Blog Archive

GRAIN is delighted to have awarded the FORMAT Festival Portfolio Award to Sophie Gerrard for her work ‘The Flows’.  This is the third time GRAIN has awarded a special prize at Format International Photography Festival.

“The Flows (from the Norse ‘ floi’ meaning ‘flat, deep, wet land’) focuses on the gentle and undulating peatlands of the Flow Country, located in Caithness and Sutherland in the far north of mainland Scotland.

Peatlands are a globally rare habitat vital in combatting climate change. They cover only a tiny amount (3%) of the planet’s land surface, yet peatlands hold almost 30% of all terrestrial carbon – twice as much as all the world’s forests. Scotland contains a vast amount (13%) of this vital global resource, and the Flow Country is widely considered to be the largest expanse of blanket peat bog in the world.

Historically peatlands have been seen as empty and valueless wastelands, of little benefit to humans yet still forced into marginal production for the leanest of economic return. During the 1980s, the Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher offered tax incentives to the super rich, resulting in vast areas of the Flow Country being planted with non-native coniferous Sitka spruce which drained, damaged and ultimately killed large areas of the bog. Over 80% of the UK’s peatlands have been damaged by years of such mismanagement.

Survival of the peatlands is a touchstone for the environmental health of the nation. These almost magical places are now being painstakingly revived through conservation by the RSPB and their partners. Sophie Gerrard’s photographs look at how these natural resources fit into Scotland’s topography and consciousness, linking people to the land, and vice-versa.”

The Flows is showing in the Document Scotland group show Contested Land – Set against the current political backdrop Document Scotland’s four photographers examine the complex relationship between the nation’s people, history and landscape.

Showing at:
Perth Museum 23rd April -23rd June, 2019.

Launch event and talks 9th May 2019
Dunoon Burgh Hall, 20th July – 18th Aug., 2019.
Inverness FLOW Photofest, Sept., 2019.
PhotoNorth festival, 30 Nov. – 2nd Dec., 2019.

Sophie Gerrard (Scottish, b.1978) is an award winning photographer specialising in contemporary documentary stories with environmental and social themes.

Sophie began her career in environmental sciences before studying photography at Edinburgh College of Art followed by an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication.

Her first major project, E-Wasteland was awarded a Jerwood Photography Award a Fuji Bursary and a Magenta Fast Forward Award. She has since been shortlisted and nominated for the Prix Pictet Award several years running and the 2015 Remote Photo Prize.

Sophie’s editorial and long term personal work has been published widely by clients including The Guardian, The New York Times, The Telegraph Magazine, FT Magazine, The Washington Post, Esquire Magazine, Foto8, The British Journal of Photography, Portfolio Magazine, Lucky Peach, Le Monde and many others.

Solo and group exhibitions include OFF_festival Bratislava 2018, The Scottish National Portrait Gallery (2015), Brighton Photoworks Biennial (2014), Impressions Gallery, Bradford (2014), Street Level Gallery (2014), Scotland House, Brussels (2014), Unseen Amsterdam (2013), Flowers East Gallery (2008), The Arbetes Museum (2008), Paris Photo (2008) and the Photographers’ Gallery (2012/13). Her work is held in a number of collections including St Andrews University Special Collection, The National Galleries of Scotland, Couttes Bank private collection, StatOil Collection and the Sir Elton John private Collection.

In 2012 Sophie co-founded Document Scotland, a collective of internationally acclaimed photographers dedicated to chronicling the social, cultural and economic life in Scotland.

Sophie is a lecturer in photography at Edinburgh Napier University, a senior lecturer at Falmouth University MA Photography online and a member of the board of trustees for Impressions Gallery in Bradford.

Sophie’s work has been published in several books including “New Light” The Jerwood Foundation (2009), “Tunnock” Cafe Royal Books (2015), “The Bigger Picture”, Impressions Gallery (2015) and “Compassion, Commitment, Community” The Savitri Waney Charitable Trust (2013).

Sophie is represented by The Photographers’ Gallery in London.

Submission Deadline: 7th October 2018

East Meets West is a collaborative project devised by FORMAT International Photography Festival/QUAD and GRAIN Projects.   This year we will be offering a series of Masterclasses leading to an opportunity to showcase your work at FORMAT19.

