Blog Archive

Made in collaboration with local residents, Settling showcases the pictures and stories of those who have moved to the city from around the world, from the recent past to the present day. Stories include the life journey of World War Two veteran Walerian ‘Val’ Tyminski , Pat Phillips the wife and business partner of a local artist, and Aaida Haughton’s story on finding love during the Bosnian Civil War.

The exhibition has two parts; The first is a projection of The Settling Archive and original photographs from contributor’s personal albums, digital versions of which will be gifted to the City Archives to preserve these stories. The second is Welcome Home, a series of diptychs by photographer Sam Ivin, made with contributors to the archive. Individuals own images
are shown alongside a portrait created by Ivin, reflecting on the experiences that have bought them to Stoke-on-Trent. Audiences are also invited to share their own stories to the exhibition.

The exhibition is supported by GRAIN Projects, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Arts Council England.


In 2011 Birmingham-based architectural photographer Richard Southall commenced a long term project to document the demise of the old Birmingham Central Library. In July 2015 Southall presented the Library of Birmingham with a series of 20 archival prints documenting the Library before its closure. Southall’s project will continue throughout 2015 / 2016 recording the final demolition of the iconic brutalist building.

Tindal Photo Survey1

The Library recently loaned a community photography exhibition, The Tindal Photographic Survey, to the temporary installation Ghost Streets of Balsall Heath. Presented by Flatpack Festival in association a forthcoming exhibition of work by the American photographer Janet Mendelsohn’s to be shown at Ikon Gallery in 2016. Based on an archive of C19th photographs held in the Library, the Tindal Photographic Survey, which forms part of the Building Sights Archive held by the Library, shows a child’s eye view of Balsall Heath at the start of the last decade if the twentieth century.


In spring 2015 the Library completed the transfer of the entire archive of the photographer and film maker Daniel Meadows to the Library. This marked the culmination of a ten year project celebrated during the showing of retrospective exhibition in the Library in 2014. The material, shipped in over 200 boxes includes work assembled over four decades. It contains many thousands of photographs, rolls of film and contact sheets, posters, magazines, books, receipts, newsletters, correspondence, notebooks, audio tapes, digital stories and other contextualising documents. In May 2015 Meadows and his family visited the Library to see the material in its new home. Meadows has recently completed a series of books published by Café Royal Books and uploading a series of short films relation to the archive on Vimeo.


The Library is loaning a series of posters, period clothes and other items from the forthcoming exhibition At Home with Vanley Burke being shown at the Ikon Gallery from 22nd July. The items will be presented within the larger exhibition in which the contents of Burke’s entire flay will be moved to the gallery. Pete James, Curator of Photography Collections has contributed an essay on the history of Burke’s extraordinary archive to the accompanying exhibition catalogue.

Image: Vanley Burke – Tigers Don’t Cry


Following the successful exhibition Softly Following Stone’s Footsteps at the Library and the ongoing Kern Baby exhibition at Compton Verney the Library will be acquiring a series of works Claridge made in response to the photographs of British customs and festival made by Sir Benjamin Stone, during her residency funded by Turning Point West Midlands. This acquisition completes another long term project which began as a conversation between Claridge and curator Pete James in Arles in 1995.

28 06 2015

Jon Tonks, Empire


Following the successful exhibitions at mac and the Library of Birmingham earlier this year Fottogallery, Cardiff are the current host of the touring version of Jon Tonk’s acclaimed book of the same, now in its second edition. The show moves to Impressions gallery, Bradford, later this year and at the end of the tour the Library will acquire 12 selected works from the exhibition.

The dates are Friday 11 September to Saturday 12 December.


Following the successful showing of Trevor Appleson’s portrait photographs of carefully selected demographic groups made in his makeshift portable studio in Birmingham at mac, the Library, who co-commissioned the project, will be acquiring a series of prints by the artist to add to an existing holding of his work acquired in 2010. In this new body of work, Appleson took to the streets of Birmingham to look at youth culture now. In the show which included over 70 classic portrait photographs, Appleson reflected the cultural diversity of young people in the city, their infinite styles and tribal affinities. He is now working on a publication with the University of Birmingham.

