canals


Van Kranendonk Gallery (NL) Artist – Johan Nieuwenhuize

Johan Niewenhuize in front of his photographs - he sold several

Johan Niewenhuize in front of his photographs – he sold several

Photography of different genres, but mainly architecture and landscape. Focuses on young talent and well known artists from the Netherlands and abroad.

Johan was happy to have sold several pieces at the fair: he attributed his success to his decision to keep print sizes, and therefore prices, low for this fair. Street Level viewed his work back in 2008 on an international curatorial programme trip which involved visiting several photographers/artists in their studio’s in Den Haag (co-funded by Stroom and Mondriaan Foundation). He’s keen to come to Glasgow and work with Street Level.

Michael Hoppen Gallery (UK) Florence Mackenzie, Clemency Cooke

Established in Chelsea in 1992 and has since earned a formidable presence in the international collecting community. A venue for new and established photographers, and a resource for those interested in photographic art. The gallery reflects the diversity of the photographers represented by Michael Hoppen.

Florence was pleased to have sold out their stock of print by rising star Alex Prager. They were also delighted to have sold a print to one of the Dutch Lottery winners who each had €1000 to spend that day as part of the winnings.

Seelevel Gallery (NL) Manon Funcke

A small independent local gallery, they present the work of current leading fine art photography of Dutch talent – they have temporary exhibitions at various locations and through an online gallery. Seelevel Gallery focuses on ‘cutting edge’ photography, which can also function as a starting point or framework for multimedia installations, collages, fine art and conceptual art.

GunGallery (SE)

Opened in May 2008 by Greger Ulf Nilson and Karolina Strömberg. The Stockholm-based GunGallery features photographers with different artistic directions; both documentary and conceptual works. GunGallery curates eight exhibitions a year and participates in several art fairs. They were selling combinations of an original print boxed with a beautifully-made artbook, similar to FoAM.

m97 Gallery (CN) Steve Harris

An independent photographic art gallery in central Shanghai. Established in 2006, m97 represents a range of Chinese and international emerging and established artists. m97 is dedicated to promoting the art of photography in China.

We shared a cigarette with Steve outside: mentioned that Bill Hunt had recommended work by Hiuang Xialiang in his speech which delighted Steve as Bill had already bought a print by Jiang Zhi. Steve seemed upbeat: thinks the fair has been a success, and he’ll definitely be back next year.

Steve represents Chi Peng, who exhibited at Street Level as part of Takeaway China in February 2012, and which went on to tour to Holden Gallery in Manchester.


Steve Harris, Director of M97 in Shanghai in front of one of Chi Peng’s stunning works. M97 partnered with Street Level in 2012 in the exhibition of Chi Peng’s work and the Confucius Institute sponsored the artists flight and stay in Glasgow at the time.


















Photographs from the Camera Work Collection

A special selection was compiled from the collection of Camera Work. Camera Work owns one of the world’s largest collections of photographic works and books.

Works on display by Edward Steichen, Man Ray, Helmut Newton, Steven Klein.

Some famous, iconic images from the last fifty years.

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Interview with Alasdair Foster

In September 2012, I attended the Kaunas Photo Festival to participate as a reviewer in their international portfolio competition (blog to follow soon!…). At the event I caught up with fellow reviewer Alasdair Foster from Australia and put a few questions to him on perspectives from a different continent….

  1. [Malcolm] You left Scotland for Australia some 14 years ago and based yourself in Sydney – do you think of yourself as Scottish, Australian, or does the international dimension supersede these?

[Alasdair] I had a strange sense of coming home when I moved to Australia. It’s hard to explain, but I felt a strong sentimental attachment to the country from the get go: to its multi-cultural citizenry, its awe-inspiring sense of natural space, to its wonderful trees and, of course, its clement weather.

My perspective has certainly been expanded by living in the Pacific hemisphere, building on what I experienced and learned in the Greater Atlantic zone. Asia and the Pacific is an incredibly rich and varied super-region. If I say my outlook is ‘international’ then that is probably the Australian way of thinking, since we are almost all immigrants and come from so many parts of the world. That said, we are each the accumulated product of our peculiar personal histories, and so that ‘internationalism’ is situated within and inevitably limited by my particular background. But I have become profoundly respectful of the many cultures of Asia and the Pacific. I feel enriched and privileged to have the opportunity to work in this part of the world.

What I do miss from the UK is the scepticism that questions power. It exists here, but not to the degree or depth I remember from my time in the UK.

