Sunday marked the third and final day of the festival. I was most excited about the speakers today as there were some current young documentary photographers amongst them.
Chloe Dewe Mathews (shown above) opened the session with a discussion format Q&A presentation. Although I knew a lot about her work I didn’t know much about her background. She originally studied sculpture at the prestigious Royal Academy of Art and then spent three years working in the film industry. She picked up a camera to explore other artistic avenues and produced three series that really marked her passage as a photographer: Caspian, Banger Boys and Hasidic Holiday. As a result of this work she was accepted into the Panos Pictures Agency. This was a inspiring session and highlighted that an solid interest in a project is required to produce successful images. If you like the work you are producing and have invested in, then others will hopefully like it too!
Chloe’s Website HERE
After the gentle serenity of Chloe’s work came a dramatic bump back to earth with some very powerful images from Marco Longari. He works for the the Agence France-Presse and has shot images in trouble zones across the world but specialises in Jerusalem and the Middle East. His images were incredible and the stories of multiple near misses were made more dramatic by his quiet confidence. It was interesting to hear the audience questions towards the end of his session. Marco is clearly a champion for the use of colour in documentary
images and his use of available light is terrific. I’d love to spend a few months working alongside him or his colleagues but I think my wife might have something to say about that!
Marco’s AFP images are HERE
We broke for lunch and a final chance to look around the university arts centre. As part of the festival Panos Pictures had provided an exhibition in the main gallery at the university. Works on display were by GMB Akash, Robin Hammond, Chris Keulen, Andrew McConnell, Espen Rasmussen, Stefan Vanfleteren, Martin Roemers and Chloe Dewe Mathews.
I didn’t want to get into trouble by taking individual pictures but here is a wide view of the gallery space. My favourite images in the show were those by Andrew McConnell (from The Last Colony) and Chloe Dewe Mathews (Hasidic Holiday). Hopefully Andrew will be able to appear at next year’s festival as I’d love to talk to him about his images.
The first talk of the afternoon session was from documentary photographer and Panos member Abbie Trayler-Smith. She is a self-taught photographer who starting taking pictures for the student paper whilst studying for a law degree. This led to a full time job in the Daily Telegraph where she worked for nine years. She gave up her job in 2006 so she could work on personal photography projects – brave!.
She showed images from her series on the last days of fox hunting in Britain and from her days as a photo-journalist. She ended the first half of her presentation with a video presentation she had put together from her work with the organisation ‘Still Here, Still Human’ that highlights the plight of asylum seekers in Britain.
For the second part of her slot she conducted a Q&A session and talked more about her personal work. She also showed some shots from her work showing the lives of obese women. She really wore her heart on her sleeve and talked emotionally about this project as she admitted she had been overweight as a youngster. She showed two pictures that were particularly personal to her; a work book from her school days with the word ‘fat’ emblazoned across the front in tippex, and a sketch drawn by her father of a grotesquely fat woman with something like ‘abbie when she is older’ written on the top. I’m really looking forward to see where these images go as she intends to take a few years allowing the series to develop. Hopefully it won’t be all doom and gloom (Jen Davis did a very damning series of self portraits along a similar theme and they turned out very dark).
You can see some of Abbie’s work HERE
The final solo speaker of the festival was John Downing. He is photo journalist from the ‘golden age’ of press photography and took the audience on a whirlwind tour through some of his work. He was incredibly enthusiastic and a great speaker. It was amazing to learn how many famous and iconic press images were his. It became a running joke of his talk that he would show an incredible image he had taken and finish with ‘and of the course the paper never published it’ to much laughter from the audience.
John was one of the first photographers I met at the festival. I arrived at the same time as a bunch of the pros and John may have thought I was ‘one of them’ but despite clearly having no idea who I was, was the first to offer his hand, say hello and invite me down to the arts centre. I managed to escape before the mistake was realised. Later in the bar I introduced myself properly and got some amazing guidance from this fine gentleman.
Looking on the internet reveals sparse pickings for this gifted photojournalist but some of his background can be found HERE. John, if you or your agent ever read this then you need to publish a book of all your work and maybe even write an autobiography – I’ll be amongst the first in the queue!
The final session of the festival was a discussion between Chloe, David, Abbie, Marco and Sean O’Hagan (influential arts editor). They talked more about the main theme of the festival, the so called death of photojournalism. David was as great as ever and continued to be an inspiration to a rapt audience. All of the speakers at this session were optimistic that photography as an art would always survive as long as people were taking photographs!
Overall I had a brilliant time at the festival. The speakers were all so enthusiastic and I have no doubt that anyone left the weekend wanting to take more pictures. The venue was spot on, big enough to feel like a conference but still compact enough to keep the personal touch. The access to the professionals was unbelievable and they seemed to have boundless energy throughout. The organisation was great and the fact that it cost me less than £100 for the festival and two nights accommodation is incredible. Admittedly the bookshop was a financial trap that I accidentally blundered into and had to spend my way out of it 🙂
Look out for announcements for next year’s event and sign up early. Once the word gets out this is bound to become a major festival in the photography calendar. Their website is HERE.