20 03 2015

Still Life


Photographs by Stuart Whipps

Library of Birmingham recently accessioned a new series of photographs by Stuart Whipps. The 25 prints and accompanying publication resulted from a residency Whipps undertook at the John Taylor Hospice, once the home of the important photographer and politician Sir Benjamin Stone (1838-1914).

Whipps responded to a series of images in the Stone Collection in which the photographer documented the rooms and objects decorating his house. During an 18 month residency established by the Ikon Gallery and funded by the Baring Foundation, Whipps interviewed people receiving palliative carer, their families and hospice staff in their homes. The work resulted in an audio-visual work shown at Ikon Gallery in 2013 based around the images these images which embodied both and present and which explored themes of isolation, separation and transition.


Sala Brazil, Embassy of Brazil, 14-16 Cockspur Street, London SW1Y 5BL

September 11 – November 7 2014

Sir Benjamin Stone: Observations in Brazil 1893 presents a series of unpublished photographs by the noted Birmingham businessman, politician and photographer taken during a journey to Brazil in 1893. Curated by Rodrigo Orrantia and Pete James from the Stone Collection held at the Library of Birmingham, the exhibition tells the story of Stone’s journey into Brazil as part of a Royal Astronomical Society mission to view and record a full solar eclipse. In addition to recording this natural phenomenon, Stone also made a large series of photographs documenting his journey by sea to Brazil and the people, places and sites which greeted him. A keen observer of people and customs in England, Stone’s images convey the different stories of Brazil, from recently freed African slaves and indigenous tribes of the Amazon to the European settlers, the wealthy and dispossessed, venturing to this land in search of a promising future. In many of these images his subject’s quizzical gaze make it evident that Stone was as much the observed as the observer.

The exhibition is a collaboration between the Library of Birmingham, Lucid-ly, The Brazilian Embassy.

It is sponsored by Jaguar Land Rover.

Photo: Sir Benjamin Stone, Visitors to the Eclipse Station on the day of the Eclipse, Paracuru, Brazil, 1893.

Click here for a blog post by Michael Pritchard.

The buffalow girl Varanasi 2006

Photographic Exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry

26 September 2014 – 11 January 2015

A remarkable photographic exhibition, People of India, is set to open at Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in September 2014.

People of India presents a series of extraordinary photographs drawn from three immense collections – two historical, one contemporary – created at key moments in India’s history. Together these official, personal and historic images invite the viewer to compare the ways in which the people of India have been documented over the last 150 years.

At the heart of the exhibition is a series of striking contemporary portraits by Coventry based photographer Jason Tilley. Taken between 1999 and 2009, Tilley’s black and white studies document a personal journey through India made possible by travel grants from Arts Council England. Tilley’s personal and cultural explorations, often re-tracing his grandfather’s footsteps, are presented through a series of portraits of the people he met, befriended and often re-encountered over a decade travelling through the urban and rural landscapes of India.

Tilley began his photographic career in 1987 as a staff photographer at the Coventry Citizen, going on to work for the Coventry Evening Telegraph, Birmingham Post and Mail, and a wide range of national newspapers and magazines, before embarking on this decade-long project.

Tilley’s journey was inspired by an archive of family photographs taken by his Anglo-Indian grandfather, Bert Scott. Scott worked as a press photographer for The Times of India newspaper from 1936 to 1940 and then as head of the Indian Army’s photographic unit in Burma during the Second World War. These roles gave him unique access to record a defining moment in British-Indian history, including the very last days of the Raj. Scott’s press, family, social and army photographs bear witness to everyday and official life in India up to the point when, risking their lives travelling through the violence of Partition, his family left India in 1947 carrying their precious family photographs with them.