 2.     How do people in the arts in Australia perceive Scottish visual arts?

Probably about the same way the Scottish audience perceives Australian visual arts… not much. Really, aside from links through expats, there is little, if any, differentiation between visual art from Scotland and visual art from the UK as a whole. Brand ‘Britain’ is what is recognised, brand ‘Scotland’ does not get much of a look in. Even the Edinburgh Festival is seen as British rather than specifically Scottish. Not surprising really given Australia a country of 22 million and Scotland of 6 million separated by over 17,000 kms and six billion other people: quite a human and geographic distance to travel. That said, I would place Iceland higher than Scotland on the level of Australian perception in the contemporary arts just now.

3.     You ran the Australian Centre for Photography (ACP) for 13 years – what changes did you see happen during that time and what is your proudest achievement?

Environmental change

The two biggest environmental changes were a major increase in Commonwealth (national) funding for the small-to-medium visual-arts sector in 2002 and a growing acceptance within the art world of pop culture as a legitimate aspect of creative activity, if not public subsidy.

Interestingly, the uplift of public funding under the Visual Arts and Crafts Strategy was the brainchild of one of Australia’s major arts philanthropists, Rupert Myer, who lead a report to the then (Right-leaning) government. It may seem surprising that it was a Right- and not a Left-leaning government that came to the rescue, but both sides have an ideological view of, and a political place for, the arts. Increasingly, however, the Left find it hard to argue for art ahead of education or health, and seem trapped in the either/or paradigm that poses this dilemma. The Right see culture as a mix of luxury commodity and national character, the Left see it in an increasingly short-termist light of instrumentality, which is difficult to argue convincingly when times are hard. Both sides are clear about one thing: the need for a diversity of income streams and the medium-term dismantling of contemporary arts that rely solely upon tax money to exist.

Organisational change

While I was director of ACP my colleagues and I worked to diversify the income streams, moving from the standard model of roughly 90% public subsidy to a situation where 60% of our income was derived from the provision of user-pay education and less than 40% from a mix of State (New South Wales Government) and Commonwealth (national) funding via the Australia Council. While we also attracted some commercial sponsorship, this remained a minor source of income, as did private philanthropy. Ideally we should have been more effective in bringing those additional streams into play.

During my time at ACP gross annual income tripled to over $2 million and enrolments in our classes rose from around 350 in a year to over 2,350; exhibition attendances increased from 13,500pa to 46,000pa. We also developed exhibition touring to a level that established ACP as the largest single provider of touring photo shows in the country. Meanwhile, the centre’s international profile developed to a level where up to 50% of our program was from overseas and in a given year some 100,000 visitors attended our exhibitions presented overseas.

Right Here Right Now, the second social inclusion project run by ACP

However, the greatest sense of personal achievement came when we were able to use our educational expertise and equipment, and our fundraising and income earning capacity to establish a pilot scheme to provide free training to young homeless adults in our area. The aim here was not to train them as photographers but, more fundamentally, to use the ‘sexiness’ of the medium to help each individual take hold of a chaotic lifestyle, focus on goal setting and project completion, build self-confidence and a sense of self-worth and offer a platform on which to open a dialogue with the community in which they maintained a wraithlike existence.

Now and When, the first social inclusion project by ACP

For me art is an experience not a commodity, and the best art is transformative. These pilot projects transformed the lives of more than half of the participants in a sustained and positive way. While some may relegate such activity to the realm of “community arts” I think this is a mistake. We should understand the arts in a holistic way. The value of each aspect is diminished if it is segregated from the whole – no more so than the so-called ‘fine arts’ which, if excised from the living whole, are rapidly reduced to intellectual novelties and luxury commodities.

4.     Is the term ‘resilience’ a common term in Australia?

Buzz words are handles for meaning. While the buzz word ‘resilience’ is not yet widely used in Australia, I think there is a growing awareness of the need to address its meaning.

As I understand it, ‘resilience’ was coined by the UK MMM (Mission, Models, Money) group as part of its agenda for creating economically sustainable arts infrastructure. It is the next stage after ‘sustainability’ (which is a buzz word in Australia). Whereas sustainability is about the individual (person or group) within the cultural ecology – a mix of environmental and individual strengths in synchrony – ‘resilience’ puts the onus on the individual or group. Resilience is a mix of fortitude and adaptability. It is a Darwinian idea. In terms of the cultural sector the fortitude comes from a strong support group and mixed economic basis; the adaptability is the ability to revise the vision and redirect the objectives to remain useful in the environment as it is and is becoming. Individuals or groups whose power base built on a small coterie or who rely on the support of a single funder, donor or market and who cling to their original mission come what may, will find it increasingly hard to sustain themselves. In the winds of change the rigid oak, however august, may tumble, while the flexible willow bends to the forces around it. I see this adaptation as appropriate when it is about remaining useful in the world and relevant in the community.