At the Masterclasses you will learn from industry leaders such about portfolio development and receive advice regarding topics such as, competitions, commissions, exhibitions, funding, making approaches, distribution and editing.  Subjects will also include socially engaged, editorial and fine art photography, the photobook and responding to and working to commission. The Masterclasses will offer immersion in the subject matter and a unique opportunity for emerging photographers to develop their practice and showcase their work.

Masterclass speakers and portfolio reviewers include Natasha Caruana, Andrew Jackson, Anthony Luvera, Matthew Murray, Kate Peters and Michael Sargeant.

This opportunity is aimed at photographers wishing to broaden their perspectives and push the boundaries of their personal development. We welcome diverse and innovative submissions from photographers that are based in the East and West Midlands (that is those living in Birmingham, the Black Country, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland).

To Apply: Please email the following to by 7th October 2018.

– Artists C.V (no more than two A4 pages)
– Statement (no more than one A4 page)
– Ten images of recent work in a singular PDF format, including title, medium, date and relevant links
– Up to 250 words outlining why you feel the masterclasses will support you at this stage in your professional development.

Each practitioner successfully selected to take part will be required to pay a fee of £100.

Please note that you will be required to attend four Masterclasses; two will be held at QUAD, Derby on 27th October and 17th November and two will be held at The Shell, Parkside, Birmingham City University, on 5th January and 9th February.

If you have any questions please contact

Photo (c) Charlotte Jopling

GRAIN is delighted to have awarded the Format Portfolio Award to Jessa Fairbrother for her work  ‘Armour Studies’.  This is the second time GRAIN has awarded a special prize at Format International Photography Festival.

‘Armour Studies (regarding skin)’ uses the body as both vessel and surface.  Employing self-portraiture Jessa hovers on the edge of being object and subject to explore the connection between her form, the exterior and audience.

Describing her shape as provocation she interrupts the surface of photographs using sewing needles to puncture hand-made prints, creating textural adornments suggestive of lace and engraved metal: violent acts making delicate marks.

In perforating this exterior layer she invites the viewer to think of the skin not only as an embodiment of selfhood but as a body that touches and is touched. Her concerns originate in attempts to identify feelings beyond the shape of the person seen, confronting gestures of fallibility and the body’s relentless failures.

This ongoing work brings together pieces where she performs within the image and upon it, cladding her physical identity in armour to protect it from her own disappointments and the viewer’s scrutiny.

In her practice Jessa explores the familiar and the personal, where yearning and performance meet each other in photography.  She investigates how behavior is shaped and influenced by both memory and visual consumption, concentrating on the gesture as a physical archive of emotional life. Role-play is a key part of her studies.  She is interested in how individual’s perform, continuously assigning status (and having status bestowed upon us) through roles.

Following receiving the GRAIN prize during FORMAT 2013 Meichsner began to research and develop a proposal to make new work for the Library of Birmingham.

The working title for the new work is  RE-ENACTING IN UK.  The project is a resumption of personal work which explores leisure time activities and their relation to daily life. Whilst the latter is often characterised by routine and responsibility, leisure or ‘free time’ is assumed to provide freedom to do whatever one wants to do.  Yet, despite this freedom there seems to be a persistent need for structure and security and organisiation.

Participating in a Living History Display often means submitting to a particular organisational and power structure, characteristic of the respective time, clearly defining the scope of action for men, women and children. This power structure does not only limit freedom but also provides identity and the security of a clearly-defined frame of action, aspects that in today’s society are consistently pressurized.  The new work will explore this topic from another angle asking why re-enacting the past is so seductive as leisure time activity. Perhaps experiencing a hard life as during the medieval may ground its re-enactors and give them a more comfortable feeling about their actual lives, which may have become a bit too safe and predicable.

The 6th edition of FORMAT International Photography Festival opened on the 8th March 2013. GRAIN worked in partnership to enable a new photography prize, in the form of a commission prize, at FORMAT EXPOSURE.

The photographer was selected from the work exhibited by Louise Clements, Artistic Director of QUAD and FORMAT, Brian Griffin, world renowned photographer and patron of FORMAT and Pete James, Curator of Photographs, Library of Birmingham.

The commission prize was awarded to Andreas Meichsner. Meichsner has been commissioned to make a new body of work, during summer 2013.  A set of prints resulting from the commission will then be added to the nationally and internationally significant photography collection at the new Library of Birmingham.


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