CURRENT PROJECTS: Edgar Martins, Artist Talks

Public Programme:
What Photography & Incarceration have in Common with an Empty Vase

by Edgar Martins

In association with the exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum

17th Feb, 6 PM, Zoom, Book here:
Edgar Martins will share with audiences the process of making and developing the project as well as the production of the book that accompanies the exhibition.

17th March, 6 PM, Zoom, Book here:
Edgar Martins will be in conversation with artist, writer and educator Mark Durden. They will discuss the project in detail, examining the themes, intentions and results of the work.

About the exhibition:
What Photography and Incarceration have in Common with an Empty Vase, an exhibition by internationally acclaimed artist Edgar Martins, at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry to coincide with Coventry’s City of Culture celebrations.

Commissioned by GRAIN Projects, Martins worked for four years with the inmates of HM Prison in Birmingham, the largest Category B prison in the Midlands, and their families as well as a myriad of local organisations and individuals to create a new body of work that explores loss, conflict and confinement.

The resulting book, What Photography and Incarceration have in Common with an Empty Vase was shortlisted as the best Photobook of the Year in Paris Photo & Aperture Photobook Awards as well the PhotoEspaña Book Awards.

By using image and text, new and historical photography, evidence and fiction, Martins’ work explores how we deal with the absence of a loved one, brought on by enforced separation through incarceration and lockdown.

The subject matter and focus take on a new and important resonance during these times of Covid-19 and the absence, loss and experience of confinement that this has brought to so many people.

Edgar Martins said: “By giving a voice to inmates and their families and addressing absence as a set of social relations rather than a mere physical space, my work tried to rethink and counter the sort of imagery normally associated with incarceration and confinement. I went to great lengths to avoid images whose sole purpose, in my opinion, is to confirm the already held opinions within dominant ideology about crime and punishment and to instead look at loss and absence.”

For full information about the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum opening times and Covid – 19 restrictions please visit 

About Edgar Martins:
Edgar Martins was born in Évora (1977) (Portugal) but grew up in Macau (China), where he studied Philosophy and where he published his first novel entitled “Mãe deixa-me fazer o pino”. 
He studied for a BA (Hons) at the University of the Arts (London) and an MA in Photography and Fine Art at the Royal College of Art (London).
 His work is represented internationally in several high-profile collections, such as those of the V&A (London), the National Media Museum (Bradford, UK), RIBA (London), the Dallas Museum of Art (USA); The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum/Modern Art Centre (Lisbon), MAAT/EDP Foundation (Lisbon), Fondation Carmignac (Paris), MAST (Italy), amongst others. 
His first book—Black Holes & Other Inconsistencies—was awarded the Thames & Hudson & RCA Society Book Art Prize. A selection of images from this book was also awarded The Jerwood Photography Award in 2003.
 Between 2002 and 2018 Martins published 15 separate monographs, which were also received with critical acclaim. These works were exhibited internationally at institutions such as PS1 MoMA (New York), MOPA (San Diego, USA), MACRO (Rome), Laumeier Sculpture Park (St. Louis, USA), Centro Cultural de Belém (Lisbon), Centro de Arte Moderna de Bragança (Portugal), Centro International de Arte José de Guimarães (Portugal), Museu do Oriente (Lisbon), Centro de Arte Moderna (Lisbon), MAAT (Lisbon), Centro Cultural Hélio Oiticica (Rio de Janeiro), The New Art Gallery Walsall (Walsall, UK), PM Gallery & House (London), The Gallery of Photography (Dublin), Ffotogallery (Penarth, Wales),The Wolverhampton Art Gallery & Museum (UK), Open Eye Gallery (Liverpool), amongst many others. In 2010 the Centre Culturel Calouste Gulbenkian (Paris) hosted Edgar Martins’ first retrospective exhibition. 
Edgar Martins was the recipient of the inaugural New York Photography Award (Fine Art category, May 2008), the BES Photo Prize (Portugal, 2009), the SONY World Photography Award (Landscape cat. 2009; Still-Life cat 2018; Architecture cat., 2018), the Int. Photography Awards 2010 (Abstract category), etc. He was nominated for the Prix Pictet 2009.
He was selected to represent Macau (China) at the 54th Venice Biennale.

