Accidental Topography III, La Envia gated golf community From the Badlands series, 2008 – 2011

Photoworks Director, Emma Morris, discusses her thoughts in the lead up to this year's Brighton Photo Biennial - the first since the two organisations merged in 2011.

We are all getting very excited about the Brighton Photo Biennial.  As we are still waiting for summer to arrive, it feels like its ages away but by the time the Olympics have finished, there will be just eight weeks to go.

The Biennial kicks off a busy autumn season in the visual arts calendar, contributing to what will have been a significant year of arts and culture in this country. With the cuts in arts funding, the gloomy economic forecast and the significant changes Arts Council England face, we should take a moment to reflect on what we have all achieved this year and hope that we can keep the momentum and the ambition going, continuing to prove the incredible value the arts bring to the country and to our communities.

The merger of Photoworks & Brighton Photo Biennial in 2011 brought together two photography organisations that have produced some of the most exciting and innovative work in the field of photography over the past 16 years. Working on national and international platforms, both organisations have collaborated with and commissioned a glittering stable of established, mid-career and emerging artists and produced one of the best international photography festivals in the UK.

The decision to both produce and curate the Biennial came naturally, with the experience of the Biennial team in delivering the festival and the curatorial expertise of the Photoworks team. The theme too came very easily – coming out of the current issues and debates we are provoked and excited by and reflecting our engagement with professional photography; imagery generated by the public; grassroots activism; established names and recent finds; contemporary work and older photography practices.

We want to consolidate the Biennial’s reputation, presenting work of excellence, new commissions and UK premieres. We can’t compete with the scale of Arles, Paris Photo and PhotoEspana. Our ambition is to present a tightly curated Biennial, exploring the possibilities of photography as both a tool and a process; a means of understanding the world and an active force in shaping it.

The Biennial is a platform for visual arts in a city with limited permanent galleries. Photography is the perfect medium to exploit this lack of visual arts infrastructure in the city by taking the festival out to the people, through using new and exciting spaces, participation projects and outdoor installations, breaking down the traditional barriers of galleries and surprising audiences. A rolling programme of talks, events and debates throughout the month will address the ideas and themes of the Biennial. We want audiences of all ages to enjoy the Biennial and there will be family workshops, school visits and educational projects running alongside the festival.

One of the reasons the Biennial was established was to highlight the lack of galleries in Brighton. The refurbished and new gallery spaces along the south coast including Jerwood, Towner, De La Warr Pavilion, Pallant House and Turner Contemporary are now referred to as ‘the string of pearls’ but there is a significant gap in Brighton & Hove that needs addressing. We will continue to push this agenda with Brighton and Hove City Council and Arts Council England.  Who knows, one day we might have our very own Guggenheim in Brighton, on the seafront, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. I can picture it now…


Published on 12 July 2012
Written by Emma Morris, Director of Photoworks

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