Format Festival

28th March 2017

The Format Festival, established in 2004, is held once a year and brings together numerous photographers and related media artist’s. The theme changes yearly; this year’s being Habitat- The Place We Call Home. This is a very broad theme and almost anything can fit within this, as seen within the work on display.

‘Our programmes feature everything from major conceptual works, participative projects, documentary and all that falls between categorisations, from the mobile phone to the archive. We are concerned with what is happening right here, right now in the scene and beyond, whilst sharing and contributing to it.

FORMAT is the place to engage with an incredible range of new work together alongside some of the best-known practitioners in the world. FORMAT is focused on developing opportunities for audiences to see, debate, develop, contribute and participate in the best of what photography is and can be, with comprehensive professional practice programmes and a yearly International Photography Portfolio Review.’- Format

The day started with a short visit to the University of Derby to look at what was on display there, this was interesting as it was a good opportunity to visit the university as well as see the work of people that I hadn’t seen before. This felt disunited, as there wasn’t a direct place to start, it wasn’t clear what was part of the exhibition and was amongst a working university with students using the facilities. Due to this I found it difficult to look at the work and spend time to understand fully what the work was conveying. The time restrictions and location of the university meant that it wouldn’t be possible to revisit, therefore I felt as though I didn’t gain a full understanding of what the images were trying to show.

Within the University location there was an interesting array of work that varied, the most interesting from this exhibition was located down a corridor, the work all sat well next to each other and was easy to understand. There were several different techniques of hanging the work, some that worked and others that didn’t. For example, towards the end or the corridor, on the right side, there were intricate and detailed prints that were held by big, bulky bull dog clips, this ruined the aesthetic of the images and became distracting.

No matter where you went there was always something to look at, although the map that was provided by the organisers of the festival was not clear at times (this can be seen on a previous page), this lead to slight confusion at times when finding a specific location as well as finding where the exhibitions were within the buildings. For example, the Riverlights space (Number 14 on the map) was difficult to find as it appeared to be part of a hotel and wasn’t clearly labelled as an exhibition space, until you were right on top of the space. Also, finding St Werburgh’s Chapel (number 10 on the map) wasn’t easy to find as the map implied, we resorted to asking two students of Derby University that were walking in a similar direction to us, once we found the Chapel it was easy to find the art work.

St Werburgh’s Chapel was very small and the space itself felt very cold, which contrasted greatly to the warm of the instillation, by Tim Simmonds-Clearing. This was backlit, see the images bellow, with a warm light. This was a very intriguing as every image is taken at 90 degrees from the next image, giving you a sense of space within. The location of this work was unexpected, yet very fitting, as it created an incredible atmosphere that created a greater emphasis on the empty space in the images.

Then we moved onto Riverlights and spent a lot of time in this location as there was a lot to look at and take in. Compared to the other spaces that I visited this one, although it was more like a warehouse, complemented the work it held the best. It separated each body of work into clear sections, making it much easier to follow than other locations. Each body of work fitted this type of environment, which made in turn complemented each body of work, also there wasn’t too much work in the small space, all the work had enough space that it wasn’t squashed together. I have evaluated and looked into the work in more depth on a later page.

After this location we went back to the starting location, Q, as we wanted to let the majority of people leave that were in our large group so we could focus on the work without too many people around. The work was base across all different spaces, therefore it was necessary to move about the building. Predominantly the work wasn’t with other work in the centre, however there was the occasional instance that the work was in a place with other work or close to it, making it difficult at times to differentiate between the two.

All of the work responds to the theme of Habitat differently, each artist bringing their own interpretation to the theme, it has been very intriguing to see the work presented by a vast array of photographers. However, it would be more insightful if the photographers intentions were made clear as the explanation that went with the work could be vague at times, I understand that it is to allow the viewer to make their own interpretation but it would clarify the questions I had about the work.

The presentation each work was completely different, there was some similarities, however, the majority of work was presented to suit the work, this effected the size and scale of the prints and whether they were framed or not, and if the work is even printed or projected.

The curation of each space was different, some elements worked together well and others not so well. Some bodies of work were over powered by the work that was alongside it, making it difficult to focus on a certain body of work. For example, in Q there was a very colourful series of images with a few black and white images, this was very striking and eye catching but detracted attention from other work in the close proximity to it.

The text alongside the work was informative, however it could be very vague at points and I found it difficult to gauge the photographers intentions from the small amount of text or understand the small indicate details that make the work what it is.

Overall, the day was very informative, although it was a lot of information to take in. It was very important that I understood the context of the work and on reflection at times I am unsure if I really understood what I was looking at, but now that I have had time to absorb, reflect and look further into the work the more I understand the work.

For more information visit the Format website:







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