About Mark Durden:
Mark Durden is an artist, writer and educator.  He has written extensively on contemporary art and photography. His most recent publications include Double Act: Art and Comedy (2016), co- written with David Campbell, and The Routledge Companion to Photography Theory (2019), co-edited with Jane Tormey.  With Ian Brown and David Campbell, Durden regularly exhibits as part of the artist group Common Culture.  Their current solo show Little Deaths opens at Rampa in Porto in March 2020.  With Campbell he has co-curated a number of substantial exhibitions on art and comedy: Double Act (Bluecoat, Liverpool and the MAC, Belfast in 2016) and The Laughable Enigma of Ordinary Life (Arquipélago, centro de artes contemporâneas, São Miguel in 2017). Together with João Leal, and in collaboration with Scopio Network, Durden is currently working on a photography project in response to the architecture of Álvaro Siza. He is Professor of Photography and Director of the European Centre for Documentary Research at the University of South Wales, UK

Familiar Faces by Adina Lawrence, is an exhibition in and about Newcastle-under-Lyme. GRAIN partnered with  Appetite and Newcastle-under-Lyme BID.

The exhibition captures the familiar faces and the unique welcome of Newcastle town centre through the power of photography. Running from Friday 29 January until Sunday 1 August, the exhibition of portraits will be seen across three sites in Newcastle-under-Lyme; on Ironmarket, High Street – next to the war memorial – and High Street – near to Poundland.

Photographer Adina Lawrence captured the portraits of Newcastle workers in the Town Centre during December 2020; to highlight local retailers, shops and businesses and celebrate the historic town centre as it is now. The images shine a light on the diversity, strong offers, culture and heritage of the town and the businesses’ resilience during the most challenging of times.

The exhibition includes portraits that capture the wide range of businesses across the town centre, from business owners and staff to new businesses starting out, thriving market stalls to established shops who have been operating in the town for up to 500 years, independent unique outlets to international chains.

Access and Useful Info 

  • Please support us by adhering to our COVID-Safe measures whilst enjoying Familiar FacesHands / Face / Space
  • Please adhere to the lockdown guidelines by visiting Familiar Faces whilst doing your essential shop or during daily exercise

About Adina Lawrence:
Adina Lawrence is a Black British portrait photographer who makes portraits of people that show character, personality, strength and  diversity. Her pictures are compelling contemporary portraits that tell a story.  She is based in Stoke-on-Trent and has BA Hons degree in Photojournalism from Staffordshire University.

Instagram – @adinamya

The project is a collaboration with Appetite, Creative People & Places and is supported by New Vic Theatre, Partners in Creative Learning (PiCL), 6Towns Radio, Staffordshire University, Newcastle-under-Lyme BID, Go Kidsgrove, Keele University and Arts Council England.

Exhibition photograph by Andrew Billington

Tristan Poyser
Participatory Talk
Tues 29 December at 7pm – The eve of Brexit…

GRAIN are pleased to be collaborating with photographer Tristan Poyser and Art Link, Inishowen, Co. Donegal, Northern Ireland for this participatory event in association with the exhibition at Art Link.

A Time of Uncertainty brings together two significant series of work by Poyser, ‘The Invisible Inbetween’ and ‘Masked’.

Poyser has been making socially engaged work in Ireland, particularly focussing on the border, since the referendum. His work is not traditional documentary but participatory, based on conversations with over 700 individuals and communities over 5 years. For ‘The Invisible Inbetween’ he travelled the Irish border he recorded the landscape reflecting on the effect of Brexit on a land rich with turmoil and history. He explains, ‘Borders are intrinsically peripheries, a third space and projections of the state. The Irish border is both an administrative and political division, an imaginary boundary, with little evidence of the existence to signify a physical border.’

‘Masked’ is a piece that aligns still life, performative portraiture and documentary photography in another idiosyncratic form. 64 masks from his shifts for the online conglomerate Amazon appear bound together. This is a meditation upon an unprecedented era of hardship. ‘Whilst fortunate to be in a position to earn an income, there was a palpable tension brought on by the restrictions of the pandemic, the lockdown and employment. Clocking in, clocking out, timed breaks, compounded by the uncomfortable but necessary safety measures,’ he elaborates.

