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Symposium

New for 2023, this two-day symposium is on the festival’s theme, ‘Decolonising Environments‘. This explores the complex and often conflicting relationships between human communities, places, and the natural world. Speakers will discuss the social and environmental impacts of political, cultural, and economic forces impacting on different communities across the world. As an ‘indie festival’, we want Photo|Frome to facilitate an image-driven conversation on important issues, and we encourage audience participation.

Speakers include Gideon Mendel, exhibited in MPB @ Rook Lane, and Arteh Odjidja, showing at The Whittox Gallery. Other speakers include Giles Duley, founder of Legacy of War Foundation, photographer, writer, chef and presenter, whose work focuses on the long-term humanitarian impact of conflict. Mohini Chandra’s work deals with articulations of identity and globalised spaces, and the role of the photographic in relation to memory and migration. Jenny Matthews has been photographing conflict and social issues for British newspapers, magazines and development organisations since 1982. She will be talking about her embroidered image series and photo quilts. 

Marc Wilson works on long term documentary projects, including ‘A Wounded Landscape – bearing witness to the Holocaust’ and ‘The Last Stand’. Joanne Coates lives and works across the North East of England, where she explores rurality, hidden histories, and inequalities relating to low income through photography, installations, and audio. She uses photography to question stories around power, identity, wealth, and poverty. Panel discussions will include Dominique Nok, curator of the UK Black Female Photographers exhibition at The Whittox Gallery, Gobinder Jhitta and Keerthana Kunnath, both showing in MPB @ Rook Lane.

The symposium is curated by Jennie Ricketts. Following 17 years as a picture researcher and Picture Editor for The Observer Magazine, Jennie established her own Gallery in 2006. She now also serves on the Board of Trustees for Autograph and the Martin Parr Foundation.

Two-day (Saturday/Sunday) ticket: £35. One-day ticket (strictly limited allocation): £20.

The Assembly Rooms | Christchurch St West, Frome BA11 1EB

Saturday 1 July

  • 10:00 Open for registration
  • 10:30-10:45 Introduction to Symposium
  • 10:45-11:45 Arteh Odjidja: Portraiture a Medium for Empowerment and Belonging, accompanied by speakers from his book The Stranger Series: Fear & Dreams
  • 11:45 Break
  • 12:00-13:00 Gideon Mendel: Fire/Flood – The Narrative Threads
  • 13:00-14:00 Lunch / Break
  • 14:00-14:15 Announcement of winners of Open Book Awards
  • 14:15-15:15 Joanne Coates: The Lie of the Land. Gender, Class and the Countryside
  • 15:15-16:15 Marc Wilson: A Wounded Landscape
  • 16:15 Break
  • 16:25-17:25 In conversation. Mick Yates with Dominique Nok, independent curator and member of UKBFTOG, Gobinder Jhitta and Keerthana Kunnath
  • 17:30 End

Sunday 2 July

  • 10:00 Open for registration
  • 10:30-11:00 Welcome back
  • 11:00-12:00 Giles Duley: Participatory Storytelling, Unconscious Bias and Building a Wider Vision – A Personal Journey
  • 12:00 Break
  • 12:15-13:15 Jenny Matthews: Photo Quilts & Embroidered images
  • 13:15-14:15 Lunch / Break
  • 14:15-15:15 Mohini Chandra: Paradise Lost
  • 15:15 Break
  • 15:25-16:00 Christina Simons (video): Uncertain Land – Climate Change and its impact on the internally displaced people of South Sudan
  • 16:00 Conclusions & Discussion
  • 16:30 End

Speakers

Arteh Odjidja is an award-winning photographer and educator specialising in portraiture and fine art photography. He has had the privilege of speaking and exhibiting his work throughout the UK and US. Arteh considers London his home but also draws inspiration from his West African heritage. London is where he completed his degree in graphic design at the University of the Arts. Growing up with a father working in the filmmaking industry, Arteh developed an early fascination with the creative process. He took to photography soon after he was gifted a camera by his mother at age 10, and as a professional photographer has been commissioned to create work for some of the world’s most recognised brands. He is also an Akademie ambassador for Leica Camera. 

