The Brighton Photo Biennial is back until October 28 with a diverse and exciting programme of events.
With a new director at the helm and a theme of A New Europe this year’s festival is a truly international affair.
Emerging artists and installations appear alongside established names to create a wider discussion about Britain’s role in Europe.
Images respond to the current state of uncertainty within a historical, national and international context.
The viewer is left wondering how ‘new’ the ‘new Europe’ is and what it will look like in the months and years to come.
“This is something very close to my heart and very close to the hearts of lots of the artistic community,” said Photoworks director Shoair Mavlian.
“We are trying to present a really open question and a really open perspective in the hope it will promote discussions.
“We have lots of events, artist talks and workshops throughout the festival.”
This is a festival which works best when viewed in its entirety. Here is our guide to Brighton Photo Biennial 2018, exhibition-by-exhibition.
Cross Channel Photographic Mission
Photoworks began as the Cross Channel Photographic Mission in collaboration with the French CRP.
This exhibition of work by nine photographers, on loan from the French collection, explores those roots.
“There is a strong cultural familiarity between what is happening now and what happened in the early 1990s with the idea of a ‘new Europe’,” said Mavlian.
Works vary from Marilyn Bridges’ aerial shots of historic sites in the path of the channel tunnel construction to Bruce Gilden’s gritty and gripping portraits Blue Collar Workers.
A stark reminder that the refugee crisis is nothing new comes in the form of Fabiana Figueiredo’s Migrances 02-05.
Curator, Inès de Bordas said political topics in the 1990s included the single market and freedom of movement.
“The construction of the tunnel was the physical materialisation of these ideas,” she said.
“It is interesting to look at that today when the political connection is going to change but we will still have the physical connection.”
Cross Channel Photographic Mission, University of Brighton Galleries, Grand Parade.
Why Are We Leaving?
The first of two exhibitions created in conversation with young people, Why Are We Leaving? was produced by Photoworks Photography Club members.
“They responded to the theme by having lots of questions and lots of uncertainty about what Brexit really meant,” said Lyn Weddle, who worked with the group.
“That became the concept for the exhibition.”
The images include portraits of the 13 to 16 year olds who took part posing the questions they want answered.
Questions and concerns including “Will we still have curry?” and “Job losses” are emblazoned on everything from palms to bananas in this bold, engaging exhibit.
Why Are We Leaving?, Photoworks Photography Club, University of Brighton Galleries, Grand Parade.
The English at Home
Published less than two years after his arrival in London, Bill Brandt’s photobook juxtaposes different levels of society in 1930s England.
Original copies of The English at Home in display cases are accompanied by vinyl prints of the spreads.
The final image in the book – and exhibition – was taken on Brighton beach.
Despite not selling well at the time of publication, this iconic photobook is now recognised as one of the first attempts to photograph a nation.
The English at Home, Bill Brandt, University of Brighton Galleries, Edward Street.
Third Person (Plural): Prelude – Brotherhood
Screened on a small old-fashioned television this film prelude by Aikaterini Gegisian has a distinctly dystopian feel.
It features clips from public information films about the Brotherhood Week interfaith programme unearthed from postwar American newsreels.
Two audios run across the footage – the original commentary and a song from the time. Initially in sync with the images they become increasingly jarring and thought-provoking throughout the prelude.
However, it is the choice of the song which is likely to strike the viewer in the current climate.
One verse begins: “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear. You’ve got to be taught from year to year.”
This installation is a prelude to a wider film project exploring the construction of supranational identities.
Third Person (Plural): Prelude – Brotherhood, Aikaterini Gegisian, University of Brighton Galleries, Edward Street.
Tereza Červeňová is likely to be a new name to festival goers – she graduated from the Royal College of Art this June.
Her exhibition is an autobiographical response to the June 2016 referendum from the point of view of a European artists living and working in the UK.
Over the course of two years, she took pictures on dates of international, national and personal significance.
In June she attempts to explore how definitions of home and plans for the future are shaken.
“Dates and locations become important in retrospect,” said Mavlian.
