CURRENT PROJECTS: Co-commission for Brighton Photo Biennial 2014

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 Lacon’s studio based practice draws on historical documents and photographs from the Library of Birmingham’s archive that are specifically concerned with Roman antiquity and the framing of photographs of Roman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

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Mat Collishaw has been commissioned to research and make work in response to the photography archive at the Library of Birmingham. Following a period of research he will create a new work as an edition that can be purchased.

Collishaw makes alluring, poetic and shocking work with a visual language that embraces diverse media. Themes and subjects from histories and religion are explored, often the darker side of nature and human character, and yet the work is beautiful and awe-inspiring.

He is interested in the history of photography, in its subjects, techniques and machinery and often references histories in his work, in particular the Victorian period. It is therefore apt that he has been invited to respond to the archive which is rich in photography from the earliest period.

Born in Nottingham (1966), Collishaw studied at Goldsmiths College of Art. He took part in the now legendary Freeze exhibition, curated by Damien Hirst, at Surrey Docks in London in 1988 exhibiting the celebrated Bullet Hole. He became known for brutal, confrontational and challenging work. Over the past decade, his work has been exhibited in numerous solo shows around the world, including; Cohen Gallery, New York, Camden Arts Centre, London, Freud Museum, London, Museum of Contemporary Art Warsaw, Pino Pascali Museum Foundation, Bari, Italy and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

A co-commission GRAIN, Library of Birmingham and The New Art Gallery Walsall.

Image Credit: The Poisoned Page, 2013 – C-type photograph

15 08 2014

After the Image

Unseen Photo Fair, 18 – 21 September 2014, Amsterdam

Cornford & Cross, Andrew Lacon and Stuart Whipps

Division of Labour, GRAIN and Library of Birmingham collaboration

During UNSEEN the artists, who all share similar attributes in extending the parameters of what constitutes photography, will present work to ask the viewer, the collector, the public and the market to move beyond the image and envisage photography, the actual medium as something other.

UNSEEN is the international photography fair focused on new and emerging talent and unseen work by established photographers. UNSEEN takes place from 18 to 21 September 2014 at Amsterdam Westergasfabriek.

AFTER THE IMAGE is an Art Market Development project supported by Birmingham City University and Arts Council England.

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18 03 2014

GRAIN Growth

GRAIN recognises the need to invest in the infrastructure for photography in the region and to develop enablers and connectors who have impact and influence amongst the photography community. As such we have developed a Business Development Project in collaboration with consultant Lara Ratnaraja that enables focussed work with beneficiaries on their existing business competencies and their future growth and sustainability. This specialised work fulfills the objectives that GRAIN has for high quality activity, collaboration and impact.

The first three beneficiaries of this programme are Karen Newman, supporting her creation and development of BOM, Birmingham Loves Photographers, supporting their business development and fundraising and SQUARE, supporting their business development and the expansion of their exhibition programme.

Image: Square Magazine – Patricia van de Camp; Urban

06 03 2014


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The sixth National Photography Symposium took place at the Library of Birmingham over 3 days, the 12th, 13th and 14th June 2014.

GRAIN were delighted to host the event and to hear from leading figures on many issues facing photographers and the sector today.

We would like to thank all the speakers and presenters for their fantastic contributions and all the delegates who attended.

A big thank you is also due to our partners RedEye for leading the event.

To see and hear more about the topics discussed and from the speakers who included Jon Levy, Richard West, David Drake, Val Williams, Simon Roberts, Francis Hodgson, Stephen Mayes, Fiona Rogers and Edmund Clark please visit

There were many highlights and we very much appreciate the generosity of all those who contributed and shared their activities and knowledge making the Symposium a very essential, memorable and enjoyable event.

20 01 2014


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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.

For more information go to or to download the ebook click here, hard copy books are also now available to mail order from the online store.



THE PHOTOGRAPHERS’ WALL has been developed as a space in the Library of Birmingham dedicated to photography and photographers.

