CURRENT PROJECTS: A Collaboration with Lench's Trust & Kate Peters

11 03 2019

Celebrating Age

We are collaborating with the Lench’s Trust and photographers Kate Peters and Stephen
Burke on a new project.

GRAIN Projects is working with older people in three residential homes and in collaboration with the Lench’s Trust to engage with older people in Birmingham, using photography to celebrate and tell
stories of families, achievements and unique life stories. Through the collaboration with residents at
Lench’s Trust housing schemes in Quinton, Moseley, and Sutton the project will also tell the history
and story of Birmingham.

The project is being made possible by support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. ‘Celebrating
Age’ has been awarded a grant of £5.500 which will enable the people’s photographs and stories to be developed as an archive, an exhibition and publication.

Everyone has a story to tell, and the project will provide a dynamic, visual story of people’s lives through portraiture and family archives. As well as workshops to share the participant’s photographs, keepsakes, memories and photo collections, photographer Kate Peters will be commissioned to create new portraits that celebrate age and commemorate the Lench’s Trust.

The visual heritage that is discovered and shared will include community histories, from the early
1900s through to the present day, with images of families, descendants, momentous occasions, small
personal moments, work, industry, weddings, birthdays, new homes, new babies, all celebrating the
residents and their homes in the city.

‘Celebrating Age’ is a partnership with the Lench’s Trust, generously supported by The National
Lottery Heritage Fund.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sophie is represented by The Photographers’ Gallery in London.

East Meets West is a series of Masterclasses organised by GRAIN in partnership with FORMAT Festival, QUAD, Derby, which offered photographers from the East and West Midlands an immersion in their subject matter and a unique opportunity for emerging photographers to receive feedback from industry experts.

Seventeen participants formed the cohort and each photographer developed a body of work between October 2018 to February 2019. It has been an inspiring experience to see how each participant’s work has developed over these months, and to see how the group have formulated a critical and supportive framework.

We would like to thank the reviewers: Andrew Jackson, Matthew Murray, Peter Dench, Natasha Caruana, Kate Peters, Michael Sargeant, Anthony Luvera and Harry Hardie, who pushed the boundaries of each participant’s personal development through portfolio reviews and by offering fantastic advice.

For FORMAT19 the participants work is exhibited as a digital showcase at QUAD. In addition, the group have curated a fringe exhibition for the opening weekend of FORMAT at The Market Hall, Derby, demonstrating the group’s enthusiasm and ambition.

This year’s exhibiting photographers are: Anand Chhabra; Emma Case; Hazel Simcox; Ilona Denton; Jonny Bark; Kaya Isaac, Kristy Clark; Liam Pye; Luca Bailey; Luke Williams; Maryam Wahid; Oliver Tooke; Phillip Singleton; Simon Burrows; Tom Wynne and Tristan Poyser.

East Meets West is a partnership with FORMAT International Photography Festival and Quad and is supported by Arts Council England, Derby University and Birmingham City University.

In 2016 GRAIN Projects commissioned artist Edgar Martins to respond to Winson Green in Birmingham and the site and community of HMP Birmingham. Martins is creating a significant, multifaceted body of work developed from a collaboration with HMP Birmingham (the largest, until recently privately run, category B prison in the Midlands, now government run), its inmates, their families as well as a myriad of other local organisations and individuals. Using the social context of incarceration as a starting point, Martins explores the philosophical concept of absence and addresses a broader consideration of the status of the photograph when questions of visibility, ethics, aesthetics and documentation intersect.

From a humanist perspective the work seeks to reflect on how one deals with the absence of a loved one, brought on by enforced separation.

From an ontological perspective it seeks answers to the following questions: how does one represent a subject that eludes visualization, that is absent or hidden from view? And what does it mean for photography, in an epistemological, ontological, aesthetic and ethical sense, if it does not identify with the photographic subject but the absence of it’s subject?

The 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.

Three distinct chapters are employed in the work, each encompassing speculative, documentary and historical archive imagery (ranging from portratiture, landscape, still-life, abstraction, etc), text, projection, audio and photo-installation, signalling the artist’s growing inclination towards a more interdisciplinary perspective of the practice of photography and the experience of images.

Across this complex and radical body of work, Martins has worked with archives from renowned European institutions, leading Portuguese physicist João Seixas, inmates and their families connected to HMP Birmingham as well as a variety of other individual and organisations such as colleges, community centres, charities, fire departments, etc.

We are delighted that the work will be exhibited at Quad, Derby as part of FORMAT International Photography Festival 2019.




Commission by GRAIN Projects, in collaboration with HMP Birmingham and supported by Arts Council England and Birmingham City University.

We are delighted to announce that photographer Clare Hewitt has been awarded the 2019 GRAIN Bursary Award. Clare will make work over the next 12 months exploring issues of isolation in the rural West Midlands.

Clare Hewitt is a photographer based in Birmingham. After completing a degree in Law at Oxford Brookes University, Clare went on to study Commercial Photography at the Arts University Bournemouth. She found that both subjects relate to a complex interest in human beings, their habits, behaviours and experiences, and through photography she could explore this in a more creative way.