On Tuesday 29 December you are invited to participate in a Talk that Poyser will be facilitating. The first 50 participants that register before 16th December will receive a pack in the post which will enable them to contribute to this ongoing project link to The Invisible In Between.

Poyser invites the public to consider the referendum vote, their individual vote and how this will impact on those living on the Irish border and their future.

In addition to the first 50 registering you are able to register for the Talk and join in the Q&A and chat.

Each project engages with people and communities and remarks on a crucial time that affects us all. Each is a narrative of opinions, complemented by the artist’s reflection on two dominant issues of our time.

Book here. 

Tristan Poyser is a photographer, a board member of the Arts Council England’s Sector Support Organisation Redeye – The Photography Network, a Tutor for the British Academy of Photography, guest lecturer on Professional Practice, and delivers participatory workshops. He has also judged for the RIBA awards.

To Book  |  For further information on the associated exhibitions

Thank you to Luke Das who contributed to the text on these projects, interviewing Tristan Poyser for Loupe Magazine.

In 2020 Laura Dicken was awarded by GRAIN and New Art West Midlands the International Bursary Award, in partnership with Galleri Image and Aarhus Billedkunstcenter.

Laura has created ‘You Are Another Me’ an inclusive, socially engaged arts project which explores the experiences of women (and female identifying individuals) from a variety of backgrounds who have, for different reasons, migrated alone.

She took an extended amount of time for research and development over the Summer of 2020 to radically adjust her practice so that she can still co-author and co-create with participants in a meaningful way under the new remote circumstances brought on by Covid restrictions. This has been achieved by embracing platforms such as Zoom, Skype, email and WhatsApp.

Working closely with the Aarhus Billedkunstcenter Project Manager, the artist has made connections with local organisations in Aarhus who support migrant women and has invited potential participants to take part in the project. Laura will still collaborate with participants through conversations, shared images and storytelling, but will now do so digitally rather than through in person workshops.

Laura will be delivering an artists talk at Galleri Image and Aarhus Billedkunstcenter remotely in 2021

GRAIN have worked in collaboration with young people from across Shropshire, including Telford Young Carers, Shropshire Young Carers, XYZ and Steps Forward youth groups, to make photographs that document young people’s lives during a year like never before.

The young people took part in both online & in person workshops creating their own photography projects to tell the stories of how they live their lives, what it’s like to grow up in a rural area and their experiences of Covid – 19 and life in lockdown.

The resulting photographs offer a documentation of this historical time period and reveal the importance of family, friends and the outdoors to the young people.

The project was led by Stephen Burke, in partnership with The Hive, Shrewsbury, supported by Frosts Photo Centre and Arts Council England.

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20 10 2020

Lewis Bush

For this writing commission Lewis Bush looked at the way in which Covid-19 reveals several very significant limitations in the way most photographers think about the medium and what it can and should do. One of these being the idea that proximity produces insight and also the notion that showing something goes any way towards explaining its causes and consequences.

His new writing looks at the visual tropes emerging in the converge of the pandemic and these ideas and highlights what we can and should learn from this crisis as photographers.

Invisible Chains: Photography’s Ingrained Assumptions
by Lewis Bush

In his allegory of the cave, Plato describes a group of prisoners living their entire lives chained in the darkness. Shadowy outlines play on rocky walls, providing the prisoners with their only sense of reality, and they remain entirely unaware of the world outside which created these flickering forms. For Plato, a philosopher was someone who broke their chains and departed from the cave forever.

Whenever photography has been a witness to a prolonged and major news event, it has tended to generate a set of visual motifs specific to that story. The global ‘war on terror’ for example gave us the ever-repeating tropes of the aftermaths of terrorist attacks, soldiers enshrouded in clouds of sand and dust, hooded figures kneeling in orange, flag draped coffins, and so on. The creation of these tropes was evidently the result of many factors, choices and filters,[1] but two were particularly important amongst them. One was the specific visual aspects of that conflict, for example it’s locales, belligerents and tactics, and the other one was the particular possibilities for photography in the context of the event, possibilities partly dictated by specific practices like the military system of journalistic embedding and the intentional targeting of journalists by insurgent groups. The images that define the ‘war on terror’ were, in other words, as much a representation of what was photographically possible, as they were the a matter of the best way of visually representing, much less explaining, the subject that was being recorded.

