International Photography Residency: Successful applicant Anneka French announced

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

13 12 2015

Spirit is a Bone

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
Painter’s Wife
Femme d’un peintre
Жена художника


‘Responding to an Archive’ is a project in two halves offering two diverse responses to the Library of Birmingham photography collection. 

The first is ‘In Camera’, where GRAIN commissioned artist Mat Collishaw to research and respond to the Library of Birmingham photography collection.  Collishaw selected to work with a collection of orphan crime images to create a new installation.  The second is ‘Spirit is a Bone’, a GRAIN commission which invited artists duo Broomberg & Chanarin to make a new publication in response to the ‘archive’.  The work is to be published by Mack Books in late 2015. 

As part of this latest project GRAIN has initiated professional development activities to provide new opportunities for emerging practitioners.  The activity is supported by Arts Council England and Birmingham City University (BCU).

Over the last few years GRAIN has delivered professional development as part of its programme including mentoring, paid internships, curators’ bursaries, symposia, masterclasses, courses and portfolio development days.

Currently Birmingham based emerging curator and writer Oli McCall is working alongside the GRAIN team, reflecting on the project and the artists’ responses and writing and blogging about the work.  See for more information.

Recent BCU photography graduate Nicola Onions is working with GRAIN to increase her work experience in visitor engagement and experience.  Nicola participated in GRAIN’s 5plus5 international exhibition exchange during 2014 and has been selected for New Art West Midlands 2016.

Mark Wright, graduated in photography from BCU earlier this year. He is making a new series of work that takes a lyrical and poetic stance on the mundane.  Rather than this being a literal response to the ‘In Camera’ exhibition it is a development of his current practice that is influenced by the artist’s approach

Image credit: Photographer unknown, ‘Railway Guards, Chief Guard and Assistant, Moscow’, c. 1870

Albumen print from a collodion negative.  Sir Benjamin Stone Collection MS 3196 Library of Birmingham


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

27 05 2015


Album 31 is an exhibition featuring new work by Sophy Rickett and Bettina von Zwehl.  The artists were commissioned by GRAIN to respond to the Library’s photographic archives, specifically those of Victorian photographer and parliamentarian Sir Benjamin Stone.  Album 31 establishes a set of practical and conceptual principles that provide a model for Rickett and von Zwehl to work collaboratively.

Amongst the extensive collection of albums meticulously compiled and catalogued by Stone, is ‘album 31′, in which he placed the photographs he wanted to keep but which didn’t ‘fit’ into any of the index categories that structure the rest of the collection. The images within this album are positioned according to a different set of criteria, where subject matter, processes, time frames, co-exist in unexpected relations and where both humor and the spectre of human darkness emerge.

Rickett and von Zwehl became interested in recurrent motifs in Stone’s album 31 and how these awkward juxtapositions could become productive as well as meaningful. They explore how Stone’s otherwise structured approach, governed by intention and purpose, is corrupted by contingent and possibly unconscious relations. His archive becomes an agency through which Rickett and von Zwehl not only process Stone’s legacy, but their own quite different practices, and the changing history of photographic imperatives and behaviours.

Using Stone’s original album as a starting point, the artists have set about revisiting and retrieving material from their own outboxes. This appropriation of the margins of artistic practice – a history which includes the out-take, footnote, off-mike, artistic marginalia of many kinds – reusing material that for whatever reason did not ‘fit’, enables them to consider a different set of rationales, narratives, emphasises, and trajectories.

Album 31 tests the implications of playing with meaning through re-contextualising and re-positioning subject matter, to resist the possibility of a single interpretation and resolution. They are interested in working together as a process that offers companionship, support, conviviality and the sharing of ideas but also can bring about tension, difference, negotiation, and compromise.

Miscellaneous, page 20, Sir Benjamin Stone Collection, Library of Birmingham

Miscellaneous, page 20, Sir Benjamin Stone Collection, Library of Birmingham

Artist Faye Claridge uses archives, folklore and reminiscence to imagine our past relationships and our current sense of national and personal identity. In 2012 she started an artists’ residency at the Library of Birmingham, exploring the Sir Benjamin Stone Collection of over 22,000 photographs amassed by the Birmingham MP and noted amateur photographer (1838-1914).

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

From the residency Claridge has produced three new projects, the most prominent of which is Kern Baby, a giant corn dolly and photographic event. The finished work is a five meter-high version of a harvest figure originally photographed by Stone in 1901. Currently installed in the grounds at Compton Verney until December 2015, Kern Baby then moves to the Library of Birmingham in May 2016.

Claridge also followed in Stone’s footsteps to Cheshire and Warwickshire, making a series of photographs, The Children Of The Choosing, from Knutsford Royal May Day and A Child For Sacrifice from work with the Marton Museum of Country Bygones. Some of this work is still in progress and will be seen at the library in 2016.

