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Exciting new photography festival comes to Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 12:53 17 May 2016 | UPDATED: 12:53 17 May 2016

County Culture

County Culture

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Suffolk is to play host to a new photographic festival which aims to reintroduce people to the art of the photograph. Andrew Clarke spoke to founders Jo Bexley and Adrian Evans.

PhotoEast founders Jo Bexley and Adrain Evans PhotoEast founders Jo Bexley and Adrain Evans

Photography has become something of the poor relation in the art world in recent years. The days when you could find yourself caught up in a portrait exhibition by Cecil Beaton or Angus McBean or find yourself lost in the landscapes of Bill Brandt and Ansel Adams, are seemingly long gone. The ever-present camera-phone has helped destroy its allure.

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Today’s photographers have a hard time finding galleries to give them exhibition space. There is a perception that because everyone can take pictures everyone can make photographic art. That has never been the case. Now two Framlingham-based professionals want to return photography to the heart of the art world and give the public a new appreciation of what can be achieved with a lens and some imagination. Jo Bexley and Adrian Evans are the artistic directors of PhotoEast, a new photography festival hosted by UCS on the Ipswich Waterfront, with added events centred around the Halesworth Gallery and The Cut.

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The festival will encourage people to get involved as well as just visit the exhibitions. North Suffolk-based photographer Bill Jackson will be taking portraits of people with their dogs while Ipswich school children will be developing a project centred around pin-hole cameras.

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Although PhotoEast will have its base and focus on the Ipswich Waterfront, both Jo and Adrian see it very much as a county-wide event which is why they have set up a series of satellite events in Halesworth and Debenham. In future years the idea that the festival will expand to other areas.

Suffolk is very much the focus of the festival and the event has the over-arching theme Of Time and Place. This can be interpreted in many different ways but one way that chimes with Jo and Adrian’s ideas is that Suffolk is the place and its time is now – particularly as the county’s cultural life is exploding with ideas and high-powered events.

Former Guardian picture editor and north Suffolk resident Eamonn McCabe is the festival patron and will be creating a new project centred on Debenham, matching archive views of the town with their contemporary equivalents.

Bill Jackson will be creating a pop-up studio at the Halesworth Cut devoted to producing modern day versions of the Victorian and Edwardians’ favourite photograph: dogs with their owners. Leiston photographer Libby Hall is one of the country’s leading collectors of early 20th century dog owners photographs and will be staging an exhibition of a selection of her 5,000 images. She will also be curating an exhibition of her own work which focuses around another moment in time – Leiston in 1966 with particular attention paid to the workers of the Garrett engineering works as they spend their free time in the Engineer’s Arms across the road from the factory.

In Ipswich, PhotoEast will be commissioning a project detailing town life as photographed from the top deck of an Ipswich Bus by photographer-in-residence, George Georgiou.

The festival will also be collaborating with DanceEast to produce a ‘Moving Gallery’ - a choreographed blend of specially commissioned imagery and dance to launch the event on the Waterfront. Meanwhile, Tim Mitchell will work with highly-prized archive photography of Ipswich docks to create new work with local residents and the Ipswich Maritime Trust.

The UCS gallery spaces will be hosting the degree show of their photography students while also telling the story of families through the work of professional photographers Zed Nelson and Julian Germain. w

PhotoEast is based on Ipswich Waterfront and The Halesworth Cut and runs from May 24-June 25

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