Blog Archive

Camera Obscura by David Bethell

Ilam Park, Ilam Holy Cross, near Ashbourne, Staffordshire Moorlands

The work will be in-situ 14 – 22 April 2018

Artist David Bethell is inspired by the rural landscape and natural environment.   He frequently uses performance, film and photography in his work to animate his installations and sculptures within the location and to explore a narrative. GRAIN Projects has commissioned David to create a unique camera obscura for Ilam Park in the Peak District, inspired by the landscape and heritage there and in collaboration with the National Trust.

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

It is the church that forms the basis and design for David Bethell’s site specific largescale work which functions as a camera obscura. Visitors will be able to engage and experience the surroundings as an inverted landscape from within the installation.   The commission will capture the immense beauty of the surrounding landscape from its position.

For more information on Ilam Park, how to get there and parking arrangements visit;

For more information on David Bethell

David Bethell Inverted Landscapes writing by Selina Oakes

26 01 2018


We are pleased to produce Noises, an exhibition of works by photographer Lúa Ribeira from the series of the same name, in conjunction with Argentea Gallery, Birmingham.

Argentea Gallery, 30th March-12th May 2018

Noises is inspired by contemporary Jamaican dancehall ritual.  Made in collaboration with a group of British Jamaican women in Birmingham, Ribeira recreated scenes from dancehall culture at the participants’ homes. By embracing the impossibility of fully understanding this cultural expression so very different from her own, Ribeira playfully dissects the ideas of femininity and sexuality within the performances.   Ribeira does not intend the images to comment on the Dancehall, but to become the ritual itself. The power of the transformations of the women and the innovation and provocation that they engage, often clash with Western ideas of femininity. ‘Mythological powers, the concept of female divinity and sacredness in Afro-Caribbean culture, were very present in my visual search. Fed by their folklore and my imagination, universal subjects such as birth, love, death and sex are central to the encounters.’ – Lúa Riberia

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

Recipient of the Jerwood Award and the Firecracker Grant, Noises will be exhibited at Argentea Gallery in early 2018, alongside a limited edition leporello book of the work published by Fishbar Books.

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

For the exhibition a new piece of writing has been commissioned by writer, curator and photographer Colin Pantall ‘Lose the Noise and you Lose the Meaning’

Photographer and anthropologist Liz Hingley is collaborating with Syrian individuals who have recently arrived in Coventry on a unique UN programme, to capture the remarkable welcome that the city and refugee centre provide. Interlacing between archival collections and fundamental symbols of contemporary life, Hingley looks to future of the fastest growing city in the UK.

The work references the historic practice of presenting honoured visitors with symbolic keys to the city gates in relation to the sim card given to refugees as soon as they land in the UK. The sim card offers a direct link to scattered loved ones and an archive of photographic memories.  As an object and tool it thus offers an immediate sense of security, identity and home in a new place.

Presented within an intimate installation, items from the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum’s collections portray the cities eclectic history alongside images, which explore how stories and skills from Syria can translate and transform in new contexts.

The exhibition will be on show at the Herbert Art Gallery from the 1st December 2017 to the 11th of February 2018.

This project was commissioned by GRAIN Projects and is generously supported by Arts Council England, Rubery Owen Trust, Coventry University and The Herbert Art Gallery. Enormous thanks is also owed to Coventry City Council, Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre and the participants in the project.

Artist Talk by Liz Hingley 

Herbert Art Gallery & Museum – Learning Space   
Thursday 18th January 2018
4.30 – 6.30pm

Join Hingley at Herbert Art Gallery and Museum on Thursday 18th January to explore the process and creation of this thought provoking exhibition. Tickets are free, but places are limited so please book via our eventbrite page.

Image credit;  Key from the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum Collection

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12 11 2017


Arena Gallery, Mac, Birmingham

18 November 2017 – 21 January 2018

The project will premier Matthew Murray’s new work which focuses on contemporary photography and the landscape. Murray has created a photographic odyssey, an epic series of landscape works made over a period of four-and-a-half years. The exhibition will be accompanied by a new publication, symposium and newly commissioned writing.

Murray involves the viewer in a series of challenges; aesthetic, emotional, and perhaps even moral. If we look at the pictures without knowledge of the location – and the tragic historical events that took place there – our initial response to the brooding, picturesque terrain may be purely aesthetic. This location seems untouched by human intervention. Murray captures its changing moods under glowering skies, creating impressions, partly real and partly generated through the photographic process. We seem to be in a dream world as much as a real place. In this work Murray occupies a position within a lineage of landscape artists stretching back hundreds of years.

