©️ Farah Al Qasimi, Dragon Mart Light Display, 2019, Courtesy of the artist and The Third Line, Dubai

The first ever Photoworks Festival – Propositions for Alternative Narratives – challenges what a photography festival is and who it can be for and takes place from 24 September to 25 October 2020.

We will rethink and reshape one of the UK’s longest running photography festivals – Brighton Photo Biennial –  and this new festival can be experienced three ways; online in a digital festival hub, via a printed ‘festival in a box’ and through a major presentation of outdoor exhibitions on billboards spanning Brighton & Hove.

Participating artists include: Farah Al Qasimi, Poulomi Basu, Roger Eberhard, Ivars Grāvlejs, Pixy Liao, Alberta Whittle and more to be announced.

The artists – many of whom will show new work for the first time in the UK – intentionally set out to show a more nuanced perspective on a subject or topic, often using work which blurs the lines between mediums. 

The Photoworks Festival forms part of our 25th anniversary year and is a major component of Propositions for Alternative Narratives, our programming theme for 2020.

Led by Shoair Mavlian, Director, Photoworks, and grounded in ten years of research, Propositions for Alternative Narratives attempts to rethink traditional histories and challenge cultural hierarchies to support artists whose work has been lesser seen and under-acknowledged to date. 

The festival challenges the idea of a  linear narrative of photography, instead suggesting a more complex and interconnected revisionist history which helps build a fuller and more complex story. 

Photoworks Festival is for everyone.  It can be experienced as an intimate viewing experience via a domestic, community or gallery space, outside in a busy public setting or online, via engaging interaction, conversation and exchange. 

Photoworks Festival in a box 

Inspired by Dayanita Singh’s innovative and seminal photobooks, we will curate a photography ‘festival in a box’ which will be released in September but available to pre-order by signing up as  Photoworks Friend now.  Designed as a deconstructed magazine, this will include new texts proposing alternative histories of photography alongside contemporary artists making work which present new perspectives, challenging the mainstream.  We will also distribute the box to community groups and universities, galleries, artist studios and more. The limited edition box will include texts by Julia Bunnemann, Simon Baker, Pamila Gupta, Shoair Mavlian, Thyago Nogueira, Lucy Souter, and others to be announced. 

Outdoor Festival 

An open air exhibition in Brighton & Hove which can be viewed across the city will appear this Autumn. It will be presented on poster sites and billboards across the city, from BN1 to the outer suburbs, bringing a global roster of artists to the streets for the first time. 

Festival hub 

Our digital platforms will be transformed into our festival hub, connecting the physical work and the digital audiences. Events, artist films, podcasts and special content connecting the ‘festival in a box’ and the outdoor festival with the virtual realm will be announced soon.  One project displayed here for the first time will be – Archiving your Life –  led by an LGBTQ+ youth group, Queer History Now, who are dedicated to preserving queer archives and enabling the queer community to take control over the stories and narratives that are told about their lives. 

Photoworks x English Heritage 

Another major project drawing on the Propositions for Alternative Narratives theme will be a collaboration with English Heritage’s Shout Out Loud youth engagement programme. Within the online festival there will be a display of work from a collaboration that asks young photographers to create new digital photographic artworks exploring their heritage – especially their untold heritage. Find out more about our current open call here. 

“Our inaugural Photoworks Festival rethinks both the form and content of traditional festivals and attempts to disrupt the well known histories of photography, breaking them apart to include new perspectives. Our festival acknowledges that the idea of a distinct history of photography is problematic and aims to highlight propositions for alternative histories alongside contemporary work that sets out to show a new or alternative perspective on a subject or topic. We look forward to presenting the festival across these three formats, allowing a wide range of audiences to engage with what a photography festival is and could be and enabling a global audience to access a festival like ours for the first time.” Shoair Mavlian, Director, Photoworks 

Details of the works by participating artists and events URL and IRL will be released next month.  

Photoworks Festival Propositions for Alternative Narratives is curated by Shoair Mavlian, Julia Bunnemann and Raquel Villar-Pérez and supported by the Photoworks team. 


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