A visit to Format11 Festival

Myself, Yumi Goto and Andy

Andy, myself and Jayna, a photographer friend made a day visit up to Derby for the Format International Photography Festival 2011 last weekend. It was a cold and damp day but the train ride was only a short one, and in no time we left St Pancras, we were in Derby station. (Note : Central Midlands train services, even on First Class, do not serve cooked breakfast on weekends, much to our disappointment.) Having arrived and lacking sustenance, we found a greasy-spoon aptly called Acropolis in Central Square, next to The Quad arts centre where Format is mainly happening.

I was there also to meet up with Yumi Goto, who has been invited over from Bangkok to speak at the Festival. Yumi is also one of the judges for KL International Photoawards 2011 and it was certainly a great opportunity to make my first contact with her here in the UK. Our first event at The Quad was to listen to Chris Steele-Perkins speak on his work and approach as a photojournalists for over 30 years. Chris Steele-Perkins is a renown Magnum member whose inspired works covered most of the UK in the 60s and 70s, documenting the British youth in the form of the teddy boys, and also suburban life, Northern Ireland, and later, overseas conflicts in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Africa. He also showed some of his later works from Japan, particularly his Mount Fuji series and Hello, Tokyo, Love series.

There are also other exhibitions going on throughout the town of Derby, in museums and vacant retail units, at the University also. It was certainly a busy day for the organisers, with Portfolio reviews going on throughout the day, talks and seminars, and the odd ‘celebrity’ photographer wafting in and out of the centre. Personally, I thought it was a well funded and run event, with many decent exhibitions, but a few were rather mixed. The theme this year focuses on Street Photography, and for want of a better word, this genre covers so many styles and methodology, including barren landscapes and photojournalism, that I think, it may be better to drop the ‘street’, and called it Urban photography. I thought Bruce Gilden‘s commissioned images of candid Derby townsfolk Head On, shot at close range with a fill-flash, specially for the festival was too simplistic and pointless. The video of him shooting in the street was more informative, but his shots weren’t. I was also excited to see some of Vivian Maier‘s photographs but sadly, only a homemade video was playing, and that did not interest me.

I was happy to see Katrin Koenning and Virgilio Ferreria‘s works displayed at Format11 also. Katrin and Virgilio were both finalists at KL Photoawards 2010. Some works that stood out for me were Jun Abe‘s Citizens, George Georgiou‘s Fault Lines, Turkey East and West, and David Gibson‘s humorous street grabs. It ‘s always great to see notable Magnum photographers works like Alex Webb, Raymond Depardon, and Bruno Barbey up close. I was surprised some of the big names in so -called Street photography weren’t represented, notable the father of the genre, Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and Winogrand.

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