Launched in January 2014 the space will feature the works of emerging and established fine art photographers and will highlight the ambition and talent of some of the regions best photographers.

For more details of the forth show featured on The Photographers’ Wall, new work by artist Lucy Hutchinson, click here. The body of work is the result of a residency undertaken at The Library of Birmingham, awarded by Turning Point West Midlands.

From the 25th of February to the 29th of April 2015 the fifth exhibition to feature on The Photographers Wall will be on display. For more information about 5 Plus 5 click here.

GRAIN has been awarded one the 19 AHRC funded CATH (Collaborative Arts Triple Helix) Projects, by the University of Birmingham and the University of Leicester.

Through CATH, GRAIN has established a cross sector team to investigate the shifting value of photography between the archive and audience engagement with it.

Within the context of digital media, the nature of archives in the 21st century is expanding. Whilst photographs continue to be curated and commissioned by cultural organisations, living collections are also being actively produced by wider demographics and archived on the Internet in a variety of ways. The culmination of these activities is arguably represented on the one hand by the intentional ‘public archive’ and, on the other, by the unintentional, ‘people’s photographic archive’ online.

Mining the Archive will explore the different intentional and unintentional archives that focus on two case studies: the previous and current sites of the Library of Birmingham, and the area of the Longbridge which used to be the home of the British Leyland automobile factory. In each case, the intentional archives will be compared to the unintentional archives posted online by individuals through sites such as Flikr, Facebook and Instagram.

Through the comparison of public and personal archives, the project will explore shifting notions of intentionality, value and collecting in order to establish investigate significant themes around what public collections represent in relation to the public(s) themselves, and will have benefit within debates on collection policies of cultural institutions. In addition, the collaboration between the University of Birmingham, GRAIN/Library of Birmingham and the digital SME The Swarm will enable a plural interpretation of the existing and imagined nature of archives in the 21st century.

Image: Francis Frith & Co, Reading Room, Birmingham Reference Library, c1890

Photography and The Archive is a new GRAIN research partnership and collaborative project with Birmingham City University and Stuart Whipps.  Participants will be drawn from students studying the Arts based Masters postgraduate program.  The research-led project is site specific and responsive to material housed in The Library of Birmingham Photography Collection.

The relationship between photography and the archive is as old as the medium itself.  Photographs were adopted by the emerging state apparatus of the late nineteenth and early 20th century as documents of indexical veracity. These archives had functions as multitudinous as the images themselves and were applied for both mundane clerical purposes, and to reinforce complex ideological positions.  With the development of advanced technologies, both analogue and digital, this system of archiving and use has become more nuanced.  Artists and photographers have been responding to archives for as long as they have existed, and continue to engage with the aesthetics and politics of this application of the medium.

This project explores the definition and application of Documentary Photography in relationship to the archive through theoretical and practical methods. It interrogates ideas of objectivity and demands a broad and inquisitive approach to questions on the uses of archive material, from a historic and contemporary perspective.

Participants will take the Bournville Village as a starting point and catalyst for the production of new work.  The project will culminate in a public exhibition and a new publication.  Article Press and the Library of Birmingham will co-publish a book that presents examples of collaborative practice.

The largest regional survey of photography

GRAIN commissioned leading researchers and consultants Wafer Hadley to look at photography audiences in the West Midlands region.  Following the largest survey in the region the results are in and a final report has been produced which will enable GRAIN and the Library of Birmingham to develop activity that is ambitious, relevant and developmental.

The research found that the region has a strong photography tradition but the region’s photography infrastructure has been relatively weak.  As a starting point there was little information on photography audiences and the research was commissioned at a challenging time for arts engagement.    The research showed that GRAIN has a strong foundation to build upon, and its sense of direction is very evident.  GRAIN is in a strong position to engage with existing and potential photography audiences through activity at the Library of Birmingham and regionally with partners and in different locations.

If you would like a copy of the findings of the report please contact

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