Murray is a Birmingham based photographer who has worked in a gallery context as well as commercially shooting campaigns for various advertising agencies, features for editorials and exhibiting personal photography projects.

In the context of the exhibition Saddleworth, Responding to A Landscape, the symposium will invite acclaimed and outstanding photographers, artists, writers and photography historians to talk about their work and relationship with the landscape. Those speaking alongside Matthew Murray include; Richard Billingham, Jem Southam, Chrystel Lebas, Camilla Brown, Simon Constantine, John Hillman and Mark Wright.

The practitioners will talk about how they have approached landscape and their unique relationship with it.

Image Credit:  Matthew Murray – Saddleworth Moor, Peak District

The project is supported by GRAIN Projects, Arts Council England, Gallery Vassie, mac Birmingham, Pirate Design and the University of Gloucestershire.

mac-birm-black81Pirate_Logo   gallery Vassie logo small

10 08 2017


Photographer Sam Ivin has worked with individuals and community groups in Stoke on Trent to explore migration to the city. During the residency he has focused on the participant’s personal photographs and stories, working with people who moved to the city from after World War II to the present day.  These include Sikh families in the 1950’s, war veterans, and more recent individuals. They have travelled for a wide range of reasons: professional opportunities, education and refuge from difficult circumstances.

Most participants have engaged with the project through a series of workshops, others through individual meetups.   During the project those taking part have taken photographs, shared photography collections, made photo collages and told their stories, focusing on what led them to live in Stoke-on-Trent. Fascinating, brave and poignant stories have been captured and recorded alongside precious photographs that tell something of the participant’s story.

Photography is part of these people’s journey; from the places and people they left to their new lives in Stoke-on-Trent.  Photographer Sam Ivin has created a new archive of photographs from people’s contributions.  

Sam Ivin is a photographer whose work focuses on social issues and the people connected with them. His pictures attempt to demonstrate the impact situations have on his subjects. By documenting their stories and perspectives he hopes to provide a more personal, tangible understanding of them. He studied Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport graduating in 2014.  Since then he has been awarded numerous significant photography prizes including the Magnum Photos Graduate Photographers Award, May 2017, The GMC First Prize, Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, March 2017, the Best Graduate Single Image, Runner Up,  British Journal of Photography (BJP) Breakthrough Award 2016 and the Winner of Best Single Image, Human Category at Renaissance Photography Prize 2015.

A selection of the archive, entitled ‘Settling’ will be exhibited in Stoke on Trent at The Big Feast Festival during August 2017.

Image Credit: Walerian ‘Val’ Tyminski
Photographer: Unknown/Possibly Fellow Soldier
Date: 1946
Location: Florence, Giotto’s Bell Tower in the Background.
Description: Val poses for a photograph in Florence. He spent a year in Italy after World War II had ended, occasionally the Polish Army would go on one or two day excursions to nearby places of interest.

The project is a collaboration between GRAIN Projects and Appetite, supported by Arts Council England and is part of the Creative People and Places Programme.

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Shrewsbury, 9th February – 20th  April 2017 

Evolution Explored is an exhibition of works curated from the Magnum Photos archive and presented in the public realm, in St. Mary’s Square and The Square, Shrewsbury. The project is a collaboration with Shrewsbury Business Improvement District (BID) and The Hive Arts Centre.

The work of Magnum photographers will reach new audiences on the streets of Shrewsbury in a specially curated exhibition inspired by ‘Evolution’ and the town’s links to Charles Darwin.

Acclaimed photography agency Magnum Photos have worked in collaboration to curate an exhibition of stunning photographs made internationally by the world’s leading photographers.

The ten-week street exhibition, Evolution Explored, will be on show at two locations. The event coincides with International Darwin Day and Darwin’s birthday on 12th February.

The exhibition also links to Magnum Photos’ 70th anniversary which is to be marked by a series of international events, projects and partnerships.

Stuart Franklin
LON10446 The Natural History Galleries of the Horniman Museum in London, England. 1993. © Stuart Franklin/Magnum Photos

Magnum Photos is a photographic co-operative owned by its photographer members. Noted for its diverse and distinctive work, Magnum chronicles the world and interprets its people, events, issues and personalities. It was founded in 1947 by four pioneers, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and David Seymour.

