FORMAT Photography Festival, Derby | March - April 2018

We volunteered at Fable & Folk in 2017 where we took people on tours of Derby and invigilated exhibitions. This was a really interesting experience for me and came out of it wishing that I’d have been to the festival as a visitor as well as a volunteer. Another thing that struck me was how I’d never even heard of FORMAT and neither had many of my peers at university. This is why I wanted to write a little post about some of the events and exhibitions to encourage those who can to go and take a look - the work is truly inspiring and encapsulating (and most are free!).

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Did you know that FORMAT Photography Festival does an open call each year that it is on? Me either! This year FORMAT received 657 entries of over 10,000 images from 47 countries across 5 continents. The international panel of judges chose 54 projects to be exhibited in a number of venues across Derby.

The theme of the open call is FOREVER/NOW.

In 2007, while the photography world was still grappling with the idea of photography as an interpretive, non-narrative, non-representational medium, writer Lucy Soutter wrote about the ‘crooked’ expressive versus the ‘straight’ documentary photography, insightfully characterising the then two sides of the debate.

Since then photography has grown to encompass many manifestations of the ‘crooked’ image through hybrid forms and visual practices and no longer worries about narrative versus abstraction, expressive versus objective. The new generation of photographic artists rush towards the new, embracing the rapid transformation that technology and cultural exchanges bring to it.

It is such new approaches to photography that FORMAT19: FOREVER/NOW will address during the festival.

All the work at FORMAT is truly fantastic and it is definitely worth looking through all the exhibitions/events on the website. However, here are a few that we think are standouts:


“You Don’t Look Native to Me” | Maria Sturm

QUAD Gallery

Free Entry

Sunday - Wednesday: 10:00am - 22:00pm

Thursday - Saturday: 10:00am - 23:00pm

“Since the autumn of 2011, photographer Maria Sturm has been visiting the Native American communities of North Carolina and in particular the town of Pembroke in Robeson County, the tribal seat of the Lumbee Indian Tribe, where 89% of the population describe themselves as Native Americans…”

“Topography is Fate” | Matthew Arnold

The Tramshed

Free Entry

Monday - Saturday: 10:30am - 17:00pm

Sunday: 11:00am - 16:00pm

“Matthew Arnold’s project Topography is Fate - North African Battlefields of World War II considers the landscapes of North Africa and the soldier’s relationship to this alien environment…”

“Freezing Land” | Ronghui Chen


Free Entry

Monday - Friday: 7:30am - 18:00pm

Saturday: 9:00am - 17:00pm

Sunday: Closed

“Ronghui Chen’s project Freezing Land, explores the history of the immigrant descendants of this region to find out the story of today’s northeastern China. In the people he encountered he discovered stories of uncertainty, a mixed sense of hesitation and loneliness…”

“Forever Elvis” | Graeme Oxby


Free Entry

Monday - Wednesday: 8:00am - 21:00pm

Thursday - Saturday: 8:00am - 23:00pm

Sunday: 9:00am - 17:00pm

“The project started as an exploration of the iconography of popular culture and of Presley himself, arguably the most photographed man on the planet. But it developed into a more personal study of the hundreds of Presley devotees Oxby met…”




Derby Market Hall

Free Entry

Monday - Saturday: 10:30am - 17:00pm

Sunday: Closed

A fantastic project to visit is the fantastic SIXTEEN - a multimedia project exploring what it is like to be sixteen years old in today’s Britain.

Sixteen is an age of transition, of developmental, and of social change. At this time of increasing national and international anxiety, these young people are shifting from adolescence to become the adults who will live in a politically reshaped country, divorced from the European Union.

The photographers open up conversations with these young people about their hopes and fears, and who or what sustains them, giving prominence to voices rarely heard.

The project explores how social background, gender, ethnicity or location might influence aspiration.



Derby Museum & Art Gallery

Free Entry

Monday: Closed

Tuesday - Saturday: 10:00am - 17:00pm

Sunday: 12:00pm - 16:00pm

Archival work is vital in gaining inspiration for your current projects - seeing work from years ago and understanding the who, what, when, where and whys. This is why I would recommend checking out the selection of archival images from Maurice Broomfield.

Maurice Broomfield (1916 - 2010) made some of the most spectacular photographs of British industry, showing skilled men and women proudly at work in factories throughout the UK. His photographs made in the 1950s and 1960s reveal a workforce in an era of rapid transition, depicting the remnants of the nineteenth-century’s industrial revolution alongside emerging modern technologies.

From shipyards to papermills, textiles to food production, and chemical plants to car manufacture, Broomfield emphasised the heroic, sublime, futuristic and sometimes surreal qualities of industry. His work chimes with Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s landmark 1963 ‘white heat’ of British technologies speech, describing, ‘a time of such rapid scientific change that our children are accepting as part of their everyday life things which would have been dismissed as science fiction a few years ago’. Broomfield’s photographs are not only a valuable record of factory environments at an important historical moment but also a testament to the communities of workers and a way of life that has now largely vanished.

This selection of work is drawn primarily from Broomfield’s archive housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, with additions form the permanent collection of Derby Museum & Art Gallery. It is curated by Martin Barnes, V&A Senior Curator of Photographs. A fascinating selection of Broomfield’s original cameras complement the photographs and are on loan from his son, the internationally acclaimed documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield.



There are a variety of amazing talks and events on a FORMAT that sound fantastic are so worth checking out - again, most are free but click here to take a look.

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