After the research residency at the Library of Birmingham, supported by Turning Point West Midlands, Claridge secured funding from Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund to continue her Stone-inspired work.

Credit: © Faye Claridge – Kern Baby (installation view, Compton Verney)


03 02 2015

Grain Publication

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

A collaboration with The Swarm and University of Birmingham Digital Humanities Hub

This artistic R&D project, with The Swarm and University of Birmingham Digital Humanities Hub, investigated how institutional archives, such as that held by the Library of Birmingham, can be ‘crowd-connected’ through data-mining tools. The aim – to demonstrate how social media archives can build access points that drive engagement for libraries, galleries, and museums.
Photographer Adam Lee facilitated a series of community workshops, creating a new body of photographic tableaux with non-attenders of the Library.

Software was then used to create new connections and access points that drive engagement via the workshop participants social networks.

The tableaux enabled the workshop participants to build a personal connection to the work to stimulate interest from others in their social networks driving engagement (through tagging and similar).

The project enabled us to examine how we might crowd-connect and engage non-attenders and whether using the Mining the Archive engine can create new access points and engagement with archive content.

1. The Unknown
2. Progression
3. Education
4. Discovery
5. Empowerment

02 02 2015

5 PLUS 5

The Photographers’ Wall

Exhibition: 25th February 2015 – 29th April 2015

5 PLUS 5 showcases the work of ten emerging photographic artists; Five photographers who are based in the Midlands and five who are based in Madrid.

The selected artists are; David Sheperd, Dean O’Brien, Lauren Spencer, Nicola Onions and Oscar Parasiego, and from Madrid; Angela Losa, Anna Fawcus, Eoin Moylan, Inge Trienekens, and Juan Pablo Fassi.

The projects shown in this exhibition orbit around themes such as memory, identity, space, the human condition and eternal subjects in the field of photographic creation. All the emerging practitioners selected to take part in this exhibition exchange use highly contemporary language and represent a new generation of globally connected artists that use the camera as one of many technological tools for image creation.

Moritz Neumüller (Linz, Austria, 1972) is a curator, educator and writer in the field of Photography and New Media. He holds a Masters Degree in Art History and a PhD degree in Information Management and has worked for several important art institutions, such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, PhotoEspaña in Madrid and LOOP in Barcelona. Neumüller is currently working as Festival Curator at PhotoIreland in Dublin, and directing a study program called European Master of Fine Art Photography for the Istituto di Design in Madrid. In 2009, Moritz Neumüller founded ArteConTacto, a project aimed at exploring art through all the senses, in order to provide access for all visitors, including the visually impaired. Since 2010, he runs the The Curator Ship, a platform that provides useful information for visual artists.

As a curator, Moritz is interested in contemporary work made by photographers and media artists from around the world, especially documentary, social and conceptual work.

5 plus 5 was exhibited at the Altamira Palace Gallery, IED Madrid in November 2014 and at will feature on The Photographers’ Wall, Library of Birmingham in Spring 2015 (25th February – 29th April 2015)

Credit: © Oscar Parasiego 2014


9:30 am – 17:30 pm – Meeting Room 104, Floor 1, Library of Birmingham

The State of Photography event will explore, debate and review how photographers and photography practice develops, responds and thrives in the current challenging times. During the Symposium we will hear from the perspective of the photographer, curator, festival director, agent and publisher. With a focus on innovation and sustainability speakers will convey what it takes to not only survive but to expand and thrive. The day will explore and celebrate self-initiated projects and entrepreneurialism by hearing from a range of photographic projects that are current and at the cutting edge of photography now.

The State of Photography Symposium will form the culmination of 2 years of the GRAIN project and will bring together practitioners and professionals from the sector to talk about the artform and current climate, to present questions and challenging new ideas, as well as offering advice and talking about positive approaches to influence change, encourage leadership and growth.

Speakers include:

  • Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin
  • David Birkitt
  • Tim Clark
  • Ángel Luis González
  • Louise Clements
  • Uncertain States Magazine
  • Lara Ratnaraja
  • Karen Newman
  • Paul Herrmann
  • Faye Claridge
  • Peta Murphy-Burke


  • Early Bird Concession: £15
  • Early Bird Standard: £18
  • Concession: £18
  • Standard: £22

Early Bird available until 31st December 2014.

Click here for tickets.

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

Image Credit: by Martin Parr, at DMB and Magnum Photos.

I Sell the Shadow to Save the Substance new work by Lucy Hutchinson is exhibited on The Photographers’ Wall from 2nd December 2014 – 22nd February 2015.