Today its editorial offices in New York, London, Paris and Tokyo, and its network of sub-agents, provide photographs to the press, publishers, advertising, television, galleries and museums around the world.

It has approximately one million photographs in both print and transparency in a physical library, with more than 500,000 images available online. It is said that if you picture an iconic image, but can’t think who took it or where it can be found, it probably came from Magnum.

The project is supported by Arts Council England, Redrow Homes, Shrewsbury Shopping and Shrewsbury Colleges Group.

As part of this exhibition there will be a series of associated activities including education workshops with selected Primary, Secondary and Further Education organisations. There will also be a Photo Safari Event on Saturday 8th April 2017, see details below.

About Evolution Explored – A review by Jonny Bark

Top image credit: Tiananmen Square, Beijin, CHINA. 1989. © Stuart Franklin/Magnum Photos

BLACK Evolution Explore Magnum Photos Exhibition Logo-02-03-03

Evolution Explored Photo Safari

Sat 8th Apr
10am – 5pm (or join for half a day at 10am or 2pm)

As part of Evolution Explored a Photo Safari will take place in the town of Shrewsbury with The Hive acting as hub. The activity will take place over a full day and will be targeted at families. It will be devised as an adventurous journey or expedition during which people hunt for, explore, or investigate opportunities to creatively write with light and record images. The tasks will be fun, collaborative and will result in a series of images that can be displayed in an exhibition at The Hive and featured online as part of Evolution Explored.

Those participating will be asked to bring their own cameras and to dress comfortably for a day outdoors. They will be set a series of four image making tasks, and may choose from the eight points of interest on the safari map.

Working individually or as a team, complete the challenges on this adventure, linked to the Evolution Explored Magnum Photos Exhibition. The best will win prizes and then see your work displayed!

£3 per person / group £10 (Max 5), all are welcome, but under 18’s must be accompanied by an adult.

To book your place follow this link

martin Parr
Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire, England. From the book ‘A to B tales of modern motoring’. © Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

GRAIN are working in collaboration with Mark Wright and Format International Photography Festival on a new exhibition and publication.  The project will Premier work from Wright’s series The Fireside and the Sanctuary.

24 March – 23 April 2017

The work is made with the communities affected by fracking decisions in northern England.  In his work Wright considers the experiences, lifestyles and habitats of the communities affected by policy decisions that will impact on the landscape and their way of life.  Wright has spent time with these communities working on interviews and photography.  Village, rural and agricultural communities are the most obviously affected by national government policies relating to the new gas drilling procedures by giant, global chemical companies.   The environment and communities are rapidly changing following the lead up to the decisions in autumn 2016.   The impact on people’s way of life, their ability to have a voice for their own concerns and wellbeing, is affected as communities are divided by tensions and the notion of changes to their way of life.

Wright’s practice is based upon in-depth research, written material and absorbing himself in a landscape or community.  In the new work fracking is clearly seen, not as a ‘local’ problem but one that gravitates around a central place and a collection of people.  The environmental and social concerns are universal and relevant to all of us.  In his work Wright makes the issues identifiable rather than literal or geographically specific.

The exhibition The Fireside and the Sanctuary will be exhibited at Format International Photography Festival 2017 and will be accompanied by a limited edition photo book with newly commissioned writing by Gemma Padley and Simon Constantine.

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Image Credits;  Mark Wright, The Fireside and the Sanctuary            

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30 08 2016


The Waterhall, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

6 October 2016 – 6 January 2017

Monday – Thursday 10am – 5pm, Friday 10.30am – 5pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am – 5pm

EAST MEETS WEST presents the work of 16 emerging artists working with moving image or photography.  This remarkable exhibition includes extraordinary works that represent the talent and ambition of artists in the Midlands today.

The artists responded to an open call to practitioners based within the Midlands, or those who have graduated from a Midlands-based University in the past three years.  The opportunity was devised in response to and was required to relate to the theme of ‘Leisure’ – a core theme explored in Doug Fishbone’s Leisure Land Golf exhibition at Quad, an installation exhibited during summer 2016.

The exhibition includes an ambitious, fascinating and diverse collection of interpretations, from projects delving into a broad range of ‘leisure’ activities and events including walking, swimming, collecting, drinking and travelling.  The exhibition is a remarkable commentary on what people do today in their leisure time with projects shown including drinking culture, documenting community-led action to save local swimming baths, a sensitive portrait of a young Shetland Island resident’s use of his leisure time and an obsessive collector.

