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A small festival with big ambitions

  • Image © Gemma Padley

    Image © Gemma Padley

  • Image © Carl Symes

    Image © Carl Symes

  • Image © Gemma Padley

    Image © Gemma Padley

  • Image © Carl Symes

    Image © Carl Symes

  • Image © Carl Symes

    Image © Carl Symes

  • Image © Carl Symes

    Image © Carl Symes

  • Image © Jean-Christophe Godet

    Image © Jean-Christophe Godet

  • Image © Gemma Padley

    Image © Gemma Padley

  • Image © Odile Blanchette

    Image © Odile Blanchette

  • Image © Gemma Padley

    Image © Gemma Padley

  • Image © Gemma Padley

    Image © Gemma Padley

  • Image © Gemma Padley

    Image © Gemma Padley

  • Image © Gemma Padley

    Image © Gemma Padley

  • Image © Gemma Padley

    Image © Gemma Padley

The fourth edition of Guernsey Photography Festival proves the island's commitment to contemporary photography

It may be a small island in the Channel, but Guernsey has once again shown its enduring dedication to photography. Now in its fourth year, Guernsey Photography Festival, which is run by a small team of photography professionals, has proved that geographical location is no bar to attracting some of the world’s top photography talent.

The festival, which runs until 18 October, is headed up by Jean-Christophe Godet, who has been at the helm since its inception in 2010. The 2014 edition of the festival, which takes ‘Faith, Family, and Community’ as its theme, features work by more than 20 international photographers, who include Abbas, Elinor Carucci, David Moore, Iñaki Domingo, Jason Larkin, and Liz Hingley.

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Work from many of the featured photographers is displayed on specially-designed panels that are positioned in various locations across the island’s centre (in the Market Square and Terrace, and at Liberation Monument, among other places), a deliberate move to bring photography directly into the public realm, say the organisers. Other work is installed in more conventional gallery spaces, such as The Greenhouse Gallery (Domingo), and Gate House Gallery (Hingley).

A lack of dedicated gallery spaces has always been the festival’s main challenge, which has, as in previous years, forced the organisers to be resourceful. This year, an empty, specially-converted retail unit showcasing work by seven photographers (Abbas, Carucci, Moore, Nick Ballon, Alexandra Davies, Bostjan Pucelj, and Channel Islands artist-in-residence Michelle Sank), is a real highlight.

Moore’s 1987-88 series, Pictures from the Real World, Abbas’s Faces of Christianity, and Ballon’s Ezekiel 36:36, a project that documents Bolivian airline, Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano (LAB), one of the world’s oldest, stand out especially in the thoughtfully curated group show. Carucci’s Mother, featuring intimate images of the Israeli-born photographer’s twins, is a personal favourite.

Elsewhere, Domingo’s solo exhibition, (one of the few photographers to be given his or her own gallery space), is intelligent and intriguing. Featuring work from the Spanish photographer’s series Ser Sangre, a collaborative project made with members of his family, the exhibition is arranged in such a way as to invite reflection, rather than to definitively explain Domingo’s creative intent; (“to jointly create a visual totem that shows who we are, how we see ourselves and how we relate to each other,” he writes by way of a loose description of the project).

Other notable mentions should go to John Angerson’s documentary portrait of the Jesus Army, a Northamptonshire-based religious sect, and Sam Harris’s The Middle of Somewhere, a “celebration of childhood, growing up, family life and love”; I also liked Arno Brignon’s moving images of his wife and children, and Jason Wilde’s still life images of handwritten notes collected from a north London housing estate, which were highly entertaining.

I would liked to have seen images reproduced bigger as the outdoor panels did not always do the photographers’ work justice, but that aside, the quality of the selection, (the festival received some 300 submissions through its open call), was very high.

Most impressive is the festival’s extensive supporting programme of workshops and events, and its education programme, which is run in conjunction with Archisle: Jersey
Contemporary Photography Programme. Images by students from both Guernsey and Jersey were projected during the opening weekend last month [September], while the lively talks programme included appearances by London-based Broomberg and Chanarin, Moore, who was in conversation with Greg Hobson from the National Media Museum, and BJP’s Gemma Padley, who gave a talk with photographers Domingo, Andrei Nacu, and Alfonso Almendros.

Guernsey Photography Festival may not be able to outdo its major international counterparts just yet, but that doesn’t stop it from trying. All credit to Godet and his team for producing a small but imaginative festival of photography.

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