The body of work is the result of a residency undertaken by the artist at The Library of Birmingham, awarded by Turning Point West Midlands.

The work is a response to the study of Carte-de-Visite images from the library’s nationally and internationally significant photography collection. The Carte-de-Visite images, taken in Birmingham Studios, document the Victorian middle class dressed up in their finery. Staged against opulent backdrops and scenery the images often contrasted the subjects’ social status by using props as a representation of position and wealth.

In response to these historical images, the artist has developed three female identities. The characters and sets created are representations of women of British middle class heritage who have lived in Hong Kong for a number of years. Using the conventions of classical portrait structure, the presentation of these characters explores how these subjects, who no longer relate to either culture, attempt to remain quintessentially British.

Through combining contemporary and historical status symbols directly associated with ‘Britishness’, ranging from influential designers to ideas of moral hierarchy which are present in the British middle class, the artist has explored how these characters present their status and questions the importance of authenticity in images.

Tbe work is exhibited on The Photographers’ Wall, The Library of Birmingham.

Image Credit: © Lucy Hutchinson

logo1BCU 2

The City of Six Towns is an exhibition of new work by Mark Power made in response to a commission in Stoke-on-Trent.  The exhibition is in the public realm, located in the new Albion Square in the city centre from 18 November 2014 – 20 February 2015.

Power is a Magnum photographer and a Professor of Photography who has investigated and depicted landscapes and visual stories from all over the globe.

The new commission and exhibition, entitled The City of Six Towns, will feature 50 new works from Power and will be distinctive, illustrating the city as he finds it. Like visual stories or postcards from the city the work created will be personal and a narrative in pictures, telling the unique story of life in Stoke-on-Trent today. The work will be presented in Albion Square, the large new public square in the city centre, and will feature landscapes, people, interiors, street photography and more as Mark Power builds his picture of life in Stoke.

Power began his photography career in 1983 in the editorial and charity fields. In 1992 he moved into teaching where he is currently Professor of Photography at the University of Brighton. Power has published six books: The Shipping Forecast (1996), a poetic response to the esoteric language of daily maritime weather reports; Superstructure (2000), a documentation of the construction of London’s Millennium Dome; The Treasury Project (2002), about the restoration of a nineteenth-century historical monument: 26 Different Endings (2007), which depicts those landscapes unlucky enough to fall just off the edge of the London A-Z, a map which could be said to define the boundaries of the British capital; The Sound of Two Songs (2010), the culmination of his five year project set in contemporary Poland following her accession to the European Union; and Mass (2013), an investigation into the power and wealth of the Polish Catholic church.

Image credit: © Mark Power

GRAIN has run a season of professional development and professional practice events to support emerging talent, provide advice and opportunities for development, engagement and sharing of ideas.  We will be doing more next year.

In the mean time we would like to thank our partners in this area who include Birmingham City University, Redeye, Wolverhampton University, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Magnum Photos  and Coventry University.

We will have more on offer in 2014 so please keep your eye on our listings and/or join our mailing list for more information.

For more details of our next Portfolio Development Day in Coventry on Saturday 29th November click here.

For more details about our upcoming Magnum Photos Symposium click here.


Saturday 22nd November 2014, 10am – 6pm @ Library of Birmingham

The Magnum Photos Symposium is an intensive one day event designed to inspire, guide and advise emerging photographers in the development of their practice. The day is aimed at photographers who are currently working on a long term, personal photographic project.

Magnum Photos is an agency synonymous with integrity, curiosity and ‘concerned’ photography. For over sixty years, Magnum’s international photographers have chronicled the world; interpreting its environment, people and events and helping to shape documentary photography as a modern form of artistic expression.

In the tradition of Magnum’s commitment to emerging photographers, this symposium will give limited participants an opportunity to inspire and refine their personal approaches. The day will include;

  • Inspirational presentations from Magnum photographer Olivia Arthur and Sophie Wright
  • Portfolio critiques and sharing peer to peer
  • Panel discussion and informal question time

Portfolio reviews will be conducted by Magnum photographer Olivia Arthur, Magnum Print Room Director Sophie Wright and two guest reviewers in intimate groups of 6. Each participant will be offered a minimum 20 minute session in which to communicate projects and show work. By working within groups the experience will encourage confidence building skills, the ability to successfully articulate projects, and learning to both provide and receive constructive criticism from both contemporaries and mentors. There will be ample time for questions and to discuss specific aspects of photography and the industry.

Participation will be based on a competitive process.

Please apply with a short Statement (max 1 side A4) explaining why you would like to attend and with an example of images from recent projects (maximum of 5 images as low res jpegs).

Please send to:

Deadline is 14 November 2014 at 12 noon.

Applicants will be chosen on the strength of submitted proposals and the perceived benefit to the photographer’s career.

