26 02 2019

Clare Hewitt

Photographer Clare Hewitt, awarded the 2019 GRAIN Bursary Award, has developed a project that aims to look at isolation through working with a community of individuals and a woodland of trees.

Recent studies have found that isolation and loneliness are increasing in the UK, and lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day (Holt-Lunstad, 2015).

In her work Clare aims to address this issue through building a community of individuals who identify as lonely or isolated, and working with them to create a year-long photographic study of a community of ancient oak trees.

Although trees appear to be individual organisms above ground, scientific research shows that their complex communication methods facilitate survival, nurture and pass on wisdom, and send warnings when they are under attack. In a time when loneliness is increasing, segregation is being encouraged politically, and isolation driven through technology, there is much that can be learnt from the unity of the forest. This project is also supported by STEAMHouse, Birmingham City University.

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.

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.

Submission Deadline: 7th October 2018

East Meets West is a collaborative project devised by FORMAT International Photography Festival/QUAD and GRAIN Projects.   This year we will be offering a series of Masterclasses leading to an opportunity to showcase your work at FORMAT19.

At the Masterclasses you will learn from industry leaders such about portfolio development and receive advice regarding topics such as, competitions, commissions, exhibitions, funding, making approaches, distribution and editing.  Subjects will also include socially engaged, editorial and fine art photography, the photobook and responding to and working to commission. The Masterclasses will offer immersion in the subject matter and a unique opportunity for emerging photographers to develop their practice and showcase their work.

Masterclass speakers and portfolio reviewers include Natasha Caruana, Andrew Jackson, Anthony Luvera, Matthew Murray, Kate Peters and Michael Sargeant.

This opportunity is aimed at photographers wishing to broaden their perspectives and push the boundaries of their personal development. We welcome diverse and innovative submissions from photographers that are based in the East and West Midlands (that is those living in Birmingham, the Black Country, Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland).

To Apply: Please email the following to by 7th October 2018.

– Artists C.V (no more than two A4 pages)
– Statement (no more than one A4 page)
– Ten images of recent work in a singular PDF format, including title, medium, date and relevant links
– Up to 250 words outlining why you feel the masterclasses will support you at this stage in your professional development.

Each practitioner successfully selected to take part will be required to pay a fee of £100.

Please note that you will be required to attend four Masterclasses; two will be held at QUAD, Derby on 27th October and 17th November and two will be held at The Shell, Parkside, Birmingham City University, on 5th January and 9th February.

If you have any questions please contact

Photo (c) Charlotte Jopling

24 08 2018

Anthony Luvera

Anthony Luvera is a socially engaged artist, writer and educator who has collaborated with people who have experienced homelessness in cities and towns across the United Kingdom for over fifteen years. The long-term collaborative projects he creates with homeless people and other community groups have been exhibited widely in galleries, museums and public spaces. Anthony is Principal Lecturer and Course Director of MA Photography and Collaboration at Coventry University. He also designs and facilitates public education programmes for galleries and community photography projects across the UK. 

Collaborating with people who have experienced homelessness living in Birmingham builds upon the work he has undertaken in cities and towns across the United Kingdom for over fifteen years to create an archive of photographs, sound recordings and other materials that represents the lives and experiences of the most marginalised people in society. Creating this new body of work with the clients of SIFA Fireside, the main access point to support and services for vulnerably housed and homeless adults in Birmingham, will enable participants to use photography to express the things they are interested in and present their points of view.

Luvera’s interdisciplinary approach is committed to the process of collaboration and its associated methodologies in order to investigate the problems with photographic representation and visibility. His concern and advocacy for confronting the politics of representation has been part of an increased practice of and dialogue with socially engaged and community art – to emphasise the importance of self-representation among marginalised individuals.


Image credit: Documentation of the making of Assisted Self-Portrait Fred Clarke, from Assembly by Anthony Luvera, 2013-2014

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

03 08 2018


Settling is a collaborative, community photography project and archive exploring migration to the city of six towns, Stoke-on-Trent. Socially engaged photographer Sam Ivin extends and develops this work that originated during a residency with GRAIN Projects & Appetite, and will now launch a series of progressive workshops in summer 2018 with individuals and community groups across the city to create a publicly accessible vernacular archive, as well as a series of participatory artworks.

Participants of the project are linked by their narrative of movement and status as residents of the city, but have moved at different times and from different places following World War II to the present day. They have travelled for a wide range of reasons: professional opportunities, education, family and refuge from difficult circumstances.

Photography is part of these people’s journey; from the places and people they left to their new lives in Stoke-on-Trent.

The participants will engage with the project through a series of workshops facilitated by Sam Ivin with a focus to make visible their fascinating, brave and poignant stories and journeys of migration to Stoke-on-Trent. Participants of the project are encouraged to contribute photographs to be part of the new community archive, and will also contribute to both visual and oral histories with contemporary works. The participatory works have a playful engagement with the photographs and stories, and record both past and present chapters of an important, but under-represented, recognition of the cities social history.  Sam will then proceed to make a new body of work in response to his experiences and the city.

Settling will become an accessible community photography archive, located in one of the city’s public institutions, telling the story of Stoke today through the eyes of those who have moved there and becoming part of the visual memory of this period of Stoke’s history.   The archive will contribute to the important story of Stoke-on-Trent’s important social history of migration and movement.


This project is generously supported by Arts Council England, GRAIN Projects, Appetite, Creative People & Places and Stoke on Trent City Council.


GRAIN hosts evening talks given by artists and photographers, throughout the year, and in collaboration with its partners.

The talks are frequently programmed to coincide with the regional exhibitions, events and commissions.

We are delighted to host a talk by critically acclaimed artist and photographer Mahtab Hussain, at The New Art Gallery Walsall and in collaboration with Redeye Photography Network.

In Conversation, Mahtab Hussain with Tim Clark, Editor in Chief and Director of contemporary photography magazine 1000 Words.  

On Tuesday 14 August, 6.30 – 8.00pm, at The New Art Gallery Walsall.    Tickets £3.

In September 2016, Mahtab Hussain travelled to Kashmir; to the place that his parents had once called home.  He was able to meet members of his family for the first time and to witness the kind of life he may have lived had history taken a different turn.

Born and raised in Glasgow in the 1980s, Hussain like many others, experienced racism and discrimination.  He was frequently made to feel like he did not belong in Britain yet he knew no other home.   Hussain has developed an artistic practice which explores ideas of homeland, race, identity and cultural difference.  The exhibition at The New Art Gallery Walsall presents a powerful and poetic reflection on ideas of home, belonging and displacement.

For more information see  The New Art Gallery Walsall website and to book at place for the Talk call the gallery on 01922 654400.


To date we have been delighted to host talks by the following;

  • Mat Collishaw
  • Faye Claridge
  • Nathaniel Pitt and Donall Curtin
  • Tom Hunter
  • Sophy Rickett and Bettina von Zwehl
  • Bruce Gilden
  • David Birkett
  • Daniel Meadows
  • Simon Roberts
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Matthew Murray
  • David Hurn
  • Trish Morrissey
  • Guy Martin
  • Lua Ribeira
  • Liz Hingley

Image: Mahtab Hussain

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