The selection process was conducted by a panel of arts experts after which the works were exhibited at QUAD, Derby and Waterhall, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

The exhibiting artists are;  Jim Brouwer & Simon Raven, Jakki Carey, Theo Ellison, Attilio Fiumarella, Emma Georgiou, Anne Giddings, Daniel Hayes, Geoff Hodgson, Amy Huggett, Holger Martin, Tracey McMaster, George Miles, Marta Soul, Clive Wheeler and Dan Wheeler.

The project is a partnership with Format International Photography Festival, Quad, Derby and GRAIN Projects, supported by Arts Council England and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

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Image Credit;  Marta Soul  ’Armonía’

Library of Birmingham 11 March – 7 June 2016

The giant corn dolly Kern Baby is a five meter-high (15 foot) sculpture, now exhibited at the Library of Birmingham, made as a version of a harvest figure photographed in 1902 by Sir Benjamin Stone. The sculpture was created by artist Faye Claridge, who uses archives, folklore and reminiscence to examine our past relationships and our current sense of national and personal identity.

Claridge was commissioned by GRAIN, initially through a Turning Point West Midlands residency, and has worked extensively with the Library of Birmingham’s Benjamin Stone Collection, an archive of over 22,000 prints amassed by the MP and self-taught photographer who lived from 1838 to 1914.

In addition to the sculpture, which stood in the grounds at Compton Verney, Warwickshire, throughout 2015, Claridge also made a series of photographs, A Child For Sacrifice, based on Stone’s imagery. Inspired by his photographs she worked with young people from a Warwickshire village to re-interpret customs using artefacts from the Marton Museum of Country Bygones.

Stone’s obsession was to “record history with the camera” for future generations and Claridge questions how we can approach such an ambition today. Her work asks how our sense of self, geography, community and time can be formed through the celebration of repeated and adapted customs.

Stone photographed the Kern Baby in Whalton, Northumberland, and Claridge is currently working on plans for a ‘homecoming’ film, following the giant sculpture’s journey from the Birmingham archives to the North East.

The Benjamin Stone Collection can be accessed via appointment at the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research on floor 4.

The Marton Museum of Country Bygones is open at weekends during the summer or by appointment via

The exhibition is a partnership between GRAIN, Library of Birmingham and Compton Verney, supported by Arts Council England.

For more information contact

In Camera:  a legal term that means keep private, confined or hidden.

Camera obscura (Latin: ‘dark chamber’):  an optical device that led to photography consisting of a box or room with a hole in one side through which light from an external scene passes through to make or reveal an image.

In Camera:  a term used by photographers to indicate that an image is authentic, having been made from the real, and presented without any cropping or post production.

In 2014 Mat Collishaw was commissioned by GRAIN to make work in response to the Library of Birmingham photography collection.  The Library of Birmingham and GRAIN are proud to present the exhibition of new work, supported by Arts Council England.

In Camera is an installation created around a series of 12 crime scene negatives made for Birmingham City Police Force during the 1930s and 1940s.  Collishaw discovered these uncatalogued images, made to provide evidence in alleged and actual crimes committed in the city, hidden amongst an archive of orphaned police negatives whilst exploring the Library’s photography collections.

The work prompts questions about the medium of photography, its historical role as witness and the way in which our reading of images are affected when they shift from the private to the public.   The work invites the audience to speculate about these backdrops; the circumstances of the crime, victims and suspects.

The newly commissioned work exhibited is a collaboration with The New Art Gallery Walsall and their major survey show of Collishaw’s work which also runs until the 10th of January 2016.

Both exhibitions see Collishaw continuing to explore the potential for images to be both shocking and alluring where he asks us to look beneath the surface and discover more complex questions and forces at play.

Mat Collishaw will be giving an Artist Talk as part of the exhibition on Thursday 22nd October from 6pm. The talk will start with a guided tour of the exhibition space. Tickets are priced £3 and available for purchase the Eventbrite. Click here to purchase.

Click here for details of the special limited edition print created by Collishaw as an outcome for the commission.

Image Credit: In Camera; 5 Sides of Bacon (Stolen Property), Mat Collishaw, 2015

Copyright 2016 GRAIN.