Photography Oxford Festival 2014
'Brothers' © Wendy Sacks. All rights reserved.
This September, Oxford gets its first international festival of photography. We asked Photography Oxford's director, Robin Laurance, to tell us more about it
Lesley Guy: How did the Photography Oxford Festival come about?
Robin Laurance: The festival came about because I had become frustrated at the very few opportunities there were in Oxford to enjoy world-class photography. Combined with this was an apparent lack of engagement with the visual arts in Oxford. Oxford is a great city of learning, yet at neither university is it possible to do a degree in photography. In an age when photography has become our art and our literacy, I believe it is time for that to change.
LG: What makes it different to other art/photography festivals? Describe the festival’s mission.
RL: Our mission is three-fold: we want to increase access to world-class photography for communities outside London, stimulate a debate about photography's role in 21st century society and increase the awareness and appreciation of photography to a level where it has the recognition and respect afforded to painting, sculpture and the other visual arts.
The festival's theme is "What Good is Photography?", a theme which we hope will help to stimulate the much needed debate about the photographic arts. This attempt to open peoples' minds as well as their eyes to photography is what makes this festival different.
LG: What kind of venues have you been able to use?
RL: Oxford is a walkable city with some lovely buildings in which to stage exhibitions. The festival will be spread across 20 venues, some of them Oxford's historic and beautiful university buildings. Other venues include commercial galleries, public galleries and Oxford Brookes University. We have a pop-up drive-in cinema showing photography related feature films and a programme of documentaries at Oxford's arts cinema.
'Solovki, White Sea, Russia 1992' © Pentti Sammallahti. All rights reserved.
LG: The talks programme looks really exciting - describe the range of events on offer.
RL: Our talks programme includes a discussion on how photography informed and influenced the Northern Ireland peace process, another on the role of the critic in contemporary photography, a debate about photography's use as our eyewitness to history and a seminar on the life and work of Henry Fox Talbot.
LG: What have you got lined up this for this inaugural year?
RL: We've got lots of exciting stuff lined up - much of which makes this festival stand out from others. We will be hosting the World Press Photo 2014 competition winners exhibition, as well as exhibitions that look at subjects ranging from the healing powers of photography to picture manipulation before and after the arrival of Photoshop and a thought provoking show which looks at the evolution of NGO photography.
We have run a fantastically successful open competition, the winners of which will be given a joint exhibition during the festival. There is going to be a celebration of Finnish photography with work by Pentti Sammallahti, Arno Mikkinen, Susanna Majuri and Veli Grano. Legendary French photographer Bernard Plossu will have his UK debut exhibition at the Maison Francaise. . . and much, much more.
Photography Oxford 2014 takes place in venues across Oxford, 14 September - 5 October 2014
Robin Laurance is an Oxford-based photojournalist with 35 years experience in the editorial and corporate fields of photography.