Meeting up with some of my fellow students at Brighton Photo Biennial 2018 was a thoroughly rewarding experience and I’m glad I attended the biennial for the second time. I felt I learnt a lot about photography approaches to difficult issues like migration and the hopes/fears surrounding Brexit. Importantly for me I discovered the way the work was presented by the various artists/collectives had a big impact on the way I perceived them. This might seem obvious, however I found I was in general drawn to the work which was more imaginatively presented rather than conventionally presented.
For the first part of the study visit we attended a few exhibitions that were part of Brighton Photo Fringe 2018; a complementary festival to BPB2018. I found the artists in many situations were part of a collective and this approach to making work interested me. It somewhat displaced the traditional authoritative approach where the artist was seen to be the sole creator and therefore afforded an elevated position within the exhibition. This approach seemed much more democratic and the results were interesting too.
First of all we looked at the FORM collective. Although I didn’t gather much meaning from their work and the extra information was somewhat hidden away, the exhibition was certainly immersive in its presentation. It showed that the collective or the curator had considered the layout in respects to it being a collective display which was refreshing.
Then we moved on to young people (aged between 14 and 18) in Brighton’s work specifically for Brighton Photo Fringe 2018. Some of my fellow students likened a few portraits to that of Martin Parr’s work which was high praise but well deserved in my opinion. The colours were quite saturated and the portraits candid so the comparison was valid I felt.
Afterwards in the same room, we looked at the work of homeless people in Brighton and their perspective when given a camera. It was interesting to see the different approaches employed and to read about the stories in conjunction with the photos. As a collective, I did feel it worked well as there was a common thread that tied all the work together and so the theme was there to begin with but all of the individuals branched out of this theme.
Finally, later on that day, we gathered together again to view a different kind of collective. All the photographers in this collective were tied together by one man called Tim Andrews. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s several years ago, Andrews must have found the news extremely hard at first but then felt liberated and began asking photographers to take his portrait. The number of photographers taking his portrait grew more frequent, averaging 2 portraits each week. From a photography perspective this was very interesting since traditionally projects are put together by the photographer. I found this approach extremely refreshing and a twist I struggled to get my head around. This was because Andrews organised the collective, was featured in the photographs and yet didn’t take any of them! We were fortunate enough to hear Andrews give a talk to us about his project and were able to ask questions surrounding the work like whether he made suggestions to the photographers about the various poses he took up. Andrews answered us with a typically humorous yet informative response: that most of the time he let the photographers take command but on the odd occasion he felt the pose was absurd, he would speak up!
The next day we attended a range of exhibitions comprising the main festival: Brighton Photo Biennial 2018. We started off with what appeared to be at first glance a set of completely dark photographs! hey were called L’Autre Rive by Emeric Lhuisset. However, upon looking closer it was possible to observe faint details of subjects in these photographs. After reading about the photographs and hearing our tour guide speak, we learned the photographs were cyanotypes which hadn’t been fixed and so throughout the exhibition period they had been gradually fading away. I thought this approach was a fascinating concept although I was slightly disappointed I hadn’t seen the cyanotypes at an earlier stage as well as on this occasion to be able to draw a comparison. This project was a response to the UK’s decision to leave the EU although it was (perhaps deliberately?) unclear whether this signalled emptiness for Lhuisset or the chance for a new beginning. Having this ambiguity inherent in the work was something my fellow students and I discussed could be a positive thing.
Tereza Červeňová’s project June marked her response to the UK’s decision to leave the EU in 2016 similar to Lhuisset. However, their approaches were completely different where Červeňová decided to employ autobiographical strategies to convey her emotion at this decision. Here, Červeňová clearly took the Remain side unlike Lhuisset so the work was less ambiguous and I could attempt to read into some of it. Červeňová decided to use quite a conceptual technique where she would photograph something on a day after the referendum. However, as a clever twist, each day coincided with some major development in either Brexit negotiations/protests or wider events. This selective decision to photograph on given days added another layer to photography’s framing of the world; something I had become increasingly aware of. By looking at photography’s history and indeed day-to-day photography, the photograph always frames a tiny portion of the world. With history this has traditionally been American and European dominated photographic history and with day-to-day photography the photographer must first choose a view and then what time they take the picture. Červeňová made this framing more selective but also tied it in with global events which made the work more significant.
The last exhibition we visited of Brighton Photo Biennial 2018 was Harley Weir’s Homes. This was a poignant and stark project for me, both in terms of subject matter and how Weir approached the subject matter. As well as this the work was hauntingly presented with the massive prints hanging frailly in what was once a church while the wind from outside sometimes blew the material the photographs were printed on. The presentation in particular had implications for me that reminded me of migrant and refugee camps like the Calais Jungle. The fact that the Calais Jungle had been destroyed by the time this exhibition took place made the work all the more powerful.
Andrews, T. (2007-2016) Over Hills and Seas. Brighton Photo Fringe 2018. [Exhibition] 29 Sep – 28 Oct 2018. Regency Town House, Brighton.
Brighton Photo Biennial 2018: A New Europe. [Exhibition] 28 Sep – 28 Oct 2018. Brighton.
Červeňová, T. (2016-2018) June. [online] Available at: https://www.terezacervenova.com/june.html Accessed 30/1/2019.
Červeňová, T. (2018) June. Brighton Photo Biennial 2018: A New Europe. [Exhibition] 28 Sep – 28 Oct 2018. University of Brighton Galleries, Brighton.
FORM (2018) Brighton Photo Fringe 2018. [Exhibition] 29 Sep – 28 Oct 2018. Phoenix Brighton, Brighton.
Lhuisset, E. (2018) L’Autre Rive. Brighton Photo Biennial 2018: A New Europe. [Exhibition] 28 Sep – 28 Oct 2018. University of Brighton Galleries, Brighton.
MyBrighton & Hove Photo Project. (2018) Brighton Photo Fringe 2018. [Exhibition] 29 Sep – 28 Oct 2018. Phoenix Brighton, Brighton.
OPEN18 Young Photographers. (2018) Brighton Photo Fringe 2018. [Exhibition] 29 Sep – 28 Oct 2018. Phoenix Brighton, Brighton.
Weir, H. (2018) Homes. Brighton Photo Biennial 2018: A New Europe. [Exhibition] 28 Sep – 28 Oct 2018. Fabrica Gallery, Brighton.