Commissioned by GRAIN, this multifaceted body of work was developed, over a period of 2 years, with HMP Birmingham (the largest, category B prison in the Midlands, UK), and in particular its inmates, their families as well as a myriad of other individuals and organisations (such as charities, colleges, universities and youth centres.)
Martins’ work uses the social context of incarceration to explore the philosophical concept of absence and address a broader consideration of the status of the photograph when questions of visibility, ethics, aesthetics and documentation intersect. By giving a voice to inmates and their families and address prison as a set of social relations, rather than a mere physical space, Martins proposes to rethink and counter the sort of imagery normally associated with incarceration.
His project, thus, wilfully circumvents images whose sole purpose, he argues, is to confirm the already help opinions within dominant ideology about crime and punishment: violence, drugs, criminality race – an approach that only serves to reinforce the act of photographing and photography itself as apotropaic devices.
Composed of three distinct segments, encompassing archive/new photography, text and sound, Martins’ work shifts between image and information, between fiction and evidence, strategically deploying visual and textual details in tandem so that the viewer becomes aware of what exists outside the confines of the frame.
This ambitious and thought-provoking project is now published as a beautiful, two-book publication, that includes a facsimile copy of an inmate’s journal, produced especially for this context, and carefully edited and appropriated by the artist.
In an excerpt from the journal, observed details accumulate to form a powerful way of figuring the dehumanising and life-denying force of the prison: ‘Sometimes all there is to do when you’re stuck on the wing is to lean on the thin high rails and watch what’s going on around you. That’s when I noticed thick grey fluff on a step. And more on another step. Then I noticed it at the edges of the floor and above me on the piping. It was on the top of the nuts and bolts and on top of the wires that made up the netting. It was everywhere and I had never noticed it before. The grey fluff had blended in with the grey clothing of the grey people that cast grey shadows on the grey walls. I suppose the ideal prisoner should be grey, dull and dismal in nature. THEY’VE CREATED THE PERFECT GREY SPACE HERE.’
WHAT PHOTOGRAPHY & INCARCERATION HAVE IN COMMON WITH AN EMPTY VASE contains over 500 pages, 130 photographs and documents and is supplied in a genuine prison bag, along with a surprise element.
This publication will support exhibitions of the work at Galeria Filomena Soares (Lisbon), Catharine Clark Gallery (San Francisco), the Macau Museum of Art (Macau, China), the Museum of National and Contemporary Art (Lisbon), the Geneva Photography Centre (Geneva), amongst others.
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.
22 02 2017
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.
Image Credits; Mark Wright, The Fireside and the Sanctuary
13 12 2015
Over the last two years Broomberg & Chanarin have encountered, explored and researched the photography collections at the Library. They have made connections with the archive and with their own work and concerns.
The book combines a new series of portraits made with a Russian camera which was made for face recognition and surveillance, ‘non collaborative portraits’, where human contact is not made, with a new critically engaged contextual essay by Eyal Weizman and a response to images from Sir Benjamin Stone’s archive.
The essay asks two main questions; What is the potential impact of technology on portraiture and citizenship? And what is the ideological link between Stone’s activities and the photographs he collected and the facial recognition technology?
Echoing August Sander’s seminal work, Citizens of the Twentieth Century, the series of portraits are cast according to professions. The portraits are produced with new technology, with little if any human interaction.
In the book photographs open up the relationship between technology and ideology – theories of race, class and occupation. The photographs collected by Stone in the second half of the 19th century, in the Library of Birmingham archive, are visual evidence of his interest in history, science, nature and cultures. Like many, widespread in the Victorian period, Stone had a need to classify, know, collect, control and own. His Album no 50 ‘Types and Races of Mankind’ includes what might be called non-consensual images, made for the scrutiny of others and to increase understanding.
The book and essay prompt questions about engaging with archives and access to them.
The book is the result of the artist’s encounters and interactions with the photography collections at the Library of Birmingham made possible by a commission from GRAIN and the Library with support from the Arts Council of England. The book is published by Mack. Click here to pre-order a copy.
Image Credit: Frau eines Malers
Femme d’un peintre
03 02 2015
The new Grain publication was launched at The State of Photography symposium in January 2015. The colour newspaper style publication features a sample of our projects from the last 2 years and writings by our partners and collaborators.
The paper was designed to celebrate our first 2 years and to enable us to present and evaluate some of the exciting projects we have worked on with photographers, artists, participating audiences and partner organisations.