In 2011 Clare’s work was selected for Fresh Faced and Wild Eyed at The Photographers’ Gallery, and has since been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery as part of the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize, 2013. In 2016 and 2017 she was included in the Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward emerging photographer selection for Eugenie and Kamera, and the British Journal of Photography’s nationwide Portrait of Britain exhibition. Clare has recently been shortlisted for the Royal Photographic Society’s IPE #161, and selected for 209 Women, a photographic portrait project that marks the centenary of women achieving the vote in the UK in 1918.

We would like to thank everyone who took the time and effort to submit an application, we received a high number of excellent submissions and were impressed the wide ranging and thought provoking work.

Image Credit: Eugenie #6, from the series Eugenie (c) Clare Hewitt

The GRAIN Bursary is an award to a photographer or artist working in photography.

The bursary offers an award of £2,000 to support the making of new work in the rural West Midlands.  For this bursary opportunity we are seeking proposals from those who are interested in making new work in and with rural communities. The work must be made within a 12-month period of receiving the bursary award.

The bursary supports artistic development, experimentation and the production of new work, rather than an exhibition, touring or display of finished work. It offers time to explore processes and try out new ideas. The applicant must have a photographic practice.

The bursary is not a commission or production grant but a package of support focusing on research and process that can be used flexibly according to the successful recipient.

The West Midlands region is made up of the following areas; Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire. Further information about the region can be found here.

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

The applicant must be based in England and must submit their application by 5pm, 31 January 2019.

For more information about the bursary and how to apply please click here.

Selection Process:
A panel of photography experts will shortlist candidates for interview from the applications received.  Interviews will take place in Birmingham during February and can be arranged as Skype conversations. At interview, interviewees will be expected to speak in more detail about their work and working processes and the approach that they envisage.

Selection Panel:
GRAIN Projects
Camilla Brown, Curator, Writer and Lecturer
Jennie Anderson. Directory of Argentea Gallery
John Hillman. Professor of Photography, Educator, Researcher and Image Maker

For queries and further information about this opportunity, please contact:


In association with The Face of Suffrage you are invited to attend a short series of free public talks.

Wed 21 November at 6pm,  The Face of Suffrage artist Helen Marshall
Lloyds Room at Birmingham Hippodrome.  Lead artist of The Face of Suffrage Helen Marshall speaks about the project in Birmingham and her other collaborative projects nationally and internationally.

Wed 12 December at 6pm, Historian Dr Nicola Gauld
Lloyds Room, Birmingham Hippodrome.  Historian, writer and academic expert on the Suffragette movement Dr Nicola Gauld provides an overview of the Suffragist Campaign and a specific look at Birmingham and women’s stories.

Thurs 10 January at 6pm, Artists and Community Archivists Anand Chhabra and Geoff Broadway
Gowling Room, Birmingham Hippodrome.  Artists, Photographers and Archivists Anand Chhabra and Geoff Broadway talk about the community archives Apna Heritage and Living Memory and the role of women in archive histories and community photography archives.

The Face of Suffrage is a new large scale art installation created to celebrate 100 years of Votes for Women by Helen Marshall

The ‘Face of Suffrage’ artwork was a floor-based, 200 metre square photo mosaic consisting of more than 3,500 images of females from across the West Midlands.   It was located on the concourse of Birmingham New Street Station.  The artwork was made up of a combination of historical images, women involved in the Suffrage movement from the early 1900s, and from photographs made today by people that have photographed the women in their lives and wish to join in to commemorate and celebrate their stories.

This project was supported by Network Rail, Cross Country Trains, GRAIN Photography Hub, Arts Council England, LSE Women’s Library, Birmingham City University, Birmingham Hippodrome and The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

A Symposium on Incarceration, Absence, Photography and Fiction.

At The Shell, Parkside, Birmingham City University
5th December 2018, 2pm – 6pm
Tickets must be purchased in advance; £8.00/£4.00 (plus booking fee).

What Photography has in Common with an Empty Vase is a multifaceted body of work by Edgar Martins developed from a collaboration with GRAIN Projects and HMP Birmingham (the largest, category B prison in the Midlands).  The collaboration was based on engagement with the prison’s inmates and their families as well as a myriad of other local organisations and individuals.

Using the social context of incarceration as a starting point, artist Edgar Martins explores the philosophical concept of absence, and addresses 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 addressing prison as a set of social relations  rather than a mere geographical entity, Martins’ work proposes to rethink and counter the sort of imagery normally associated with incarceration.

The project thus wilfully circumvents images whose sole purpose, Martins argues, is to confirm the already held 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.

By focusing on ideas of absence, separation, hope and boundaries the project sends out a clear message: that the usual power relations and discourse associated to this kind of environment should not be perpetuated.

Composed of three distinct chapters, encompassing film, archive and new photography, installation, sculpture, 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 work marks a significant transition in Martins’ creative trajectory, signalling a growing inclination towards a broader, more hybrid and interdisciplinary perspective of images.

