The third international Reclaim Photography Festival, Reclaiming Our Future, is coming back to the West Midlands from Thursday 3 May to Tuesday 26 June 2018. Reclaim Photography Festival offers an annual programme of free displays, exhibitions and talks across a range of venues and galleries in Birmingham, Dudley and Wolverhampton. Dedicated to promoting the very best in art photography, it invites collaboration from children, young people, photographers and partners both here in the West Midlands and internationally.

Catherine Peakman, ‘Sliding’, 2018 © Catherine Peakman

Reclaiming photography

The concept of Reclaim Photography began in Sweden during 2011 through a group of photographers who wanted to inspire people, take art photography back to the streets and public spaces, spread photography as an art form and create a new visual language in our everyday environments.

Reclaim Photography West Midlands and Festival was founded in the UK in 2015; the aim was to offer a completely inclusive and democratic festival with participation from amateur, student, professional and internationally exhibiting photographers, in addition to offering events, exhibitions, talks and professional awards.

“After the success of our second festival in 2017, our aim was to continue to offer a free and inclusive festival through our open calls, along with professional opportunities, including a special feature for some of our gallery exhibitors in LENSCRATCH Magazine. This year, we were pleased to offer two open calls: Reclaiming Our Future and our regional project Reclaiming Our Industrial Might to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Black Country Living Museum” – Maxine Watts, Festival Organiser.

This year’s theme: Reclaiming Our Future

We live in an age of rapid acceleration. Advancements in technology, globalisation and climate change are significantly reshaping our communities, cultures, politics, workplaces and fundamental values. The aim of this year’s festival was to capture the impact surrounding these accelerations, and the creative energy and problem-solving initiatives being applied to meet the challenges of our era.

This year’s displays and exhibitions will show interpretations of the festival theme in the form of documentary, editorial, experimental imagery, fine art, landscape (coastal, rural and urban), photo journalism, portrait and street photography, along with archival imagery.

There are 131 local photographers taking part across the festival’s exhibitions and pop up displays, alongside UK and international photographers.

Aaron Cole, ‘The Past Resides’, 2017 © Copyright Aaron Cole 2017-2018

Snapshot: meet some of the local photographers taking part in festival exhibitions.

Light House Media Centre: Aaron Cole shows local tradition, celebrated and archived by museums, fading further into the past, while Denise Wilson shows the effects of globalisation on local industries and communities. Ashley Carr, on the other hand, shows a personal view of daily life living in Birmingham in his project ‘Urban Malaise’.

Ashley Carr, ‘Urban Malaise Series 3 and 4’, 2018 © Ashley Carr 2018

Black Country Living Museum: Through the Industrial Might project, Phil Loach shows the people, places and events around the Black Country, from the 1970s, in comparison with the effects of industrial and political changes demonstrated through the work of Ken Harrison and Peter Hodgson, while Andrew Crawford and Bradley Pearce explore the effect of new technology on traditions. In his new series ‘The Foundry’, Bradley pictures a traditional iron foundry and machine shop, where old meets new. He depicts the combined skills with patterns, casting and machining being carried out using the latest technologies and CNC techniques.

Emily Naylor, ‘Memories’, 2018 © Emily Naylor

John Lewis Community Hub: Submissions from regional students, featured in this exhibition, showcase developing artistic and technical skills. Among these are students from Worcester Sixth Form College including Adelina Recchia who uses photography to challenge unrealistic standards by producing images that portray the beauty of confidence, while Brad Horton uses colour and structure to show architectural beauty of industrial sites. Emily Naylor explores the idea of family and memories. Kieran B experiments with perception, scale and surrealism, while Oliver B creates a second meaning to his images in the style of John Stezaker’s photography.

In contrast, photographers Catherine Peakman, Hanny Foxhall, Louis Painter, Pete Davies and Satish Guddu, focus on urban and suburban environments. While Hanny follows Birmingham’s architecture and landscapes through the seasons, Louis documents the damaging effect that a lack of care for the environment can have on our canals and parks, whereas Catherine captures eccentric beauty through simple structures, colour, people, novelty and nostalgia.

Alongside this year’s festival’s award-winning exhibitors, 111 regional photographers are participating in pop up and digital displays, in response to both festival themes. 81 young people are participating in a miniature pop up display at the Light House Media Centre, 25 local photographers’ work will be on display at the Black Country Living Museum, with a further 5 at the Gunmakers’ Arms, in addition to inclusion in digital displays at Dudley and Wolverhampton Archive Centres.

Adelina Recchia, ‘Kiera’, 2018 © Adelina Recchia

Where can I see the photography?

The Light House Media Centre in Wolverhampton will open the festival with a special month-long gallery exhibition, from 4-30 May 2018, showcasing a selection of prints from 19 regional, UK and internationally exhibiting photographers. The exhibition will be followed by a pop-up display at the Gunmakers Arms, Birmingham on Saturday 12 May from 12pm-12am, consisting of a selection of prints from our regional and main festival submissions.

The Black Country Living Museum is hosting a special Black Country project: Reclaiming Our Industrial Might, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Black Country Living Museum, capturing the people, places and industries, past and present, of the Black Country region. This special display includes images from regional photographers and guests, along with archival material, hosted within the Museum complex, 19-20 May 2018, in addition to a pop-up display in its Rolfe Street Visitor Centre, consisting of 192 prints from photographers world-wide.

The festival is also committed to encouraging involvement from young people, particularly those most disadvantaged, and to developing partnerships with the community. So, the festival is pleased to announce a special exhibition, from 31 May to 26 June 2018, at the John Lewis Community Hub, Grand Central, Birmingham, from regional students and young people, along with regional, UK and international photographers, to help support projects with children and young people.

There will also be digital displays at Wolverhampton City Archives, Saturday 5 May 2018 and Dudley Archive and Local History Service, Saturday 19 May 2018.

Andrew Crawford, ‘Heartlands’, 2018, © Andrew Crawford, Heartlands, 2018

Events to take part in

Talk with photographer Walter Rothwell 7:30pm-8:30pm, Light House Media Centre, Wolverhampton, Thursday 3 May 2018. Free tickets available here.

Print swap evening 7:00pm-8:30pm, Light House Media Centre, Wolverhampton, Thursday 24 May 2018. Free tickets available here.

Photo walk: Black by Day 11am-12pm, Saturday 19 May 2018, Black Country Living Museum. Free with museum entrance fee: more info/book here.

Photo walk: Red by Night 9pm-10pm, Saturday 19 May 2018, Black Country Living Museum. Free with museum entrance fee: more info/book here.

Bradley Pearce, ‘The Foundry’, 2018 © Bradley Pearce

Want to get involved in the festival? Read more about the full line-up of events, exhibitions, talks, as well as professional, volunteering and work experience opportunities here.


Ruth is an art blogger based in Birmingham, tweeting all the latest art updates from @ruth_millington and sharing images on Instagram

Title image: Kieran B, ‘No Ropes Just Laces’, 2017 © Kieran B


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