You can download a copy here
17 09 2014
Plane Materials, curated by Nathaniel Pitt, is an exhibition featuring new work by Cornford & Cross and Andrew Lacon. In the exhibition the artists explore the dialogue between photography and sculpture. Lacon’s studio based practice draws on historical documents and photographs from the Library of Birmingham’s archive that are specifically concerned with Roman antiquity and the framing of photographs of Roman sculpture. Cornford & Cross work differently, a non-studio based practice, they create work through discussion and debate, positing different conceptual ideas.
A Photoworks, GRAIN and Library of Birmingham Co-commission for Brighton Photo Biennial 2014. The exhibition can be seen from the 4 October – 2 November at the University of Brighton Gallery, 58-67 Grand Parade, Brighton, BN2 0JY. For further information please click here.
Above image credit: Andrew Lacon – Studio Collage (Bernini) 2014′
Cornford & Cross – Afterimage (2012), C-type-print removed and destroyed, from aluminium substrate in aluminium tray
20 01 2014
In collaboration with Coventry University and led by Jonathan Shaw, award-winning photographer and educator, Newfotoscapes is a multi-platform book.
The Library of Birmingham and GRAIN were delighted to host the Launch of Newfotoscapes in collaboration with Jonathan Shaw and have a panel discussion from distinguished contributors Pete James (Curator, Photography Collections and Co-Director of GRAIN), Katrina Sluis (Curator of Digital Programmes, The Photographers’ Gallery) and Dr. Shaun Hides (Head of Media Department, Coventry University).
Photography has never been a more dominant and embedded part of contemporary culture than it is now. The pervasive eye of the world has arisen and new practices of visibility have emerged confronting the power of the establishment. The net has amplified our ability to connect and build communities across the globe and digital technology and the social media sharing and communication of images has facilitated an exponential growth in picture capture and seamless digital distribution.
Newfotoscapes seeks to navigate the evolving topography surrounding the image in the twenty-first century, offering a focused eye on the contemporary creative author-curator and image-maker and on the possibilities afforded by an increasingly complex professional landscape. Jonathan Shaw advocates a new way of thinking about photographic production and education in a post-digital era.
Newfotoscapes can perhaps best be understood as a series of curated texts arising from a series of in-depth conversations with 10 key stakeholders in, and influential commentators on, photography; including: Andy Adams, Charlotte Cotton, Dewi Lewis, Mishka Henner and Stephen Mayes. Perspectives and views cover a wide range of topics such as photo-books, archives, mobile, community, value, curation, appropriation, power, open education, connected/networked image, governance, licensing and the agency.
In the spirit of today’s mobile and connected world Newfotoscapes is available as a book and will also be simultaneously available on the web under a Creative Commons license and versioned in ePub and Print formats.
17 04 2013
Recognised as one of the UK’s most important photographers of the last forty years, Brian Griffin grew up near Birmingham amongst the factories of the Black Country. His parents were factory workers and from birth Griffin seemed set to follow in their footsteps. And so, on leaving school at the age 16, he began working in a factory, just like everyone else around him. A year later he moved to British Steel working as a trainee pipework engineering estimator in a job that involved costing systems for the nuclear power stations that were then being built. He remained there four years before escaping the tedium of the office by enrolling to study photography at Manchester College of Art.
The Black Kingdom is a visual autobiography of Brian Griffin’s life during the 1950s and 60s where everything surrounding him seemed to emanate from the factory. The book is a dissection of life in industrial England after the Second World War and shows the influences that would inspire the creative output of a highly successful photographer. For Griffin, those first 21 years living in a warren of terraced streets set amongst factories and continually polluted by their smells and noise, remain indelibly printed on him and have shaped the person he is.
GRAIN is delighted to have been a partner in THE BLACK KINGDOM project with Dewi Lewis Publishing.
Brian Griffin has exhibited and published widely. In 1989 he had a one-man show at the National Portrait Gallery, London. The same year The Guardian newspaper selected him as ‘The Photographer of the Decade’ and LIFE magazine used his photograph ‘A Broken Frame’ as the covershot for their feature ‘Greatest Photographs of the Eighties’. During the 1990s Brian Griffin retired from photography and focused on directing advertising, pop videos and short films. He returned to photography in 2001, reestablishing himself once again at the pinacle of British Photography.