Blog Archive

Friday 16th June 2017
9:30 am – 17:30 pm
Birmingham City University, The Parkside Building, B4 7BE

The State of Photography II will explore, debate and review how photographers and photography practice develops and responds in our current challenging times. How do we look at our world today and what does the world look like to photographers?

We invite acclaimed and outstanding photographers and artists who document the world around us to showcase their recent work. Each have different approaches to making their work which is issue based. They have been artist, story teller, observer, participant, explorer and poet. Their work has been made through collaboration, participation, community engagement, research and obstinacy.

Some document communities and people they are familiar with others offer external perspectives on social issues and situations. Does one offer a better way to tell a story? Is it important to come from a community or do you become too involved? Is it more objective to come in from the outside? How do we insure the engagement is sincere and does not exploit?

The documentary role of photography is changing, particularly as work is commissioned and made for gallery settings. Photography can impart the greatest truth of our times and sheds light on injustices, inequality and other aspects of our society. It has been and remains one of the strongest vehicles for change as photographers explore polities, gender, society, sexuality, diversity, economics and environment. It seems today – a time of political unrest, flux and crisis – more essential than ever to explore the role that photography can play.

During the Symposium we will hear from the perspective of the photographer, curator and academic. They share our concerns about the present and offer a diverse range of practices, experiences and stories that document the state of humanity and the world today.

The State of Photography Symposium aims to present new bodies of work, question and challenge ideas, as well as offering advice and talking about positive approaches to influence change, provoke, prompt and give a voice.

We will hear from and celebrate those that create self-initiated projects and commissioned bodies of work and see a range of photographic practices that are at the cutting edge of photography now.

Speakers include:

  • Andrew Jackson
  • Anthony Luvera
  • Camilla Brown
  • David Severn
  • Edgar Martins
  • John Hillman
  • Kajal Nisha Patel
  • Mahtab Hussain
  • Michelle Sank
  • Paul Herrmann (Redeye)
  • Peta Murphy Burke (Arts Council England)
  • Simon Constantine

Early Bird Concession: £15
Early Bird Standard: £18
Early Bird available until 31st May 2017.
Concession: £18
Standard: £25

To book your tickets click here.

*Please note prices include tea/coffee in breaks but do not include lunch. 

Photo credit: ‘The Bayou of Borba (Portugal)’, from the series Siloquies and Soliloquies on Death, Life and Other Interudes, 2016 © Edgar Martins.

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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.

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

The GRAIN Bursary is an award to a West Midlands based artist, curator or writer working in photography.  The 2017 Bursary recipient is Warwickshire based photographer Caitriona Dunnett.

The bursary will support her artistic development and the creation of a new body of work, including experimenting with new technical approaches.

Caitriona is an Irish photographer based in Warwick. In her work she investigates memory and narrative through nineteenth century photographic techniques.   As well as creating new work Caitriona will receive mentoring support and will attend portfolio reviews including at Format International Photography Festival and Rencontres d’Arles.

A Study of Hill Close Gardens, will include the development of 12-16 handcrafted photographs capturing the lost and found narratives of Warwick’s Victorian gardens.  The gardens date back to 1845 and were tended by tradesmen. They fell into disrepair after the 1950’s and were saved from development by local residents. The plots have been fully restored by volunteers to reference the planting of their original owners. Hill Close Gardens is one of the last groups of detached Victorian pleasure garden plots in the UK.    The gardens were invested in, lost and then recreated. Each generation of gardener brought with them a new layer of history. I want to explore time’s passage

Image Credit: Path to Bishop’s Cave, Caitriona Dunnett, (Tea toned cyanotype)

17 12 2016

Dimitri Haddad;

International Residency Exchange Artist

Artist Dimitri Haddad was awarded the International Residency Exchange based on a proposal he developed to consider Birmingham’s textile industry. Through research and photography he explored the innovations of the industrial revolution and the impact of globalisation.