Putting both sides in their best light, it is the tension between staying true to one’s beliefs and remaining useful to the community (the cultural ecology) that is evolving around you. It may be morally most appropriate to remain true, but only if one also accepts that nothing is forever. In this case initiatives find their time and cease when that time passes. Any artist or organisation should not expect to continue to flourish simply because they have in the past. Equally, an organization that merely takes the easiest route without any clear vision or ethical framework will not hold together coherently.  (The latter is true also of political parties more attentive to the latest opinion polls than to envisioning and enacting a coherent set of policies for the people who elected them – and those who did not – as we see today.)

Resilience comes from a balance between inner fortitude (a clear philosophical driver with a flexible modality) and continuing usefulness within the society it serves.

 5.     What good examples of mixed economy practice in arts organisations have you encountered recently?

I think ACP is a good example of an organisation that is heading that way. It was the only Australian contemporary art space to earn more than 50% of its income from non-government sources. It is the only visual art organisation in the country to own its building, and that generates a degree of empowerment and flexibility.

6.     You were the founding (and as it turned out only) director of Fotofeis, the international biennial of photo-based art, which stage three events across Scotland in the 1990s. With the benefit of hindsight, what measures could have been taken to ensure the Fotofeis continued?

Any arts organisation (indeed any organisation) needs a leader fighting its corner the whole time. I had said from the beginning that I had a plan for three festivals and then wanted to move on, and I gave 12 months’ notice so that a new director could be identified and hired. When I left Fotofeis it was, I understood from SAC, the only contemporary arts organisation with the guarantee of triennial funding in place – something that is essential for a biennial festival. It takes a good three years to negotiate and fund a festival on that scale.

I have never understood why the Board did not hire a new director. Certainly adverts were placed and applications received, but months after I left Fotofeis, the position remained unfilled. In such a situation any organisation is vulnerable. There is never enough money to go around and if a company seems rudderless then it became ripe for de-funding. I don’t know the circumstances of the closure, but Fotofeis was wound up some time after I immigrated to Australia.

I don’t know how that was received in Scotland, but certainly the British Council in Sydney were very disappointed as it was one of the few British contemporary arts events anyone knew about here in Australia.

So my advice is:

  • Make sure you have a leader and that that leader is actively fighting for the organisation at all times
  • Understand the value of what you do from outside the paradigm of your own experience
  • Ensure the Board actively champions what you do and undertake their responsibilities in a timely and effective manner

7.     Tell us about the type of work you undertake for arts organizations with Cultural Development Consulting? Is this largely the not-for-profit sector, or does it overlap with the private sector?

One of the public floor talks and media interviews carried out for Ouroboros show at PIP12 (the work on the wall is by Dulce Pinzón)

Cultural Development Consulting is something of a speculative undertaking. I am attempting to map out and work across three distinct areas: academic research; strategic planning; and content production and dissemination. I am interested in how ‘cultural communities’ develop and ‘cultural conversations’ are sustained. This is particularly important in a region such as the Asia Pacific which spans much greater cultural differences than the Atlantic. As the shift of power moves to the Pacific, we will increasingly need those cultural conversations to develop empathy between people; enough empathy to engender the will to find mutual understanding in what will surely remain significant diversity. If the 20th Century was an American Century that saw a shift towards globalised monoculture, I think the 21st will be a Pacific Century marked by respectful but sustained pluralism.

For me a cultural community is more than a community of cultural practitioners. It is the whole community engaged as active participants in a network process of creation. That is not to say all people are equally creative. What I am saying is that no-one is without creativity, unless their education has been so ‘successful’ that it has been drained from them. Here, I align with Ken Robinson’s view that the Anglophone educational system is founded on principles that specifically alienate the individual from their creative talents; undermining their confidence in themselves as creative beings and shaping them to be passive consumers and workers. That clearly makes no sense in a world of rapid change where creativity is supposedly prized.

I work with both public and private interests (not-for-profit and commercial). The aim is to be effective, and to do that one needs to understand and engage with all sectors of the cultural ecology. My principle aim is in redefining the basis for public funding for the arts to encourage cultural communities at home and inter-cultural conversations locally and globally.

You can see more about what I do here:

8.     You are also the ambassador for a consortium of photography festivals in the Asia-Pacific Region – what does this involve?

