Professional Contexts Blog

Format Festival

In normal times, Format Festival is hosted in venues across Derby, which is about half an hour from my parents’ house, so volunteering for the festival is something which I plan on applying for in 2023. Applying for this seems to be an easy process, they have a form on their website each year for people who are interested in applying. They also offer portfolio reviews which is something I will be sure to keep an eye out for as I think that £80 to have 4 of the reviewers look at your work is quite reasonable.

The festival has been running every year from 2004 to present to celebrate contemporary photography and most of the events are free to view which I think is really great.


Because of the lockdown restrictions, the festival couldn’t go ahead in-person so was held online. It worked by having 20 rooms which you can look around virtually. The way that the work was presented was a bit tricky to use, especially in collages where the images were quite small. As usual, there was so much variety of work on show. This time at the festival, I enjoyed looking at the work more because I have a clearer idea of the work that I like to make and what I like to look at and don’t feel so overwhelmed looking at so much work in the space of 1 day. I set aside an evening to make my way through each of the virtual rooms and found many photographers who I hadn’t previously known about.


Some of the work was made and about the lockdowns as you would expect. Some ways of representing this time does get a bit repetitive, but I think that they are an important part of the exhibition and some photographers did approach documenting the pandemic in incredibly creative ways.


Show room 12 curated by Peter Bonnell was my favourite as the work was presented so creatively and the space was designed as if you were in a real exhibition, everything such as the level in which the work is placed or hung is very well designed and the colours of the virtual walls compliment the images themselves. I also loved room 17 curated by Niamh Treacy & New Art City. It felt like I was walking through a horror video game which is quite a difficult feeling to achieve if it were a real life exhibition.



















Below is a gallery of the work which stood out to me the most from the whole of the photo festival.



I love that Julia Fullerton-Batten took something that she saw on a daily basis and turned it into such a cinematic photograph and I was so shocked when seeing her portfolio that I had never seen her work before as they are incredible. I am in awe of the details she must put into producing each image.


Ingmar Björn Nolting's image of the two boys on one side of the fence and two girls is great as applies to the current covid situation, with us unable to see people outside of our "bubbles" but could also translate to in general a forbidden love narrative. He also documents covid so well throughout Measure and Middle.


Jamie Tilley's Does a Cow Know When a Storm is Coming? is a really contemporary body of work, quite similar to that of Sophie Gladstone and I think it's clear that they will continue to do really great things.


I saved the image by Barnaby Kent as it reminded me of the project I made during the first lockdown at my family's allotments and wanted to read up more about what his project was about. All People are Like Grass is actually very similar to Glass Houses in that it looks at humans relationships with nature and how people have turned to gardening over lockdown.


I was a little surprised to see that Lydia Goldblatt was the photographer for the image of the girl in the plastic tent. I had only ever seen Still Here by her as the style of the images seemed a little different, with the photographs of her parents featuring a lot of contrasting primary colours against blacks, but looking into the work further, the images do have that beautiful quality of light that she always manages to capture. I love that both of the projects are shot around the home.


My Name is Fear is such a powerful body of work. Whilst it's so unfortunate that these fears exist for Choubdarzadeh, it's clear that she put her all into making these images.


I love how Old Barn has been displayed in the exhibition room. The narrative running throughout these beautifully shot landscapes is really strong and so atmospheric. Whilst feeling like a work of fiction, the people photographed here who are living off the grid are real and we see their sense of community and relationship with nature and the seasons.


Phillip Harris' projection of Boris Johnson's "Stay at home" announcement on March 23rd onto the side of his house and within this exhibition space truly looks like something of horror, especially since we now know all that has happened from this point onwards.