During the residency Dimitri undertook research at the Library of Birmingham archives and within the built environment to find traces of the industrial revolution. He found that the first modern cotton spinning machine was invented by John Wyatt and Paul Lewis and was first operational in Birmingham’s Old Square. He contrasted this with the city’s retail offer, shopping centres and busy shopping and commercial spaces.


During the residency Dimitri documenting the city, particularly the shopping areas, created a series pf photographs and hand printed this imagery onto textiles inspired by the pre-industrial age. At the end of the residency period he handmade a dummy photo book incorporating a poem by poet John Dyer. The photo book, with text, take the form of a textile pattern book.

The residency was developed in collaboration with the IED, Madrid and the exchange opportunity was awarded to Dimitri Haddad and to Anneka French. This opportunity is part of a broader series of continuing professional development conceived and developed by GRAIN.




Image credits: Dimitri Haddad, 2016

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.

quad  format

Image Credit;  Marta Soul  ’Armonía’

GRAIN is pleased to announce the next event in its programme of professional development activities. Our Portfolio Development Day will be delivered at and in partnership with mac, Birmingham.

During the morning our guest expert reviewers will give short presentations and in the afternoon there will be opportunities for one to one portfolio advice and reviews.

We will be joined by Camilla Brown; curator, writer and lecturer on contemporary art, specialising in photography, Paul Herrmann; Director and founder of the photography network Redeye and Chair of the British Photographic Council, Kate Peters; award winning international photographer and Michael Sargeant, Assistant Curator at QUAD, Derby’s centre for contemporary art and FORMAT International Photography Festival, the UK’s leading biennale in photography.

The day is devised to enable emerging photographers, students and artists who work in photography to get advice and reviews from leading photography experts.

Please note there will be a maximum of 20 attendees to enable a focussed day. Please book early – tickets can be purchased via Eventbrite – please click here.

The day is a must for emerging photographers who wish to understand how to develop their work and their portfolio in order to secure new opportunities.

Tickets are priced at £20 (full price – no booking fee) or £12 (Concession price + £1.33 booking fee)

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Thank you to everyone who contributed to our photography survey.

During Spring this year we set out to review our current Audience Development Strategy in order to inform our activities including opportunities for emerging artists and curators, new exhibitions, mentoring, professional development courses, events, symposia and commissions.

The research and review was led by independent consultants Wafer Hadley.   The results will be included in a report that will enable planning, programming, audience engagement activities and ongoing support for photographers.

Congratulations to our prize draw winner Katja Ogrin, whose name was chosen at random from all those who completed the survey.

If you would like to receive a summery of the findings, please contact

Image credit: Tom Hunter ‘Findings’ commission, Birmingham 2013.

The new residency opportunity, in collaboration with the IED Madrid, has been awarded to curator and writer Anneka French for her exciting proposal that looks at her relationship with photographic practice.

During the residency she aims to produce original curatorial research and new writing while expanding her professional development on an international scale.

Anneka’s research investigates the body within the physical space of the city, particularly investigating photography and performance through the lenses of curating and writing.  She is a freelance curator and writer and has worked at Tate Modern, Ikon Gallery, New Art Gallery Walsall and Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

Anneka also works as editorial manager of contemporary art magazine this is tomorrow and writes reviews and essays for a range of platforms including Apollo Magazinea-n and Photomonitor.

The residency is a special opportunity to research and devise new work that contributes to professional development, portfolio and the cultural significance of the spaces/hosts/communities.

This opportunity is part of a broader series of continued professional development opportunities conceived and developed by GRAIN in partnership with IED Madrid, supported by Arts Council England and Birmingham City University.

The Residency has been designed as an exchange. At the same time a residency will be undertaken by an artist, photographer or curator from Madrid/Barcelona in the West Midlands, UK.

‘Photograph by Mitra Saboury’


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

Copyright 2016 GRAIN.