The Asia-Pacific PhotoForum (APP) is an international consortium of festivals from the Asia-Pacific region that works collaboratively to promote photographic art as a means both of artistic expression and the dissemination of ideas in a globalising world.

Here, the Asia-Pacific (within the definition employed by this group) covers Asia, Oceania and the Pacific rim, from the Middle East to the western seaboard of the Americas, from Mongolia to New Zealand.

“Ouroboros: a Mexican cycle”: here Alasdair presented work by three Mexican photo-artists (in China) as part of his ongoing strategy of helping to build links between countries in the Asia-Pacific that have little history of cultural exchange. [L-R] Fernando Montiel Klint, Alasdair Foster, Pablo López Luz in exhibition space

I was recently elected as an ambassador for the group, with a remit to help build alliances between photographic festivals from across the Asia-Pacific region. I want to use my wide network and extensive history in the field of photo festivals to help expand and facilitate the group. My role, as with much of my international work, is about developing and sustaining intercultural ‘conversations’. As such it is essentially catalytic. I aim to help the development of strategic and empowering relationships.

While APP is the most extensive photographic network in the region, with member festivals spanning Angkor in the west to Auckland in the east, and Pingyao in the north to Ballarat in the south, there is considerable scope for the network to expand. There is strength in being part of a broad alliance of diverse festivals. There are economies of scale in terms of programming; there is the increased power for lobbying and the sharing of experiences to the benefit of all the members.

Alasdair prepares to chair a discussion panel at the Kaunas Photo Festival

9.     You’ve obviously been to many photography festivals and portfolio review events. What do you think of the Kaunas Photo-Festival? 

Alasdair in a lunch time briefing session, with Photo Festival Director Mindaugas Kavaliauskas.

The advantage of Kaunas is that it is small and friendly. While the mythos of the ‘meeting place’ model is that one will find instant fame, the reality of building a career as an artist (or as a curator) lies in establishing networks. The smaller festivals tend to be less formal, friendlier and, most importantly, freer in their thinking. I am a firm believer that it is in the margins of today that the history of tomorrow is written. Metropolitan centres and the corporate machinery of larger festivals tend to inhibit the ability to be flexible or open to new ways of thinking and doing.

10.  What other festivals would you recommend to a Scottish based practitioner?

I would recommend getting to as many of the smaller festivals in Europe as you can afford; certainly the UK ones at least. Format in Derby, for example, has a very high reputation. In Europe there are many. Krzysztof Candrowicz, who runs Fotofestiwal Lodz in Poland, is a very dynamic figure and the event reflects this energy and network connections. Krzysztof established the Union of European Festivals of Photography ( which gives a portal to many of the smaller European events not included in the larger and more international Festival of Light ( The best bet is to check out the festival timings and, where they have one, their thematic focus. Then pick an itinerary that suits your schedule, wallet and photographic style.

Alasdair Foster (on the right) with Pablo López Luz who won the international award at PIP12

Alasdair Foster is the Founder and Principal of Cultural Development Consulting (CDC) which provides a range of future-focused professional services that promote greater cultural dialogue through the visual arts. With a firm belief that art is the territory of the many and not the province of the few, CDC works to extend visual ‘conversations’ locally, nationally and internationally.

Alasdair Foster has 20 years’ experience heading national arts institutions in Europe and Australia and over 35 years of working in the public cultural sector. He was the founding director of Fotofeis, the award-winning international biennale of photo-based art in Scotland (1991–1997) and, more recently, director of the Australian Centre for Photography (1998–2011). He began his career in the documentary film industry before establishing a successful photographic business (1980-1990). He has worked as an artist, curator, writer, editor, researcher, policy advisor and commercial photographer.

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National Photography Symposium 2012

This years NPS took place at  Somerset House and the Stand Hotel in London as part of World Photo London. There was a great selection of panelists from an extensive section of the photographic industry, all of whom were experts in their field and throughout the symposium imparted some of their knowledge.

The first session I went to was on Archives with Jem Southam, photographer and professor in the School of Art and Media at Plymouth University, Pete James, Head of Photographs, Birmingham Central Library and Brigitte Lardinois, Deputy Director of the Photography and Archive Research Centre at University of the Arts London.

One thing that was great was learning about a lot of online resources I wasn’t aware of, which I’ll post up throughout this blog,  such as the website, which Bridgette Lardinos will be, I believe, curating. Bridgette is also the co-researcher with Val Williams over at PARC who has worked with Marjolaine Ryley to create the publication for her current show at Street Level ‘Growing Up in the New Age’, which Street Level are showing and which was part of Glasgow International Festival 2012.

