A Sense of Place: Bristol Photo Festival 2021 announces inaugural programme

written by Marigold WarnerPublished on 25 June 2020

A store assistant on Station Road, Accra, in 1971 © James Barnor courtesy Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.

The UK city’s major institutions will come together in a new biennial festival, alongside a year-round programme of commissions and collaborations

“Place can be about a space, a sense of belonging, a geographical point — it can cover many physical forms, yet also many emotions and senses,” writes Martin Parr, on the theme of the inaugural Bristol Photo Festival, which will take place across major institutions in the city during the spring of 2021: “Place is of more significance to us now… than ever before. Where we live, who we spend time with, where our inspiration, nourishment and feelings of security stem from has become even more important to us.”

Selected in partnership with Parr, the exhibitions and year-round collaborative programmes will centre upon this theme: A Sense of Place. The festival will present existing projects on natural, domestic and industrial spaces, alongside newly-commissioned work, which considers the social and historical fabric of the city.

From The Pillar 2015 – 2019 © Stephen Gill courtesy Arnolfini.

Among the confirmed exhibitions is a retrospective by Stephen Gill, an artist who has always created work close to home — whether it be along Hackney’s canals and car-boot-sales, or in the vast nature that surrounds his home in rural Sweden. The exhibition, which will take place at the Arnolfini, will draw upon 30-years of Gill’s photography and include new and previously un-exhibited images.

Bobby dragging his blanket to untangle the energy fields. Homeless for 13 years. Las- Vegas, Nevada, 2016. From The Unwanted © Thilde Jensen courtesy Martin Parr Foundation.

The Martin Parr Foundation is confirmed to exhibit Thilde Jensen’s The Unwanted, four-year documentation of “the brutal experience of being homeless,” as she described in an interview with BJP-online. Other confirmed exhibitors include James BarnorJessa Fairbrother, Lua RibeiraGilles PeressJem Southam and Sarah Waiswa. Among the other confirmed venues are Royal West of England Academy, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, Spike Island, Georgian House, Bristol Archives, and Watershed.

You couldn’t stop the train in time, 2018 Inspired by The train driver by Athol Fugard Paper From Tell Tale, 2018 © Lebohang Kganye courtesy The Georgian House Museum.
‘A bend in the river’, December 2017 © Jem Southam courtesy Royal West Academy.

Several artists will be commissioned to produce new work, including Lebohang Kganye, who will create images that draw on the history and archive of the city’s Georgian House Museum — an 18th century home originally built for a wealthy sugar merchant and slave plantation owner. The South African artist will draw together stories of its inhabitants with the wider history of Georgian Bristol. Local photographer Chris Hoare has also been commissioned to create a new work about the city’s allotments, which will be accompanied by a collection of written narratives in collaboration with local allotment holders, societies and food producers. 

The festival, which will announce its full lineup this winter, is directed by Tracy Marshall, director of Northern Natives and former-director of LOOK Photo Biennial, Open Eye Gallery Liverpool and Belfast Exposed Gallery. Marshall said in a statement: “The aim is for the festival to become a collaborative platform that includes participatory, educational and experimental projects reaching a variety of audiences, locations and demographics.”


Subida al Cielo, Bristol 2018 © Lua Ribeira courtesy Bristol Museum and Gallery.
Dragonfly IV © Jessa Fairbrother courtesy Bristol Museum and Gallery.

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