It’s six years since the inaugural edition of Unseen Amsterdam arrived with the mission to shake up the art fair model, focusing on emerging photographers and collectors, and instilling a welcome dose of fun to proceedings. And despite its beginnings during difficult times for arts funding, the ‘fair with a festival flair’ has largely succeeded, developing into something more ambitious than a glorified trade show, with its own public programme and a city-wide celebration of the medium in one of the world’s great photography capitals.
The emphasis remains on championing new talent, and with this in mind, the latest addition to Unseen is Futures, a cross-European photography platform bringing together 10 cultural institutions from around the continent, each with their own talent programmes.
Alighting at Peckham Rye train station in south London, a short walk across a busy market street takes you to the Bussey Building complex, a former cricket-bat factory that is now home to an assortment of bars, music venues, yoga studios and art spaces, including the Copeland Gallery. This bright exhibition space is once again the main site of Peckham 24 festival of contemporary photography, celebrating its third edition this year and running over the weekend of 18 to 20 May to coincide with Photo London – more than the 24 hours with which it launched and gave it its name. “Last year we were literally pushing people out of the door at midnight,” laugh the co-founders, Vivienne Gamble, whose Seen Fifteen gallery is in a nearby space, and artist Jo Dennis.
“This exhibition doesn’t have any of the clichés people might expect Irish photography to have,” says Vivienne Gamble. “I want it to give a viewpoint of the country that a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily expect.”
The director of Peckham’s Seen Fifteen Gallery is talking about Triptych, an exhibition showing in Paris from 09-12 November in association with Centre Culturel Irlandais. The exhibition, which will be held across the three levels of the Espace Lhomond gallery just across the street from the CCI, features work by three of Ireland’s most promising photographers: Ciarán Óg Arnold, Megan Doherty and Martin Seeds, each of whom is showing photographs deeply rooted in their homeland.
“Her project talks about the identity that the state wants women to project in public,” says Vivienne Gamble, director of Seen Fifteen and now curator of the show Catharsis for Belfast Exposed. “She comes from a family where they didn’t have those rules behind closed doors at home. She was conflicted about having this public-facing image, and this different, much more relaxed and liberal, private existence.” She’s talking about Shenasmenah, a project by Iranian-born photographer, filmmaker and curator Amak Mahmoodian included in the three-person Catharsis show.
For over four decades, the documentary photography course has forged a reputation as one of the UK’s leading photography teaching destinations. In fact, the very first photography class can be dated back even further to 1912, when it was introduced by the head of the school of art at Newport Technical Institute. The course, however, was set up in 1973 by Magnum photographer David Hurn as a 12-month Training Opportunities Scheme to ‘re-skill’ miners and steelworkers.
BJP’s Breakthrough Sessions are open from 23 June – featuring leading industry speakers such as Vivienne Gamble (director, Seen Fifteen), Hamish Crooks (licensing director, Magnum Photos), Jaki Jo Hannan (senior creative producer, AMV BBDO) and Dominic Bell (Webber Represents) and the BJP Breakthrough Awards exhibition, featuring Ryan James Caruthers, Jocelyn Allen, Todd R Darling and Cathal Abberton
The winners of the third BJP Breakthrough Awards will showcase their work in a special exhibition in East London
Back for its second year, the 24-hour event allows photo-lovers to see “an area of London where artists are actually working on a day-to-day basis”, says co-founder Vivienne Gamble.
“I like it when you can tell they had fun making it, that they did it for themselves before anyone else,” says photographer Juno Calypso. “That criteria probably doesn’t apply well to documentary projects but I take pictures of myself in wigs and tacky lingerie, so what do I know?” She’s a fast-rising star in photography who launched her career with a series of self-portraits playing a fictional character named Joyce, but she’s also helping out as one of the judges of this year’s BJP Breakthrough Awards. She likes underdogs and “a photographer or a subject that isn’t already over-represented in the history of photography”, she says but, having been on the other side of the fence, adds that she knows how scary it can be to enter a prize. ”I know how it feels to place all your hopes into a single competition,” she says. “I don’t want to make lazy decisions [when judging]. What I will say though, is even if you do get rejected – keep applying or just do your own …
“A good project could be one of many different things,” says Vivienne Gamble, director at Seen Fifteen Gallery and Peckham 24. “Sometimes it will be the story that the photographer is telling that sets their project apart. The storytelling power of photography is one of the reasons that I’m most drawn to the medium. “I’m drawn to experimental projects, and to artists who are playing with or pushing the boundaries of photography,” she continues. “When it comes to choosing projects to show in the gallery, I look for ones that are going to expand beyond the confines of the gallery walls.” Gamble is one of the judges for this year’s BJP Breakthrough Awards, along with Emma Lewis, assistant curator at Tate Modern, Diana Markosian, photographer at Magnum Photos; Emma Bowkett, director of photography at FT Weekend Magazine; Maisie Skidmore, online editor at AnOther; Juno Calypso, artist; Hayley Louisa Brown, founder and editor of BRICK magazine and Lisa Farrell, head of exhibitions and events at British Journal of Photography. Now in their third edition, there are …