On the 15th of May asks you to pick up your camera and photograph daily life which will serve as a historical archive.

Some of the questions raised were how do we manage and preserve archives, what are the best methods as there is no industry standard? Whose archives are chosen and who’s sadly will be thrown away? On top of this we then have to consider how we select who is chosen and what the deciding factor for that should be.


One thing everyone agrees on was the need for some sort of structure to help archivists answer these questions. It’s such a massive area and it’s one of these discussions that can go on forever, because no one can have all the answers and just the actual physicality of archiving someone’s life’s work is massive and that in it’s self creates problems of space, time, finances and the man power needed to archive our photographic heritage. These are questions that Jem Southam has been researching, I don’t believe there is any of his research for me to share here but there are other great resources such as PARC. Val Williams has curated an exhibition and book with the Daniel Meadows archive. We also heard from Pete James, who is a photo historian  and currently works as the head of  photographs at Birmingham Central Library showed us some of his work on the Sir Benjamin Stone and Paul Hill archive.  It was fantastic to see three people who were so enthused and giddy about the work they were doing even though the light at the end of the tunnel seems very far away. However they all agreed how import projects such as Daniel Meadows were, showing an archive to a public audience in an exhibition helps the public engage and in turn helps with raising the profile of the archives and the importance of preserving them.

A final thing about archives that all panelists urged for  is that we shouldn’t just think of them in the past and it’s not just the job of people like Bridgette or Pete but working photographers who need to ensure they prepare their work in a structured way so that it can be archived. There is a lot of discussion around the way digital has changed how to archive and preserve digital work and the important of starting now!


Birmingham Central Library

Directory of Photographic Collections

Source Photographic Review are doing a three month season dedicated to archives. There are interviews with John Blakemore and the London Zoo Photography archive as well as many more. Have a look here.

The second seminar I attended was on the Print Market. The panel consisted of Zelda Cheatle, Gallery Director of Margaret Street Gallery WM Hunt, collector, curator and photographic consultant and was chaired by Jeffrey Boloten, Managing Director, ArtInsight.

Jeffrey Boloten started off the discussion with some graphs and figures, showing that the photographic print market currently is doing better than the general art market. It also showed new trends in photographic print sales veering away from fine art photography towards new areas of photography that are not made directly for sale such as fashion and documentary photography, with an impressive rise in documentary photography at 500%. It also showed a emerging trends; non-Western markets namely Russia, India, China and the Middle East.   One important point was that the photographic print market generates high sales when not referred to as photography but art and doesn’t sell in dedicated photography galleries but art galleries. Part of the problem of course is the perceived difference of photography and art.


Of course, Street Level is a dedicated photography gallery so then how do we generate sales from photographic prints? This is something that is ever more urgent as a means of generating other incomes with demands being made on the public purse. Should all photographers start moving from ‘photographer’ to ‘artist’ to sell their work?  So we then need to look at the photographers whos work does sell and why. What are the problems that the photographic print market faces? One thing was look at the reproducibility of photography as a de-valuing factor. So what then of limited editions? Zelda Cheatle believes that this is simply a marketing tool and holds no real value but on a more positive note believes that one image printed now will be completely different and unique to one printed ten years from now, which is of course true in many respects. A final and extremely important discussion was the longevity of digital photographic prints, which then looped back around to the reproducibility and value of photographic print. Whose responsibility is it to re-print if such a thing happens. An example was given of the fading Gursky that was on show at the Tate. There seemed to be a consensus that it was too early to know for sure but what happens when we get to that point, will we all be left with blank prints?

The keynote speaker this year was Peter Kennard, whose work Street Level included in its display at Vault Art Fair. See here  and here. Peter Kennard is one of the UK’s most important photo montage artists.


His talk lead nicely on to the next seminar which was on the subject of Work and the Economy. This covered how as photographers you can support yourself, working in various fields such as art, teaching, commercial. This panel was made up of Esther Teichmann, photographic artist, John Wright, portrait and fashion photographer, and board member of the Young Photographers’ Alliance and Sara T’Rula, documentary photographer.

