CURRENT PROJECTS: 2020 Commissions & Bursaries

12 05 2020

Open Call

With thanks to Arts Council England we are pleased to announce our new online programme which means we can continue to share new work, support the making of work and engage with projects from the safety of our homes.

As part of our online programme we have a series of commissions and bursaries aimed at exploring, responding to and documenting the current historical and significant time we are experiencing.

The commissions and bursaries will support photographers and writers to make new work in isolation ( at a social distance), reflecting on these times & contributing to creativity and wellbeing.  Outcomes will be shared with audiences via our digital platforms. (Health & safety is particularly important, all projects must follow the government guidelines for the lockdown and social distancing).

We are interested in work that responds to the following themes; Social Distancing, Family, Community, Caring, Togetherness, Relationships, Health & Wellbeing, The Economy, Work, Key Workers.

We welcome applications from diverse backgrounds. If applicants have any additional needs and would like support with their application please do get in touch at

There are a number of strands to this programme and the opportunities are open to photographers, artists and writers who are based in England. Please send your applications to, within your email please state which strand of the programme you are applying for.

Commission: Fee £2000, Deadline 10th June 2020

  • We are awarding 2 commissions aimed at artists & photographers with a track record of producing high quality work.
  • A strong commitment to working at a professional level
  • Ambition for their work and practice
  • The work created must be able to be shared digitally
  • The work must be made in a 5 month period between June and October 2020.
  • To Submit please send your CV, examples of previous work & website links, and description of the work you propose to do (maximum 500 words) to

Micro Bursary: Fee £500, Deadline 15th June 2020

  • We are awarding 6 bursaries aimed at emerging artists & photographers including recent graduates  from 2020.
  • The bursary will also include advice from the GRAIN team.
  • The work created must be able to be shared digitally before October 2020.
  • To Submit please send your CV, examples of previous work & website links, and description of the work you propose to do (maximum 200 words)

Writing Bursary: Fee £250, Deadline 15th June 2020

  • We are awarding 2 writing bursaries.
  • The work created must be for text that has a photographic theme.
  • Submit a CV, examples of previous work & website links, and a short synopsis of the writing you would undertake to

23 03 2020

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.

Through support from STEAMhouse, Clare has created, developed and produced 24 pinhole cameras that have been installed into 12 oak trees at The Birmingham Institute of Forest Research.

The pinhole cameras will be living in the community of trees for the next year, forming part of her project based on the ways that trees communicate in contrast to rising levels of human isolation and loneliness in rural areas.

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.

Photographer Andy Pilsbury was awarded a Photobook bursary to support the development, creation and production of a new photobook dummy. The bursary includes professional feedback and guidance through a number of portfolio reviews with industry professionals.

Titled The Flesh & the Fantasy, the book dummy presents five stories connected by the export of American culture and its manifestation by outsiders in the UK. Interwoven with dreams and reality, or flesh and fantasy, Andy presents a multi layered narrative of symbolism, ideology and culture that journey through different genres and iconic subcultures commenting on both historic and contemporary themes.

With the American Dream becoming toxic and corroded in the USA, there still is an allure to Europeans who seek to transcend the monotony of life at home through embracing American narratives and clichés.

The timing of this work is extremely notable with the run up to the American elections, Trumpism and its political impact and the UK’s so-called special relationship with the US, alongside our positioning in Europe post Brexit.

Andy used long time friends and collaborators, Wild Ilk to design the book, and it was printed by Team Impression in Leeds.  Hardback 200 x 250mm, perfect bind, 107 pages.

As part of the bursary, Andy was able to attend the FORMAT International Photography Festival portfolio reviews to present the book dummy to a range of industry leaders including figures from galleries, agencies, magazines, media, photography festivals and publishing. Throughout the day the work was received very positively with plenty of feedback to move the project forward.