“Those dates will be taught in history. As you get further away from these events they become momentous.”
June, Tereza Červeňová, University of Brighton Galleries, Edward Street.
Émeric Lhuisset’s image is the cover for this year’s biennial programme.
However, what you cannot see is one of the defining features of his exhibition. By the end of the month the images will all be blue monochromes.
Lhuisset has chosen to print unfixed cyanotypes meaning the white features of each picture are gradually fading throughout the month.
By the end of the festival the pictures will be solid blue – the same colour as the Mediterranean where so many have lost their lives and as the European flag.
Beyond the intrigue of its constantly changing nature, however, this is a compelling body of work.
Lhuisset wanted to fight against the negative narratives around refugees and manipulation by politicians.
In part, it is also a tribute to a friend who died trying to cross from Turkey to Greece.
L’Autre Rive, Emeric Lhuisset, University of Brighton Galleries, Edward Street.
Details of daily life before and after the destruction of The Jungle, Calais, are captured in this exhibition by Harley Weir.
Weir underlines shared humanity by focusing on domestic and intimate details.
The choice to print these images on sheer fabric hangings gives the impression of moving through the camp with her.
“There was a beauty to it, people had put so much effort into building their homes,” said Weir.
“Most of these images were taken when people invited me into their homes so you can see something of them without seeing their faces.”
Homes, Harley Weir, Fabrica.
This powerful installation by Hrair Sarkissian shows him demolishing a replica of the apartment building in Damascus where his parents still live.
The model took two months to build and seven hours to demolish resulting in 650 images.
In this installation a film shows the building slowly disintegrating until only Sarkissian’s parents’ apartment remains.
Sarkissian said the project was an attempt to confront his nightmares and unleash his anger.
Homesick, Hrair Sarkissian, 23 Dukes Lane.
One image from Donovan Wylie’s ongoing project is on show for Brighton Photo Biennial.
Wylie is photographing 12 lighthouses from neighbouring coastlines in an examination of our national borders.
The image on show throughout the biennial was taken from Dover and depicts a lighthouse 22 miles away on the coast of France.
“It is about connection and distance and trying to make sense of it in a historical context,” said Wylie.
Lighthouse, Donovan Wylie, Fishing Quarter Gallery.
Uncertain Subjects Part II
Bare head and shoulders portraits will be posted on a billboard throughout the festival.
All of the people pictured by Uta Kögelsberger felt alienated within their own country.
“I started to include British people who feel that their voices are not being heard, people who feel that the government is not representing their interests,” said Kögelsberger.
“It is not about telling people how to think about the current situation but making people understand how people are facing the reality.”
Uncertain Subjects Part II, Uta Kögelsberger, Jubilee Square.
Habitus: Potential Realities
Heather Agyepong’s series of self-portraits re-imagine the idea of Britannia.
Informed by interviews and workshops with young people in Brighton and Hove she looks at potential outcomes of Brexit.
It reflects their post-Brexit concerns and hopes.
Work by the young people interviewed is also on display at Jubilee Library.
Habitus: Potential Realities, Heather Agyepong, Jubilee Library.
Nothing We Can’t Fix By Running Away
For the past 20 years, Robin Maddock has travelled England building an egalitarian portrait of national identity.
The resulting images are exhibited here together for the first time.
Maddock seeks to ask the question: “What, if anything, does it mean to be English?”.
The long-term nature of the project allows us to view the deeper, longer-term concerns which have brought us to this point.
Nothing We Can’t Fix By Running Away, Robin Maddock, 29 Sydney Street.
Brighton Photo Biennial
Brighton Photo Biennial 2018 is on until October 28.
Family activities, artist talks and screenings will be held throughout the festival.
Everyone is welcome to the free programme of events. Full details can be found at photoworks.org.uk
Spectrum Photographic produced: Habitus: Potential Realities on poster paper; hand prints and digital prints for Nothing We Can’t Fix By Running Away and vinyl prints for The English at Home.
Main image: © Émeric Lhuisset L’Autre Rive, Iraq, Turkey, Greece, Germany, France, Denmark, Syria, 2010 – 2018.