Price: £60 full price / £45 concessions

The event will take place at: Library of Birmingham, Centenary Square, Birmingham B1 2ND Saturday 22nd November 10am – 6pm

Images © Olivia Arthur

magnum long

Andrew Lacon and Stuart Whipps are interested in the relationships between the new libraries of Guangzhou and Birmingham. Both cities have recently built iconic new libraries and have an official Memorandum of Understanding.

The artists intend to interrogate the shared and divergent histories of the 2 cities, and will explore a series of complex relationships: The relationship between the materials of the former and current buildings, the similarities and differences that exist between the material housed in the two libraries, and the relationships between the people of the respective cities and their former and present libraries and collections.

The artists are currently researching and making a number of formal studies in the studio in the UK before they fly out to Guangzhou in November for an intense period of research and production. They will be making and exhibiting new work in Guangzhou Library throughout the duration of their stay.

This international Artists Exchange and Exhibition is supported by British Council, Arts Council England, Guangzhou Library and Library of Birmingham

01 10 2014

EMPIRE: Jon Tonks

Empire is a fascinating journey across the South Atlantic exploring life on four remote islands – the British Overseas Territories of Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha, the Falkland Islands and St Helena – relics of the once formidable British Empire, all intertwined through their shared history.

Jon Tonks began the project in 2007, spending up to a month at a time in each territory, travelling 60,000 miles around the Atlantic via military outposts, low-lit airstrips and a long voyage aboard the last working Royal Mail Ship. Some 400 rolls of film, 24 flights and 32 days at sea later, the resulting work creates an insight into these distant places that resonate with a sense of Britishness which is remarkably recognisable yet inescapably strange. Jon photographed the people, the landscapes and the traces of the past embedded within each territory.

Since completing the project in 2013, he published the book ‘Empire’ through Dewi Lewis publishing. The book contains four chapters looking at each island visited. Through short texts that accompany the pictures, the book combines history and anecdote, telling the story of these remote and remarkable islands, with a curiosity about the lives of these distant lands that remain very firmly British.

As part of this touring exhibition the Library of Birmingham will be exhibiting works in vitrines that show the development of the project, from ephemera collected over the journeys around the Atlantic, to contact sheets from some of the 400 rolls of film shot, through to the 8-sheet prints of the book prior to its binding.

Photographs from the book are being exhibited at the Arena Gallery, mac Birmingham from October 18th 2014 until January 4th 2015.

The touring photography exhibition of Jon Tonks’ Empire was commissioned and co-produced by mac Birmingham, the Library of Birmingham, Ffotogallery, Cardiff and Impressions Gallery, Bradford.


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

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 14.38.55  Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 14.38.18

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


NFS_Book_InsideCover_10     NFS_Book_InsideCover_11

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

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.

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.


28 02 2013


In January 2013 the internationally acclaimed artist and photographer Tom Hunter was commissioned to make a new body of work in Birmingham finding, exploring and revealing places and spaces in Colmore Business District and the Jewellery Quarter.

“For me this project is a journey back into the country’s industrial heritage and at the same time a personal journey into my own history. Many of the buildings I have photographed are monuments to this industrial past, showing us the fingerprints of working lives and the products that these endeavours created and from them a way of life and culture. I have always been attracted to these shrines from a disappearing world, a world my grandfather was meshed too, with his engineering company in Birmingham. A world I have explored through photography in Hackney Wick, where the industrial landscape became a playground for the dispossessed, and is now reincarnated as an Olympic wonderland.

All these elements have aligned themselves in this photographic essay, connecting my history to my country’s and Birmingham to Hackney. In the same way Alexander Parkes of Birmingham invented Parkesine, the base material of my film and took it to Hackney Wick to be mass-produced, I now take my pinhole photography back in time to Birmingham, to illuminate and document this very special place.”

Hunter employs a pinhole camera, a simple square wooden box without a lens or shutter, whose origins lie in the pre and early history of photography. The camera has a small hole at one end which allows light to seep onto a sheet of large format colour transparency film held at the back of the camera. He then uses these positive images to make exhibition prints with an intense, exquisite and impressionistic quality in which overall effect and atmosphere are the prime objective.

The exhibition of new work by Tom Hunter will be shown in the public realm over two sites, from 26 April – 19 July 2013. Church Street Square and St Paul’s Square in Birmingham will be hosting the exhibition, offering the visitor a chance to make their own journey of discovery on either side of the footbridge which links the two districts.

The commission is a partnership project developed by GRAIN at the Library of Birmingham with Colmore Business District and the Jewellery Quarter Business District, supported by Arts Council England, Birmingham City University and Metro Imaging.

Copyright 2016 GRAIN.