Five Questions with Mariama Attah, Programme Curator at Photoworks

This week our Five Questions are with Mariama Attah, the Programme Curator at Photoworks:

You have previously organised and co-ordinated exhibitions and events at Iniva. How did you find developing the programme for your first Brighton Photo Biennial?

Programming my first Biennial was a steep learning curve but this year’s theme of Communities, Collectives & Collaboration meant there was always a range of partners, curators and artists on hand to ask for advice. I often describe the Brighton Photo Biennial as showcasing examples of what photography is at the moment and what it’s becoming. Working with the team gave me the freedom to develop content that reflects that.


Could you tell us about the selection process behind choosing the collectives exhibiting at the Circus Street Market?

We wanted to show a range of ways of seeing and creating photography. As well as a geographical spread, we represented different ambitions, styles and motivations that groups of photographers pose as reasons for working together. I was most interested in collectives who were clearly demonstrating how working collectively enabled them to achieve outcomes they wouldn’t be capable of individually. The nature of working together means that photographers have access to feedback that they value and this is evident in the quality of the final selection.


The Circus Street Market is an unconventional gallery space, could you elaborate how the printing and mounting process selected for this show, compliments the nature of the space?

Circus Street Market is a fantastic venue and we were lucky to have the chance to use it though it comes with a particular set of challenges. The building is open to the elements and we needed to be certain that we could present the artworks to the same standard as the other venues without compromising quality or design. In discussing these challenges, Spectrum offered a vinyl print option. This protected the prints from the rain and mounting them on pvc made them light enough to hang on the display panels we used. The installation at Circus Street has been really popular with audiences and the prints have stood up to the challenge.


It appears there has been a rise in photography collectives recently, why do you think this is?

I think the main reasons for the rise in collectives is due to photographers and artists seeking out other like minded peers who can act as critical friends and offer feedback and advice. On a practical level, working as a group widens the skill set you have access to while spreading individual responsibility, making it easier to curate, market, organize and display work.


At Circus St Market, we have noticed most of the works of the photography collectives are politically driven. Do you think photography is an effective medium for conveying these ideas?

The political nature of the photographs on display, particularly in the work of RUIDO Photo and Sputnik Photos, is supported by their strong esthetic style, commitment to sharing stories and increasing awareness of their concerns. Due to their content, these works have had the most response from audiences and for a message to be shared, it first has to be noticed. Images don’t need to be translated in order to be understood by global audiences and I think this is photography’s strength in conveying ideas.

Mariama Attah is the Programme Curator at Photoworks:


Brighton Photo Biennial is the UK’s largest Photography Festival:


Interviewer: Kayung Lai



Toni Arnau, from “Parana River, a Silent Death” / RUIDO Photo


Double Heroes, Andrei Liankevich


From the series How to Mend a Broken Heart, Karl Ohiri


Brighton Photo Biennial 2014, Contemporary Photo Collectives, ABC. Installation View. Photo: Nigel Green.


Jason Penner, from Thingyan / Burn My Eye Collective