Arteh’s passion to make a positive impact with his work has led him to explore personal projects aiming to challenge our sense of privilege and equality in a transient, fast-paced, modern socio-economic world. His work has been exhibited extensively in the US and the UK, at the likes of the Tate Modern, The British Museum, London City Hall, and The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. Arteh also speaks at universities and colleges hoping to inspire young creatives.

His exhibition ‘Rise for Bayelsa’ highlights the campaign to stop oil spillages and other environmental degradation in the Nigerian delta area.

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Gideon Mendel works with both stills and video. His intimate style of image-making and long-term commitment to socially engaged projects has earned international recognition. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1959, he began photographing in the 1980s, during the final years of apartheid. This experience as a ‘struggle photographer’, documenting the brutality of the South African state’s response to peaceful protest, marked him on some level and for much of his subsequent career his focus has been on responding to the key global issues facing his generation.  

Since 2007, ‘Drowning World’ is Gideon’s exploration of flooding using photography and video. He has worked in the UK, India, Haiti, Pakistan, Australia, Thailand, Nigeria, Germany, The Philippines, Brazil, Bangladesh, the USA, France, Australia, Greece and Canada, witnessing a shared human experience of climate catastrophe that transcends geographical, cultural and economic divides. The work presented at Photo|Frome is a selection of  ‘Submerged Portraits‘ from this project. While the poses may seem conventional, the context is catastrophe, and the gazes are unsettling. These are not disempowered victims: in their encounter with the camera, they invite us to engage with the calamity that has fallen on them.

Gideon has won the Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography, the Amnesty International Media Award, the Greenpeace Photo Award and he has been shortlisted for the Prix Pictet in 2015 (Disorder) and 2019 (Hope). In 2016 he was the first recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation’s ‘Pollock Prize for Creativity’.

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Joanne Coates is a working class visual artist working with the medium of photography. She lives and works across the North East of England.  Her work explores rurality, hidden histories, and inequalities relating to low income through photography, installations, and audio. She uses photography to question stories around power, identity, wealth, and poverty. She was first educated in working-class communities, and then at London College of Communication (BA Hons Photography). Participation and working with communities are an important aspect of her work. 

In 2022 Joanne was the winner of the Jerwood / Photoworks award. Over the past five years she has achieved worldwide recognition from Magenta Flash Forward, British Journal of Photography, The British Council, Arts Council England, Women Photograph, Firecracker and more. In 2021 Joanne was a recipient of Shutterstock Females in Focus Award.  

In this Symposium, entitled The Lie of the Land. Gender, Class and the countryside, Joanne will talk about making work in her community around issues she has faced and her community still face. 

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Marc Wilson  Born in London, Marc’s studies took him from Sociology to Photography and he has been making photographs ever since. His images document the memories, histories and stories that are set in the landscapes that surround us.

Based in the UK, Marc works on long term documentary projects. His aim is to tell stories through his photography, focusing at times on the landscape itself, and the objects found on and within it, and sometimes combining landscape, documentary, portrait and still life, along with audio recordings of interviews and sounds, to portray the mass sprawling web of the histories and stories he is hoping to tell.

Marc has published 4 photo books – The Last Stand (2010-2014), Travelogue 1 (2015-2018), A Wounded Landscape – bearing witness to the Holocaust (2015-2021) and Remnants (2021-2022) and sold over 5000 copies in total. Solo exhibitions include Side Gallery, Newcastle, The Royal Armouries Museum and Focal point Gallery in the UK and Spazio Klien in Italy. Group shows include those at The Photographers Gallery and the Association of Photographers gallery, London, and internationally at The Athens PhotoFestival and Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

His work has been published in journals and magazines ranging from National Geographic, FT Weekend and The British Journal of Photography and Raw Magazine to Wired and Dezeen. Marc also works as a visiting lecturer at various universities in the UK and has given talks about his work both in the UK and abroad including France, The South Pacific and The Seas of Japan.

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Dominique Nok is a Black female portrait photographer and curator. With more than 20 years’ experience as a commercial photographer, she has been a magazine editor and has a Bachelor’s degree in (photo) Journalism and a Masters in Curating. She also judges photography and art competitions and occasionally writes for a photography magazine.