Esther Teichmann discussed how she worked across different areas, she teaches, works on her own projects and when possible she will assist other photographers. This is one thing I’ve been told by various working photographers is to stay varied. Shutting yourself off in to just one industry can be a big downfall for photographers. She stated she had just recently gotten in to photography but had seen an opportunity last year with the Street Photography Now project which was part of the London Street Photography Festival, and she basically took over the online presences and helped co-ordinate the whole project. So straight away we have a great example of how to get on in photography. This blended in well with a discussion between John Write and Esther regarding opportunities available to photography graduates, with arguments being made about how ill-equipped photography students are when they leave their photography course. John sighted Blackpool and the Fylde College as an example of one photography course that seems to have struck a good balance between technical, critical discourse and preparing students for working in the industry but both agreed that there was some issues with the graduates coming from photography courses, a main one being the high percentage of people doing photography and the amount of jobs out there. Staying on the topic of opportunities for graduate photographers – internships were discussed. John Wright runs an internship programme and made the point when questioned on the ethics of internships and un-paid work experience that if someone takes up an internship they need to really question what they are getting from it and if nothing, then they should leave. There is a lot that can be gained in internships in place of money and it’s up to the people doing it to be savvy and ensure they are getting valuable experience from it.

The final seminar I attended was on Collaboration. The panel consisted of Anna Fox, photographer and Professor of Photography, University for the Creative Arts, Farnham;  Anthony Luvera, artist, writer and educator and was chaired by Anne McNeill, Director, Impressions Gallery, Bradford.

I thought the discussion would focus on ways organisations could collaborate more heavily but was more focused on other collaborations and partnerships in the sense of sponsorship when Anne talked about Ways of Looking Festival for example, they sourced money from different places such as hotels who gave free rooms or local printers who printed up exhibitions for them in place of cash donations.


The second example of collaboration was with Anna Fox who discussed how her university had set up an exchange programme between UCA, Farnham and IDC, India. They showed how the students worked collaboratively to create work  which resulted in an exhibition and produced a network of photographers who have continued working collaboratively after the end of their formal education.

The most interesting presentation on collaboration came from Anthony Luvera. I’d seen his work while I was studying and so it was really interesting to get more insight in to how the final project came about. If you haven’t seen his work, have a look here: He worked with homeless people to create a project titled, ‘Assisted Self-Portraits’. His project and his work are very interesting in the way he approaches working with a vulnerable group of people but he has managed to actively involve participants to create their own images and to create their own stories. On his website it states,

Luvera explores the tension between authorship (and artistic control), and the ethics involved in making photographs about other people’s lives.’

The work he has done is a great example of how to work with people on collaborative projects and create a project that is devoid of stereotypes.


So I hope I’ve given you some insight in to the weekend. There was a lot of fantastic, insightful and well argued discussion from a broad range of people working within photography. A big thanks to Paul Herrmann of Redeye for keeping discussions focused and on cue. The weekend was wrapped up with Photography Question Time which again raised a lot of questions and we spent a good bit of time going over ethics and morals within photography. There were a few seminars I didn’t get to because they ran parallel but all audio is going online at the NPS blog at some point in the next week I believe.

Linda McLaughlin

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DATA – Daily Action Time Archive in Budapest

In late March I travelled to Budapest with Aitch (aka Peter Haining) to look out hundreds of single page artworks covering several years of the DATA project – to scan and bring back the digital simulacra on a Hard Drive for a show at Street Level in April. Jet2 fly relatively cheap flights out of Edinburgh – though these have went up recently since their budget Hungarian airline competitors went bust in March – and there are a number of hostels that provide exceptionally cheap accommodation, should that be your mode of preference. So if you buy your food to cook yourself you can live there probably cheaper than you do at home. Across the street from where I am staying, the old and the new blend – new buildings retain the magnificent architectural features of the old, which remain pock marked with bullet holes, either from WWII or the Uprising in 1956.

The project in question is DATA – Daily Action Time Archive, run by Dundee artist, Pete Horobin which involved documenting 10 years of his life on a daily basis, from 1st January 1980 to 31st December 1989, using art, films, audio recordings, journals, photography and a few other methods to construct a detailed time capsule of a decade. The project was based in The Attic, at 37 Union Street, Dundee, a laboratory visited only by a select few who he collaborated with, locally and from many national and international locations. The Attic Archive closed down in 2011, the contents of which have since been distributed far & wide – the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Dundee University Libraries, but the most of this now resides in the incredible archive which is Artpool in the centre of Budapest.