Andy Pilsbury is a photographer whose particular interest is the presentation of American culture within the UK. Drawn to communities, individuals and subcultures he forms wider narratives based on his own experience and notable historic and contemporary themes.

Alongside personal and commissioned projects he works as a Senior Photography Technician at Birmingham City University, educating students in the craft. He is commercially represented by Lisa Pritchard Agency, London.

18 02 2020

Anthony Luvera

GRAIN are working with leading Birmingham based charity SIFA Fireside and have commissioned artist, writer and educator Anthony Luvera to work with their client group to create new work.  Luvera is a socially engaged practitioner who has collaborated with people who have experienced homelessness 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.

Luvera is working in Birmingham for the first time, collaborating with people who have experienced homelessness living in Birmingham. 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 the city, 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.  His concern and advocacy for confronting the politics of representation have 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.

The photography made with clients will be exhibited and published in 2021.

Thank you to Galliard Homes for sponsoring the project.

Image credit: Paul B

11 02 2020

Alannah Cooper

Alannah Cooper has been researching the rural tradition of well dressings in Derbyshire and Staffordshire with particular focus on the village of Endon in the Staffordshire Moorlands.   . Due to Covid – 19 for the first time in the history of the Well Dressing in the village the event was cancelled.  In response to this Alannah has been making work that responds to the historical themes associated with the event staging the predominant rituals and customs that draw our attention to their existence and truth.

Alannah is a photographer inspired by capturing the wildness of tradition and the nature of craft. Photographer, writer, interviewer, and craftswoman herself, her portfolio has been built on her insatiable need to explore. As a fashion photographer, she dedicates her time to projects that bring her to people and places where fashion exists in different ways.

Originally from the Orkney islands, Scotland, her ideas alive from the materials of rural land and the lore she grew up around. It is not uncommon for her work to feature family members, home towns, and the small patterns and details that can remind the viewer of their own. Today, she continues to search for new interpretations of rural surroundings that enchant the everyday life of craftsmanship, explore the accessibility of creativity, and promote the sustainability of fashion.

Alannah Cooper has an MA in Fashion Communication from Central Saint Martins and before that she spent four years at Heriot-Watt University in the Scottish Borders. She was the first-ever recipient of the New Fashion Image Prize at Central Saint Martins, 2018 selected by Lou Stoppard and Simon Chilvers

Image Credit: by Alannah Cooper

11 02 2020

Emily Graham

Emily Graham has been making work in her hometown of Rugby, the project titled ‘Alspath’ looks at the intersection of the rural with industrial heritage. She is interested in how the countryside can be hidden in our more urban boroughs and districts. Emily has been exploring how people (particularly young people) interact with these green spaces and is working collaboratively with young people in the area and with Photography students at Rugby College.

Emily Graham is a photographer based in London. She gained her BA (Hons) in Photography at the University of Brighton, and has recently completed her MA in Photography at the University of West England.

She was one of the recipients of the Magenta Foundation Flash Forward award 2017, selected as a Commended winner of the Genesis Imaging Postgraduate Award 2018, shortlisted for the Brighton Photo Fringe Open Solo 18, awarded third prize in the British Journal of Photography’s International Photography Award 2019, and most recently, shortlisted for the Images Vevey Book Award. Her work has been exhibited nationally & internationally, including at Format Festival 2019 as part of their thematic Forever/Now, and most recently at Pingyao International Photography Festival, China and in Profound Movement group exhibit at Houston Centre for Photography.


Image Credit: Emily Graham

11 02 2020

Guy Martin

Guy Martin has been making new work in rural areas of the West Midlands responding to the impact of ‘County Lines’ drug gangs.

The County Lines is a reminder of the often misrepresented rural landscape as something picturesque, idyllic and safe. Instead the realities include income inequality, poverty, poor access to services, poor public transport, limited social housing, poor transport connections and a lack of access to education.