Her photographic work has been featured in the Guardian, BBC Midlands, ITV.com, various Dutch magazines, The Voice of Holland, and has been exhibited at Midland Art Centre, Deptford does Art, London – Harris Museum, Preston, The Photography Show, Birmingham, and FUJIFILM House of Photography. Dominique’s curatorial career started with the exhibition ‘We Are Here’ for UKBFTOG (UK Black Female Photographers) in Walsall. Since she has created platforms for talented predominantly female (identifying) visual artists. At Midlands Arts Centre she worked with individual artists and collectives such as Maryam Wahid, Sharon Walters, Mixed Rage Collective, Nilupa Yasmin, Grayson’s Art club and Adeela Suleman.

Dominique is passionate to contribute to conversations involving equal representation of female artists from the African diaspora and from Black, Asian and Global Majority heritage.

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Gobinder Jhitta is a Birmingham born photographer living in London.

In the far north of Columbia, nestled in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range, is “the heart of the world”. The Arhuaco people, an indigenous group have lived here for thousands of years. According to their history and cosmology, they, along with their neighbours the Kogi, Wiwa, and Kankuamo peoples (distinct yet related indigenous groups) sprung from this site during the creation of the Earth. As such, they refer to themselves as the Elder Brothers, and to the rest of the world as the Younger Brothers. This distinction arose not just from a difference in age, but from a difference in responsibility. as the groups view themselves as the Earth’s caretakers, with an obligation to ensure balance between humanity and nature. 

Having watched the snow on the peak of their most sacred mountain (the form of which inspired the conical white hats they wear) slowly retreat due to global warming, the Arhuaco, Kogi, Wiwa, and Kankuamo peoples have recognised the need for spreading their message. Since the early 90s, they have begun to allow documentation of their home, their lives and their rituals of conservation, in the hope of inspiring their Younger Brothers.

After learning about the history and wisdom of these groups, Gobinder was eventually given permission to visit the Arhuaco and Kogi groups and capture their way of life. The resulting body of work is titled ‘Xaku‘ (which, in the indigenous language of these peoples, means ‘spirit of the mother’). Gobinder photographed the special bond that the Arhuaco and Kogi share with nature, and the earnestness with which they perform their age-old task of protecting it.

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Keerthana Kunnath is a London-based Indian artist who uses her artistic medium to initiate conversations around sociocultural issues. Born and raised in the South Indian state of Kerala, Keerthana is passionate about challenging the entrenched societal norms that have long constrained the lives of women and girls.

She frequently travels back to her homeland to explore the issues that confront her community, with the ultimate goal of inspiring young women to question limitations imposed by society and to forge their paths to fulfillment and purpose. Keerthana’s work has been recognised and published in numerous reputable publications, such as the British Journal of Photography, WePresent, Paper Magazine, UN Women Netherlands x Gemeente Amsterdam, Outernet, and many others.

Her art reflects a deep passion for creating spaces for open and honest dialogue around social issues.

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Giles Duley is the founder and CEO of the Legacy of War Foundation, photographer, writer, chef and presenter, born in 1971 in London. His work focuses on the long-term humanitarian impact of conflict.

Starting his career as a music photographer, Giles worked with the likes of Mariah Carey, Oasis and Lenny Kravitz for publications including Q, Vogue, Sunday Times and Elle. In 2004 Giles changed his focus to documentary work, partnering with well-respected charities such as HI (Humanity and Inclusion), EMERGENCY, Save the Children and UNHCR to highlight lesser-known stories deserving of public attention and action. Although documenting challenging, and at times, horrific situations, Giles captures the strength of those who fight adversity rather than succumb. His work has taken him to Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, DR Congo, Angola, Bangladesh, Kenya, Ukraine, Jordan, Lebanon, Colombia, Vietnam and Nigeria among others.

In 2011, whilst working in Afghanistan, Giles was severely injured by an IED. As a result of his injuries he is a triple-amputee. In 2012 he returned to Afghanistan to continue his work as a photographer.

In 2017 Giles founded the Legacy of War Foundation, an international NGO, that helps communities rebuilding after conflict. The organisation builds localised, sustainable, beneficiary-led projects in Ukraine, Rwandan and Lebanon with the objective of returning power, funding and assets to the hands of the communities they work with. Legacy of War foundation seeks to challenge the traditional neo-colonial concepts in the aid sector, and implement a collaborative model guided by our beneficiaries (we prefer ‘partners’).