Aitch (aka Peter Haining), Julia Klaniczay, and the artist Georg Ladanyi

Artpool Art Research Centre is a non-profit institution located in the centre of Budapest, and it is dedicated to contemporary avant-garde media arts and it houses a public library, multimedia archives, and an exhibition space. It draws upon the extensive archive directly relating to the experiences of Gyorgy Galantai, who had previously founded the Chapel Studio in Balantonboglar (1970-73). Its collection includes books, magazines, documents, invites, catalogues, correspondence etc relating to the Hungarian avant-garde and also conceptual, performance, fluxus and mail art networks in Europe, America and the some from the UK (including Robin Crozier, Andre Stitt, and Peter Haining/DATA). They have a substantial collection of artists stamps, artists books, audio works, cassettes, etc and also a huge collection of Hungarian banned punk music from the late 70s. It has emanated from practice and from the strong relationships built through international networks. In other words it considers itself as an ‘Active Archive’ which means it ‘lives’ and it creates a lot of the material through activities which it archives. They have collections of material by Antonio Muntadas, John Cage and Ray Johnson, and hundreds more. It was first set up on 1979, but since 1992 it has operated from its current location with an increased international reputation and annual support from the Municipal Council – the latter however happens on a year-by-year basis, with no guarantee of sustained funding. Coincidentally, Gyorgy pops his head in the door of the room we are doing the research to announce that today (Tuesday 21st March) is their 20th anniversary of being in the current space. There’s no party as such. They are currently in negotiation with some bodies concerning the possibility of the State taking responsibility for the archive as a publicly accessible resource (as straightforward as that sounds, many archive collections can be inaccessible).

I give them some material and ask for a Scottish section to be entered into their inventory for future researchers – these books include Transmission’s publication, ‘Social Sculpture’ by Sarah Lowndes, The Mag.Net Reader, Free Association, plus some collected brochures of Street Level. I also give them a copy of ‘This Cannot Happen Without You: the collected archives of the Basement Group, Projects UK and Locus +’. I point out that the Basement Group was the main port of call for performance artists in the period of the late 70s and that their archive is worth being aware of (Locus + have the archive of Alastair MacLennan, for example, another Duncan of Jordanstone ‘alumni’ from the dark days of Scottish art!).

Artist Balint Szombathy with his book Szombathy Art, a retrospective exhibition of his work held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Novi Sad, 2005, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, 2006.

Julia Klaniczkay and Gyorgy Galantai, Coordinators if Artpool.


There are connections between Scotland and Budapest. In 1849 the Chain Bridge, which was Budapest’s first bridge across the Danube, was completed. At the commencement of the build, its chief engineer Adam Clark, a Scotsman, had asked for English language church services to be held for his workers and their families during the several years build. A school was started in 1846, funded by Jewish Christians. In 1932, a Scottish church missionary named Jane Haining became matron of a school’s girls’ home. There was growing anti-Semitism throughout Central Europe at this time and at the start of the war in 1939 she returned to look after the welfare of the mainly Jewish girls. She was asked to return to Scotland by the church but refused, on a few occasions it is said. She was arrested in 1944 and sent to Auschwitz where she died a few months later. Her crime was helping Jewish children and listening to the BBC.

Peter Haining and Jane Haining

On the way home, I’m slightly anxious at customs – Aitch has already shared several stories of raising some eyebrows with officials, including a frozen trout and a bag of freshly harvested carrots from a field, in his bag going into Belfast, a first for customs officers I am told. He has also managed to create a security alert at the small airport in Shetlands. This time I have to take his camping kettle and knife in my check-in luggage. He is returning with a bag containing the original blood pressure kit he used throughout the 80s in the DATA project – a rather suspect looking piece of equipment in any x-ray scan. 

Malcolm Dickson

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Redeye The Photography Network, Manchester

Malcolm and I made a trip to Manchester to meet with Paul Herrman the Director of Redeye The Photography Network. We had a great discussion on organisational issues and how and in what ways photography advocacy organisations like both of ours can raise more cash from our endeavors. Paul discussed some of the challenges faced by small arts organisations and how the wide- spread economic situation has created a new set of pressures. One noticeable characteristic of Redeye is its enterprising approach, and how they have a plan in place to reduce dependency on ACE funding to 40% of overall income in the next 10 years. This is an ambition many small organisations will find difficult to achieve, but a productive strategy towards increased self-sufficiency.

Based in the Northern Quarter of Manchester, Redeye has an office space within the Chinese Arts Centre. It is made up of 4 staff: Paul Herrman (Director), Alex Hodby (Administrator), Petra van den Houten (Business Development) and Mark Devereux (Events Co-ordinator); a Board of Directors who meet quarterly and an Advisory Group who meet annually to advise on programme direction.  According to Redeye’s website, its purpose is to support photographers at every level, and improve the health of photography generally. It aims to form a clear picture of the ways photographers and photographic artists are working now, and give them access to events, opportunities, advice and information that are relevant to their work and difficult to find elsewhere. Alongside this it works to bring photographic and other organisations together, to encourage ethical and best practice, and to build a voice for photography.

