“A festival is about taking risks,” says Louise Clements, founder and director of Format International Photography Festival, which returns this year to celebrate its ninth edition. “Festivals can come and go, but to sustain something for so many years, you have to work out how to make it valuable for its participants and its audience, by giving people something to work towards.”
The city of Derby, in the UK’s post-industrial Midlands, is not large, but over the last 15 years the biennial event has helped place it on the cultural map. Over the course of each festival some 100,000 visitors will gather there – the city’s compact size lending it some advantages. “Derby is small, like Arles [whose 50-year-old Rencontres photography festival remains the blueprint], so there is this critical mass-like feeling,” says Clements. “People are likely to bump into each other, see our bags and totes – the guides see and integrate them, for example, when we work with the local microbreweries.”
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.”
Curated by Louise Clements, Derby’s FORMAT17 draws on cutting edge photography to consider the man-made world and our place in it