Artist Edgar Martins will be joined by Dr Mark Durden, Dr Maryse Tennant, Paul Tebbs and Dr Anna Kotova.

Book your tickets here.

In partnership with a range of organisations, led by Open Eye, we are delighted to be collaborating on Sixteen, a project that opens up conversations with young people about their hopes and fears. Award winning, internationally acclaimed British photographer Kate Peters* has been working with sixteen year olds in the Midlands.

Photographer Craig Easton  conceived this work following his engagement with sixteen years old at the time of the Scottish Referendum. It was the first, and as yet only, time that sixteen year olds were given the vote. He went on to invite some of the UK’s foremost documentary portrait photographers, Linda Brownlee, Lottie Davies, Jillian Edelstein, Stuart Freedman, Sophie Gerrard, Kate Kirkwood, Kalpesh Lathigra, Ronan McKenzie, Roy Mehta, Christopher Nunn, Antonio Olmos, Kate Peters, Michelle Sank, Abbie Trayler-Smith, Simon Roberts and Simon Wheatley, to collaborate with young people across the country to make a visual vox pop. Sixteen is an age of transition, of developmental, and of social change. At this time of increasing national and international anxiety, these young people are shifting from adolescence to become the adults who will live in a politically reshaped country, divorced from the Europe Union.

Working with photography, film, social media, audio recordings and writing, Craig and his colleagues bring together the faces and voices of more than one hundred young people from diverse communities across the United Kingdom. Locations span large conurbations such as London, Birmingham and Manchester, isolated areas in the South West, Northern Ireland, the Scottish Islands and post- industrial towns of
the North.

The photographers open up conversations with these young people about their hopes and fears, and who or what sustains them, giving prominence to voices rarely heard. The project explores how social background, gender, ethnicity or location might influence aspiration.

This integration of stunning portraits and candid reflections, will tour regionally, to institutions and organisations, arts festivals, and smaller venues beyond the boundaries of the museum. Each partner venue will co-curate a version of Sixteen inspired by their own location, and relevant topics and themes. Dedicated engagement programmes will initiate and encourage further conversations with young people across the country.

Image credit: Abdullatif, Coventry 2018, (c) Kate Peters

A new large scale art installation to celebrate 100 years of Votes for Women by Helen Marshall

The ‘Face of Suffrage’ artwork, a floor-based, 200 metre-square photo mosaic, is made up of more than 3,700 images of females from across the West Midlands and beyond. When viewed from above, it shows Hilda Burkitt, a leading face from the suffrage movement in the West Midlands. Evaline Hilda Burkitt was born in Wolverhampton in 1876 and died in 1955. She was the first suffragette to be forcibly fed a total of 292 times and had a job at the Birmingham WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union) headquarters, in Ethel Street, near New Street station. Hilda threw a stone at Prime Minister Herbert Asquith’s train as it pulled out of Birmingham New Street after he attended a male-only budget meeting and she was imprisoned at Winson Green prison.

The image is made up of a combination of historical pictures of women involved in the suffragette movement from the West Midlands in the early 1900s and of females today using photographs submitted by the public be part of the commemoration. The artwork will be on display until Friday 14 December – the day which marks the 100th anniversary of women voting for the first time.

The mosaic was created by artist Helen Marshall of The People’s Picture, who has installed similar projects across Britain marking other historic and significant occasions.

 The artwork was on display between Thursday 15 November to Friday 14 December – the day which marks the 100th anniversary of women voting for the first time.

A unique exhibition accompanied the artwork and could be seen at Birmingham Hippodrome from 16 October 2018 – 31 January 2019.

This project was supported by Network Rail, Cross Country Trains, GRAIN Photography Hub, Arts Council England, LSE Women’s Library, Birmingham City University, Birmingham Hippodrome and The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Emmeline Pankhurst, Emmeline Pethick Lawrence and others, c.1911.
Photograph, printed, paper, monochrome, a group of seven women on a
station platform, among them Emmeline Pankhurst and Emmeline Pethick

About Artist Helen Marshall and The People’s Picture
The People’s Picture is a project by award winning artist Helen Marshall.  Marshall’s practice is rooted in photography and socially engaged practice. The People’s Picture combines thousands of photographs to tell a story, commemorate an important occasion or bring attention to important social issues. You can find out more about her previous body of work, education and exhibitions at

Each photo mosaic is assembled from thousands of photos yet every single one tells a story. In 2006 The Big Picture broke the world record for the largest photo mosaic in the world. Clients include BBC TelevisionTate BritainCanary Wharf Group and The Photographers’ Gallery. The People’s Picture projects have been featured in the national news and are held in private and public collections in a diverse range of locations including cathedrals, museums, airports and on the street.

Marshall is an image maker and a storyteller. She has a track record in photography, design and collaborative practice. Her work is made for an audience at large, often outside the gallery or institutional art space. Realised in the public realm, the work has a performative relationship with photography. By engaging people as the primary producers and contributors of the work the art takes on a new identity.  Popular icons and faces are featured as the emblems of our time. Commissions include queens, footballers, soldiers, and the average person on the street.

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