Finally the exhibition presents a series of ethnographic images from the seminal 19th century photographic undertaking The People of India on loan from the Library of Birmingham, who have also supported Tilley’s ten year project. The origins of this study, published between 1868 and 1875, lay in the British government’s desire to create a visual record of ‘typical’ physical attributes and characteristics of Indian people: a reference work to assist them in understanding and then controlling the Indian population under British rule. Tilley established a remarkable personal link to this publication when he discovered that a distant relative, the Reverend E Godfrey, was one of the photographers who contributed to The People of India.

Admission to the exhibition is free of charge. Find out more click here.

This exhibition is a partnership between the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Jason Tilley and the Library of Birmingham.

This exhibition – curated by English Heritage – showcases Aerofilms’ unique aerial archive with images dating from 1919 to 1953. Aerofilms Ltd was the world’s first firm of commercial aerial photographers.

Established in 1919, Aerofilms’ founders were pioneers of the air. A collection of adventurers, showmen and aviation enthusiasts, the firm married the fledgling technology of flight to the discipline of photography. From the very start of operations, Aerofilms took photographs of villages, towns, cities and landscapes all over the country. Continuing this far-reaching programme for 80 years, its photographs provide a unique view of the development of Britain’s urban centres and rural landscapes throughout the 20th century.

In addition to the outdoor exhibition, which shows images from across Britain, a special indoor display presented in the Spotlight space which opens in late June at LoB will feature images from Birmingham and the West Midlands. The exhibtions are presented as a partnership between English Heritage and the Library of Birmingham.

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Photographers Sophy Rickett and Bettina von Zwehl respond to 19th Century photographer Sir Benjamin Stone’s archive, which is held at The Library of Birmingham

To read Gemma Padley’s article for The British Journal of Photography — 1 May 2014 – click here.

Click here for more information about Album 31 and the current show at Library of Birmingham or for a review of the show by  y Anna Falcini at Photomonitor click here.


13 February – 31 March

Gallery of Photography, Meeting House Square, Dublin 2

Library of Birmingham, in collaboration with the IKON, showed the first major exhibition by Midlands-based artist John Myers in 2012. Comprising black and white photographs made in the 1970s, including portrait of individuals and families living in and around Stourbridge and the Black Country, plus typological studies of TV sets and a series of Boring Landscapes, this exhibition now tours to Dublin.

in other news;

John Myer’s acclaimed portrait of Mr and Mrs Seabourne ( features in the exhibition A Collection, currently on display on The Photographers’ Wall in the Library of Birmingham.

John Myers best shot


The library continues to build up its holdings of British photographs from the 1970s-80s with the purchase of 61 photographs by John Curno. The acquisition includes his ROOFTOPS series (1980) and BRIMHAM ROCKS (1981), a personal study of the unusual sandstone (Millstone Grit) structures of Brimham Rocks in North Yorkshire.

The rooftop series and a series of seascapes and landscapes formed Curno’s first solo exhibition at Impressions Gallery (York) in 1982. The Brimham Rock series was first exhibited at Open Eye Gallery (Liverpool) in 1983.

John Curno, Brimham Rocks,c1982

John Curno, Brimham Rocks,c1982


Internationally acclaimed photographer, Brian Griffin, has added three of his major exhibitions to the substantial existing collection of his work held by the Library of Birmingham.

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The Val Williams Archive goes to the Library of Birmingham

The Val Williams Archive is to become part of the nationally and internationally significant photography collections at the new Library of Birmingham. The archive consists of papers, letters, audiotapes, video, manuscripts, published material, invitations, posters, press cuttings and research materials documenting the work of one of the UK’s most important curators and writers on photography.

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The Library of Birmingham will be a major new cultural destination, rewriting the book for 21st century public libraries. It opens on 3 September 2013 in Centenary Square, Birmingham City Centre.

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The Library of Birmingham holds one of the national collections of photography: the only such collection held outside a national museum, library or archive and the only one of such significance held in a public reference library in the UK.

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Copyright 2016 GRAIN.