This month, we present a small selection of work that will be shown at Format festival, which returns to the Quad Arts Centre in Derby, England for its ninth edition this March. Under the theme Forever/Now, our edit of notable projects emphasises the festival’s slant towards ‘crooked’ documentary practices, where a lack of subject or search for the unknown is filled by fiction and interpretation.
Derby is a small British city but once every two years it hosts a big event – the FORMAT Festival. Directed by the well-respected photography specialist Louise Fedotov-Clements and running since 2004, FORMAT has established a firm reputation for interesting international work, and FORMAT19 looks set to continue the good work with exhibitions spread across both Derby and another neighbouring city, Nottingham. Taking place next spring, FORMAT19 is themed FOREVER/NOW and takes on an interesting contemporary question – the role of documentary photography.
“In 2007, while the photography world was still grappling with the idea of photography as an interpretive, non-narrative, non-representational medium, writer Lucy Soutter wrote about the ‘expressive’ versus the ‘straight’ documentary photograph, insightfully characterising the then two sides of the debate,” runs the FORMAT19 press material.
“Since then photography has grown to encompass many manifestations of the ‘crooked’ image through hybrid forms and visual practises and no longer worries about narrative versus abstraction, expressive versus objective. The new generation of photographic artists rush towards the new, embracing the rapid transformation that technology and cultural exchanges bring to it.”
In the late 1980s, while studying, David Moore made a series of colour photographs depicting the everyday lives of working class communities in Derby. In Pictures From the Real World, since published as a book by Dewi Lewis, we meet married couple Lisa and John, among others. Intrigued by the notion of returning photographs to the contexts from which they came, Moore had the idea for a new imagining of the work as a piece of verbatim theatre (drama derived from unedited spoken transcripts), through which the photographs could be ‘returned’ to the couple. Moore invited Lisa and her now ex-husband John to work with him on what he calls an “archive intervention” – to create new dialogues from the photographs. From this The Lisa and John Slideshow was born, a 45-minute play written and directed by Moore, assisted by Gavin Dent, where actors played the couple.
This year’s edition of the biennial photography festival Format foregrounds work that describes the world around us at a specific moment in history. Habitat is a broad and yet provocative theme, one that is designed to interrogate not only our physical surroundings such as land, sea, plants, other humans and wildlife, but a range of less tangible and often more visually evasive things – the digital and political worlds, for example, or mass migration – which nevertheless have considerable repercussions on our lives. “I wanted to offer up experiences concerning the complexity of our existence on the planet,” says festival director Louise Clements, interviewed for the March 2017 issue of BJP. “Climate, migration, technology: they all seem to be accelerating and the consequences are quite momentous. We are impacting the geology of Earth. It was important to me to do something vital. As a festival, we’re not just here to celebrate the achievements of the artists; we also want to have some kind of impact.” Work by more than 300 artists and photographers will be …
Curated by Louise Clements, Derby’s FORMAT17 draws on cutting edge photography to consider the man-made world and our place in it