Continue reading here

Read more about the writer here

Image Credit: Saving the World in 1944 / Saving the World in 2020

20 10 2020

Jamila Prowse

For this writing commission Jamila Prowse asks the question – In these isolating, politically rife times how can photography and moving image be used as a source of hope, as a way of collectivising Black communities, as a way to hold each other digitally and create space for both each other and ourselves? Her new essay analyses theories around the rifeness of images of Anti-black violence, situating the creation of images of Black joy and abundance within this context as a way to question how Black artists envision and imagine new potentialities for a world in which Black lives are not only valued but celebrated.

Moving towards rupture, resistance, and refusal in Black moving image works
by Jamila Prowse

On 25th May 2020 a forty-six year-old man by the name of George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis. The graphic video showing the moment Floyd’s life was taken from him was subsequently shared online, sparking a resurgence in public support for the Black Lives Matter movement. What the video reveals is something that is maddening and heartbreaking, but unsurprising to Black communities the world over: what Tina Campt terms the ‘statistical probability of Black death’. The viral quality of the video documenting George Floyd’s murder exposes that Black people are not afforded sanctity in life nor in death. For many, the denial and avoidance of the positioning of Black people throughout the world was brought to a head. Here, along with the racially motivated killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Riah Milton and countless others during 2020 and beyond, provided stark and undeniable evidence of the devaluing and disposability of Black life. Yet, this is a lived reality which cannot be denied, buried or avoided for Black communities.

Continue Reading here

Read more about the writer here

Photo Credit:  ‘TAKE UR FOOT OFF MY NECK’ video (still) by Kai Isaiah Jamal

19 10 2020

Anneka French

For this writing commission Anneka French has used the phrase ‘I am reaching out to you’ as its title and starting point . The text is a blend of critical reflection, and creative fictional and autobiographical writing. The critical element of her text analyses photographic works by Carrie Mae Weems and Elinor Carucci and reflects on a selection of intimate and domestic from Weems’ ‘Family Pictures and Stories’ (1981-2) and ‘The Kitchen Table Series’ (1990), alongside Carucci’s ‘Closer’ (1990s-2000s) series.

The research and text resonates during the Covid crisis as it is a multi layered meditation on the pandemic period as the writer has experienced it, from an acknowledged place of personal privilege, from home and through photographs. The text is interwoven with memories, new poems and diary- like entries and is a commentary on isolation, intimacy, parenthood, domesticity and family.

Read more about the writer here

Image Credit: I am reaching out to you, Anneka French

13 10 2020

Anna Souter

For this writing commission, Anna Souter produced a new piece of creative fiction which explores the relationship between light and dark in photography and the lives of plants. It follows a photographer who turns to her garden for inspiration during quarantine.

by Anna Souter

Ayra wakes to another day of shielding. It’s hot even though it’s still early. She gets up to pour herself a glass of water and the morning sunlight gleams on the dirty glass. She talks to herself as she puts in her contact lenses. She’s not sure why she doesn’t just wear her glasses when there’s no one there to see her.

Here we go again, she says.

Her reflection stares back at her, its shadowed contours made unfamiliar by the harsh shaving light above the mirror. There are no windows in the bathroom, so she’s turned it into a makeshift darkroom, swapping out the old yellow lightbulb for a red one. There’s a roll of masking tape on top of the toilet cistern for sealing the door later. She takes one small white pill from the packet under the sink. The foil is labelled with the days of the week, an edible diary.

Continue reading here

Read more about the writer here

Image Credit: Quarantine Herbarium, Alice Mahoney

From March to October 2020 GRAIN commissioned and supported artists, writers and photographers to make new work in response to the Covid- 19 pandemic, lockdown and new laws around social distancing. The commissioning and bursary programme was a national response supported by Arts Council England and National Lottery Players.

12 photographers, writers and artists made new work responding to the unprecedented, uncertain and disturbing time of the pandemic, the affects of lockdown in the public realm and the personal and private space.

We are excited to be sharing work by; Andrea G ArtzLydia GoldblattChris HoareDaniel DaleFreddy GriffithsJemima YongNgadi SmartShaista ChishtyAnneka FrenchAnna SouterJamila Prowse and Lewis Bush.

Find our more about each of the Photographers, Writers and Artists here.

Image Credit: Pandemia to Pandemia, Andrea G Artz

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