These pictures were made based on conversations and meetings with Vennture (a Hereford based charity) and West Mercia Police. The project reveals the location of a meeting point where drug dealers and drug users meet, locations of where murders and violent crime have taken place, where rival drug gangs have fought for control and glimpses of police stations and buildings where under-resourced forces are trying to counter the spread of crime into their counties. Other pictures are informed by the locations of men and women experiencing homelessness and rough sleeping and how they too are ensnarled in the selling and taking of drugs.

‘County lines’ refers to a crime where drug gangs exploit children and vulnerable adults to make them courier drugs and money across the country from the gang’s bases in large cities to customers in rural towns and villages. The ‘county line’ itself is a phone line, controlled by the dealer, which can be given to a runner who the drug users can contact for a delivery.

Gangs are hiring vulnerable young people and adults across rural areas as part of the planned expansion of their business from cities into rural populations – using them as mules as they are unassuming enough to avoid suspicion and detection.

The rise in county lines drug gangs comes at a time of harsh reality in rural communities.  Budget cuts to local councils and a decade of austerity have led to less policing and public services in the rural West Midlands. Rural crime is on the rise, quite often to repay debts that vulnerable young local people have incurred as they get involved with the selling of drugs. Violent crime of this sort flourishes especially when young people feel they have no stake in the future of their communities.

The coronavirus outbreak has affected entire industries, including businesses and employers in rural areas. The market for drugs is more resilient and demand increases during times of crisis.

Guy Martin (b.1983) graduated with a B.A(HONS) in DocumentaryPhotography from the University of Wales, Newport. He has been a member of Panos Pictures since 2011. From January 2011 he began to document the revolutions sweeping through the Middle East and North Africa. From 2012 he was been based inIstanbul Turkey, where he produced ‘The Parallel State’ his first book about the rise of Turkish soft power and the complex new identities in the Turkish Republic. The book was published in 2018 by GOST books and subsequently was listed as on of Time Magazine’s best photo books of the year.

Image Credit: Guy Martin

11 02 2020

Leah Gordon

Leah is working in Shropshire and is researching land ownership and histories to gain a deeper understanding of the enclosures act, the impact of the industrial revolution and in parallel the American and Caribbean plantation system. This historical past is vital to having a critical understanding of the systems and politics of now.

The enclosure acts describe the legal process through which common rights over land were terminated and the common land converted to the exclusive property and use of a landowner.

Due to the COVID pandemic, local archive offices were closed we found it easier to start by identifying, researching and discovering the stories of why these small pieces of land retained common land status and therefore tell the story of the enclosure through the remainders.

Leah has been working with people that still had common rights over land and discovering how they exercise these rights. She has been making portraits and interviewing people about their stories, commoners’ rights and to find any historic stories they knew about the land. These stories will be used for a small book based on this project as well as extended wall text for an exhibition using constructed portraits of commoners within the landscape along with an imaginative use of the archive and the poetry of John Clare, to intertwine the traces of history, Empire & the contemporary state of the land.

Leah Gordon (born 1959 Ellesmere Port) is a photographer, film-maker, curator, collector and writer. In the 1980’s she wrote lyrics, sang and played for the feminist folk punk band, ‘The Doonicans’. Leah makes work on Modernism and architecture; the slave trade and industrialisation; and grassroots religious, class and folk histories. Gordon’s film and photographic work has been exhibited internationally including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; the Dak’art Biennale; the National Portrait Gallery, UK and the Norton Museum of Art, Florida. Her photography book ‘Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti’ was published in June 2010. She is the co-director of the Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; was a curator for the Haitian Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale; was the co-curator of ‘Kafou: Haiti, History & Art’ at Nottingham Contemporary, UK; on the curatorial team for ‘In Extremis: Death and Life in 21st Century Haitian Art’ at the Fowler Museum, UCLA and was the co-curator of ‘PÒTOPRENS: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince’ at Pioneer Works, NYC in 2018 and MOCA, Miami in 2019. In 2015 Leah Gordon was the recipient of the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Travel Award for Central America and the Caribbean.

