"You couldn’t stop the train in time" by Lebohang Kganye, part of Bristol Photo Festival

Bristol Photo Festival 2020/21: A Sense of Place

Bristol Photo Festival is a new biennial festival with a year-round programme of commissions and collaborations.

The festival will culminate in a series of exhibitions by both local and international artists in spring 2021.

For the first time, all of the city’s major visual arts institutions, alongside independent and unconventional spaces, have come together to create a programme demonstrating the power and diversity of photography.

Spectrum Photographic is the print sponsor.

Each edition of the festival will be themed. Emerging and established artists will exhibit both existing and newly-commissioned work.

“We want to challenge the concept of a festival as a month-long event parachuting into a city,” said festival director Tracy Marshall.

“We wanted to create a festival for the city, rather than in the city, with an ongoing programme throughout the year which really engages with the locality and local people in the run up to and beyond the exhibition opening week in spring 2021.

“Although a majority of the work in the exhibitions will not be ‘about’ the city of Bristol, much of it will relate to issues affecting the city both in its past and in the present day.

“The aim is for the festival to become a collaborative platform that includes participatory, educational and experimental projects reaching a variety of audiences, locations and demographics.

“This was only made possible thanks to public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.”

Summer Street Party, Merthyr Vale by Clémentine Schneidermann and Charlotte James. Part of Bristol Photo Festival
Summer Street Party, Merthyr Vale, 2018 © Clémentine Schneidermann and Charlotte
James, courtesy Martin Parr Foundation/Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

A Sense of Place

The theme of the inaugural festival is A Sense of Place.

Parts of the programme have been selected in partnership with Martin Parr.

“Place can be about a space, a sense of belonging, a geographical point – it can cover many physical forms, yet also many emotions and senses,” said Parr.

“The first edition of Bristol Photo Festival has come at a time when place is of more significance to us as a society and as individuals than ever before.

“Where we live, who we spend time with, where our inspiration, nourishment and feelings of security stem from has become even more important to us.”

The festival will include year-round collaborative programmes, including projects on natural, domestic and industrial spaces.

Exhibitions have been developed in collaboration with curators from venues across the city.

They include work by James Barnor, Jessa Fairbrother, Stephen Gill, Thilde Jensen, Lebohang Kganye, Lua Ribeira, Gilles Peress, Jem Southam and Sarah Waiswa.

There will also be an exhibition curated by Firecracker.

The full programme will be announced at the end of this year.

A store assistant on Station Road, Accra by James Barnor. Part of Bristol Photo Festival
A store assistant on Station Road, Accra, in 1971 © James Barnor courtesy Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

Bristol Photo Festival highlights

Highlights of this year’s festival include:

Collaborations: Growing Spaces – this collaborative project encompasses the traditional allotment alongside unofficial growing spaces in the city.

Photographer Chris Hoare will create an ongoing project focusing on allotments, accompanied by a collection of written narratives.

Thilde Jensen: The Unwanted, Martin Parr Foundation – a visual account of homelessness in America.

Jensen’s four-year project documents a community excluded from mainstream society.

Stephen Gill: A Retrospective, The Arnolfini – drawing upon 30 years of Bristol-born Stephen Gill’s work.

Gill has always created work close to home and explored his locality both directly and indirectly.

This exhibition will draw upon work from both his best-known series and previously unseen work.

Lebohang Kganye, Georgian House Museum – a newly commissioned work drawing upon the museum’s own history and archive.

Using three-dimensional, photographic collage, Kganye’s past work has explored her personal history while resonating with the wider history of South Africa.

This new work will weave complex narratives of the 18th-century Bristol sugar plantation and slave owner’s home – drawing together inhabitants’ stories and the larger story of Georgian Bristol.

Bristol Photo Festival will also include a unique educational programme. This will involve students from primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities around the city and beyond.

To find out more visit bristolphotofestival.org.

Main image: You couldn’t stop the train in time, 2018. Inspired by The train driver by Athol Fugard. Paper From Tell Tale, 2018 © Lebohang Kganye, courtesy The Georgian House Museum.

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