Currently, you can either be a Subscriber or Member of Redeye. To be a Subscriber is free and means you will receive monthly e-newsletters and can submit events, exhibitions and opportunities to the Redeye website, as well as contribute to forums. As a Member you get all of the above plus discounts on all Redeye activities, priority booking at Redeye events, up to 25% off equipment rental, studio hire and other services, invitation to members–only events, exclusive information and invitations for commissions and bursaries and an online profile page to showcase your work. A Membership costs £50/ year or £30 for students. Currently Redeye has 40 to 50 members: as their membership scheme is fairly new they anticipate this growing.

Redeye delivers masterclasses, talks, workshops, portfolio critiques, seminars and an annual symposium: most of which are charged to the audiences, helping Redeye cover the costs of such events. Redeye also receives income from Arts Council England, sponsorship, membership fees, consultancy and general fundraising. Recently, they have made forays into team- building photography days with commercial businesses. The Director Paul Herrman believes there is mileage in these types of activities for generating more income for Redeye. Crucially, as Redeye only has a small office space the organisation relies on strong partnerships to deliver its events, working with galleries, universities and other photographic arts organisations.

Redeye recently built a new website which acts as an interactive platform for its Subscribers and Members. The News and Opportunities section lists UK wide news related to photography, while the Portfolios pages allow Members to upload their work, the Forum pages encourage discussion and the Opinion pages give ‘guest opinions’ a chance to explore a topic in more detail. As Redeye doesn’t have a physical venue the website is essential as the ‘shop front’ signposting users, and creating a virtual meeting place to gel the network together.

Lucy Keany

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Autograph – Rivington Place


Mark Sealy, Director of Autograph

Visited Autograph for a meeting with Mark Sealy (Autograph Director), Ajamu (artist and curator) and Deborah Cherry (writer and academic) regarding a partnership project focusing on the work and legacy of Maud Sulter. Maud was a Glaswegian artist, writer, playwright and culture historian who was active around feminist communities in London in the early 1980s, and a life long advocate of black women’s creativity. Amongst a prolific body of work, she has used a variety of conventions from portraiture to question ‘national’ heritage and the history of colonialism. The project is being developed by Ajamu and Deborah through Street Level and Autograph, and it is hoped other institutions will be brought in to the project as partners in the exhibition in 2014. It will be a fantastic opportunity to revisit and re-present some of Maud’s key works and celebrate her photographic projects. Other partner institutions are hoped to be involved.

Born in 1960, Maud died in 2008 after a long illness. The Herald printed an obituary of Maud on 22 March 2008 (cant track down who wrote it!) which helps cover some of the key bodies of Maud’s work:

“Notable works by Sulter include Zabat (1987; London, V&A), a series of Cibachrome photographic portraits of contemporary black artists, musicians and writers, posed as a theatre of ancient muses; Syrcas (1994; Wrexham and Portfolio Gallery, Edinburgh), a set of montages and texts linking the horrors of African slavery with the European persecution of minorities in the 1930s and 1940s; Jeanne Duval: a melodrama (2003; Scottish National Portrait Gallery). This last was a series of self-portraits as Baudelaire’s muse, Jeanne Duval, recovering an almost invisible presence in a way that only Sulter could have carried off, with her beauty, sensuality, confidence and ability to dramatise a situation.

She was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to photograph several children’s writers, and used a special Polaroid machine which produced 20″ x 24″ photographs. This was also the medium for a series of portraits she made of Scottish cultural figures in the summer of 2002, and 10 of her portraits of writers were toured round Scotland by the Scottish Poetry Library in 2003-4.

Glasgow acquired the splendid portrait of Edwin Morgan from this series.

As well as her academic writing, she published several collections of poetry: As a Blackwoman (1985), which won the Vera Bell Prize for poetry that year; Zabat (1989); and Sekhmet (Dumfries & Galloway Council, 2005); and a play about Jerry Rawlings, Service to Empire (2002). “I often address issues of lost and disputed territories, both psychological and physical,” she wrote in 1994. “The central body of my poetic work is unequivocally the love poetry which is addressed to both genders.” Sekhmet begins with a roll-call of love and gratitude to friends, lovers, family across the world, to medics, and to the ancestors, “who walked beside me when I needed them most and carried me forward when the terrain was too rough but never absolve me of the responsibility for my own life and identity”.


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