Photography News Issue 35

Photography News | Issue 35 | absolutephoto.com

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Exhibitions

St Andrews Photography Festival North of the border is where you need to be this summer if you want to enjoy photography in the broader sense. Over the next four pages, we take a behind the scenes look at two Scottish photography festivals. We tee off at the home of golf, St Andrews, where we catch up with the Festival’s organiser Rachel Nordstrom

Left Mallorca, 1982. © David Peat Estate, courtesy of St Andrews University Library. Below Allan Robertson, 1850. By Thomas Rodger. Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library: ALB-10-49

How did you decide on the locations? Is it spread across several different spaces? Participation in the Festival was really open to anyone who had some wall space that we could take over for six weeks. We wanted to spread the exhibitions across many different kinds of venues beyond the logical café, office lounge, hotel or library reading room, we were looking for some variety, so there are also exhibitions on iron railings, a nightclub and a gin tasting room. Then we had to think about pairing up venues with shows – for example, Franki Raffles was a student at St Andrews and very much involved in the politics of student life, so a cross-section of her work can be seen at the Old Union Coffee Shop. I thought that the Vic nightclub would be a challenge, but workingwithMalcolmDickson of Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow, we decided the rock photography of Harry Papadopoulos seemed like a perfect fit. By the time word got around town that the Festival was happening, we had more venues approaching us than we had time or resources to provide exhibitions for. We were quickly spoiled for choice, but I just hope this bodes well for next year. Is there a specific audience you’re aiming the Festival at? Everybody is welcome. I really just want

Festival as we have a similar mandate. One of our collection’s strengths is obviously Scottish photography, and it celebrates Scottish photography so it is a logical partnership. What are the aims of the Festival? Photography is unique in that it’s accessible and people understand it more easily than some other art forms, probably because almost everyone has a camera and can take pictures. But people are more reluctant to experience photography as an art form or a social document with a story to tell by going into a gallery or a museum to see a photography exhibition – perhaps they find it intimidating. We’re putting photographic collections, both contemporary and historic, into venues where people go anyway – libraries, cafés, restaurants and bookshops. We want people to see photography in a different way by sneaking it into their lives, but I really just want people to see it as something more than the pics they swipe through on their phones or images that illustrate articles they read online. I’m hoping to give people a taster for all these collections and maybe later they’ll go home and research a bit more on their own, look up on the internet to see who these photographers are and other work they have done. Then maybe if they see that a particular photographer has a big exhibition somewhere they won’t be so intimidated to look around.

to bring photographic arts, documentary photographyandphotohistory intoeveryone’s lives in one way or another. We’ve tried to open it up to as many people as possible. We have a couple of children’s events and youth workshops. One workshop is run by Carolyn Scott who wants teenagers to stop taking so many selfies and to think about photography as a documentary story to be told through the camera. There is also a walking tour which people can join in for as long as they want. And of course there is a series of lectures which cater to a wide range of audiences. The Festival is six weeks long – was there a specific reason for that time frame? There are a few reasons, but mostly we couldn’t decide on the best time of year to hold the Festival. It’s our first year, and six weeks is a bit long, as most Festivals will last a fortnight or amonth so this year is a bit of an experiment. August is the month when lots of people have some time off work and school, and towards the end of August all the school children are back, and then going into September we have the University students back in town. So our thought was to test the waters and reach all those different groups. There is also the Season of Photography, which runs from September to November, and the Institute for Photography in Scotland tries to coordinate all photographic events across

Interview by Jemma Dodd

Can you tell us about your role and how you ended up being involved in the Festival? I’m the photographic collections manager at the University of St Andrews Library, so when the BID (Business Improvement District of St Andrews) approached me and said it wanted to have a photography festival, and could I organise something, I said ‘yes of course!’ Ken Dalton, a member of the BID steering committee knew the University held the largest photographic collection in Scotland, and was aware of the role St Andrews played in the earliest days of photography. I think BID initially wanted the Festival to take place to earlier in the year, but this was its first year, so trying to get it off the ground was going to be a challenge and needed a bit more time to prepare. Was it around the photographic collection that the idea for the Festival was formed? Also, can you tell us about the collection? The University has been around for quite a long time and given the town and University’s connection to the early foundations of photography and the photographic collections in our care, we do have quite a substantial archive to draw from for the Festival. I think the collections are a great starting point for the

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