Image Credit: Leah Gordon.

11 02 2020

Matthew Broadhead

Matthew Broadhead’s third great-grandfather Frederick William Broadhead was an artist and photographer based in Leicester during the late 19th century, and this is where Matthew has made new work, in the ancient Charnwood Forest.

His great-grand father captured the romantic landscape including Bradgate Park, Ulverscroft Priory ruin and the slate quarry in Swithland Wood, and these features of the landscape still exist today. Using large format camera equipment, Matthew recorded the wider landscape of Charnwood Forest and referenced the geology, fossils, landscape, wildlife, human activity, human influence, social history, stories and folklore of the landscape.

He has photographed people that participate in the landscape to focus on its use today, their understanding of place and history and their motivation for using the land.

Matthew Broadhead is a British photographer based in Southwest England (b.1994). In 2016, he graduated from the BA (Hons) Photography program at the University of Brighton and gained sustained recognition for his body of work A Space for Humans: The Moon on Earth. A Space for Humans was featured in The British Journal of Photography, Wallpaper*, The Exposed Issue 2 and Fisheye Vol 1.

Matthew has also been selected as a winner for awards from Magnum, Photoworks and Organ Vida. In late 2019, he graduated from the new MA Photography course at UWE Bristol with a new body of work titled The Sleeping Photographer. Matthew’s practice is an engagement with photography as a critical medium and explores conjunctions between different subjects, notably geology; anthropology; history; folklore and mythology.

Image Credit: by Matthew Broadhead

11 02 2020

Murray Ballard

Murray is working in Boston, Lincolnshire, the rural town that had voted with the largest majority to leave the EU during the referendum. Visiting the town post Brexit to photograph the post Brexit community and their future hopes and concerns he found a community affected by Covid during 2020 and the impact the pandemic has had on agriculture and food production.

Boston’s local economy and much of its identity is built around agriculture, with Lincolnshire producing one eighth of the UK’s food. The surrounding landscape is dominated by fields of barley, wheat and oilseed rape; alongside more specialist crops such as: potatoes, cauliflowers, cabbages, carrots, beetroot, onions, lettuce, spring onions and tomatoes. These crops require more labour to grow and harvest, which has led to a large influx of Eastern-European agricultural workers in the area.

The resulting images are the beginning of a contemporary portrait of Boston and perhaps go some way to highlighting some of the things that led people to vote to leave the EU in such significant numbers. They also show the effects mass agriculture is having on our environment and the damaging relationship between consumer culture and food production.

Murray Ballard (b.1983) is a British photographer born and based in Brighton, UK.  He graduated from the University of Brighton in 2007 with a first-class degree in Photography.  The following year he was selected for Fresh Faced and Wild Eyed 08 – the annual showcase of work by ‘the most promising recent graduates’ at The Photographers’ Gallery, London. From 2008 he assisted Magnum photographer Mark Power for several years whilst continuing to work on his own commissions and self-initiated projects. Most notably his long-term investigation of cryonics – the practice of freezing the dead in the hope that future science and technology will be able to bring them back to life.

In 2011 the British Journal of Photography recognised him as ‘an emerging photographer of note’, following his debut solo show The Prospect of Immortality at Impressions Gallery, Bradford. The exhibition went on to tour both nationally and internationally. Venues include: Side Gallery, Newcastle; Format Festival, Derby; Breda Photo Festival, Netherlands, SI Fest, Italy and DongGang International Photography Festival, South Korea. In 2016 GOST Books published an extensive monograph of the work, which was shortlisted for the Paris Photo Aperture First Book Award.

His photographs have been published in numerous magazines and newspapers including: Esquire, FT Weekend, GEO, GQ, The Guardian The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times and Wired.  As well as the photography journals: 6 Mois, British Journal of Photography, HotShoe and Professional Photography.

Image Credit: Murray Ballard

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