As a presenter Giles has made two Unreported Worlds for C4 and he has produced and presented the six-part VICE tv series, The One-Armed Chef, which aired in 2022. That same year Giles was appointed as the United Nations first Global Advocate for persons with disabilities in conflict and peacebuilding situations.

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Jenny Matthews is a documentary photographer with a long history (over 40 years) of covering the effects of war on women. Her work has been exhibited and published worldwide. In the late 1970s she was a member of Camerawork collective and she was also a founder member of Format, the women’s photo agency. In 2003 Mets and Schilt / Pluto Press published ‘Women and War’ and she has continued to work on this theme.

Since 2020 she has been re-examining her archive, printing selected images on cotton/linen and adding some embroidery. These images have then been sewn together as quilts / hangings.

For this Symposium, Jenny comments: ‘As a photographer I have always been interested in documenting issues and activism, with a view to effecting change. I have been fortunate to have travelled widely –  from Latin America to the Middle East to most of Africa and have worked alongside NGOs and Human Rights Groups as well as running participatory workshops. In the last couple of years I have combined my photos with sewing – making ‘photo quilts’ and series of embroidered images. My presentation will centre on this work, questioning ways of going beyond the ephemeral single image and making objects to treasure and honour the subjects, whilst putting centre stage particular political struggles stretching from Amazonia to Nicaragua to Niger‘.

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Mohini Chandra has lived and worked in Australia, the Pacific, India and the UK.  Since graduating from the Royal College of Art, Mohini has received funding and awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Autograph ABP, the Arts Council England, the British Council, the Australia Council for the Arts and Asialink. Her work has also recently been recognised by the Hundred Heroines-Women in Photography Award and a nomination for the Jarman Film Award (2021).

Mohini identifies as part of the Fiji Indian diaspora, whose ancestors were taken from India to work as indentured labourers in the Pacific from the late 1800s. Much of her work explores both archival and vernacular representations of this experience through photography and other forms of narrative storytelling. For Mohini, the combination of photography, found and archival material, moving image, sound and other installation media, enables the visual expression of personal experience and a ‘mapping’ of alternate narratives within the complex conditions of globalisation. She was awarded an Art Council/National Lottery grant for her project ‘Paradise Lost’ which examines the complexities of colonial seafaring through the archaeology of shipwrecks (exhibited at MIRROR in Plymouth, 2021) and a commission from Autograph for the new moving image work ‘Belated’, which explores the recent global pandemic within a Devon market town – incorporating the work of Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore.

Mohini was awarded the 2021-22 Arts Institute Film Commission, to make the film ‘Tall Tales and Wonder Rooms’ and has been working with the Box Museum moving image collections and the SHIPS Project archaeology team in Plymouth. These recent projects explore links between the local and the global, examining untold tales of cultural encounter and our relationship with nature, within local mythology and seafaring narratives of the South West.

Her work is held in international collections including the Arts Council Collection UK and Autograph (London) and included in major survey publications such as Phaidon’s Art and Photography by David Campany and Bloomsbury’s Photography in India in Light Years and Digital Times, by Aileen Blaney & Chinar Shah. Mohini’s multimedia work on the international flows of people and culture in our globalised world has been exhibited in New York, London, Melbourne, Johannesburg, Kathmandu, Sydney, Auckland, Mumbai, Houston and Chennai.

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Christina Simons is an award-winning international documentary photographer focused on humanitarian issues and cultural diversity. Her work has been exhibited throughout Australia, the United States, the UK, Europe, Russia and Mexico. Icelandic & American, Christina resides in Australia and is a true citizen of the world speaking multiple languages. She is a member of the Women Photograph collective and regularly mentors and teaches photography.

Throughout her 25-year visual arts career, her work has been represented in publications such as The New York Times, BBC and The Guardian. Christina has also worked with NGOs such as Medicines Sans Frontiers, Marie Stopes and UNICEF.

Photo|Frome is exhibiting work from two of Christina’s series. ‘Australian Apocalypse’ shows the consequences of bushfires which ravaged over 10 million hectares of Australia, killing nearly 30 people and an estimated half a billion animals. Her latest work, ‘Uncertain Land’ documents how people already internally displaced because of war in newly formed South Sudan also had to flee climate change flooding.

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