Look/13: Liverpool photography festival gets introspective
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‘Who do you think you are?’ is the slightly confrontational theme of this year’s biennial festival, which runs to 15 June
“We’ve worked very hard on learning from our experience of two years ago,” says Patrick Henry, the director of Look/13, Liverpool’s second biennial international photography festival. “Look/11 was very rich and expansive, with loads of activity spread over the city. In Look/13 we’ve tried to create a tighter, more focused, core programme and to be realistic about what we have the resources to do.”
This year’s festival theme is ‘Who do you think you are?’, which Henry says is a reversal of the subject last time around. “Instead of asking how photography can change the world, it asks what happens when we turn the camera on ourselves and others.”
Henry hopes that LOOK will continue as biennial event on the city’s art calendar, running in the opposite years to the Liverpool Biennial and fill a niche not just in Liverpool, but the UK.
“Photography festivals have been hugely successful all over the world, France alone has more than sixty, but they’re very thin on the ground here in the UK.” He continues: “Liverpool is the perfect festival city, with the best collection of galleries and museums of any regional city in the country. This gives us the infrastructure we need to do really ambitious programmes.
Is there something about photography as a medium that suits Liverpool as a city? “Liverpool also has a very strong photographic culture,” says Henry. “It’s home to Open Eye, one of the UK’s very few specialist public photography spaces. The city also has great collections of historic photography, some of which we’re mining for Look/13. And some of the UK’s best-known photographers have made their most celebrated work here – Tom Wood and Martin Parr to name just two.”
Kurt Tong’s project The Queen, the Chairman and I, on display in the Victoria Gallery, tackles the festival’s theme head-on by exploring his family history across several continents. Tong says “The title came from the fact that their actions ultimately lead to my grandfathers coming to Hong Kong. My paternal great-grandfather came after the fall of the empire in 1911 and my maternal grandparents came in order to escape from Mao’s advancing army.
“We will be exhibiting my photographs, found photographs, some of the actual family items and a home movie form 1948,” says Tong. “The idea is that visitors will get a glimpse into my private history. However the main focus of the exhibition is really in the storybook that I have produced for my daughters.”
The exhibition will have an unusual element: “We will be installing a working Chinese Tea House where visitors will be able to sit down, have a cup of tea and spend some time with the book,” says Tong. “I have always found that the book gets people talking about their own history and their ancestors.”
Meanwhile, at Bluecoat, Liverpool-based Adam Lee will be exhibiting Identity Documents, a project that looks at the identity of others through photographs of their bookshelves. “It came from a conversation with a friend at university about ten or twelve years ago,” says Lee. “We were joking about being robbed and I said facetiously that I would be nothing without my things. While neither he nor I agreed with this statement it got me thinking about the relationship between our possessions and who we are.
“I came to believe that while we shouldn’t define ourselves through our possessions, we define them, through our interests in the things they represent. I think it’s a reciprocal relationship and that our possessions then come to say about our identities, as representations of these interests and tastes.”
Adam works part-time at John Moores University and mined his connections their to access lecturers’ shelves. But what is it about books that tell us so much about a person’s character – as opposed to say, wardrobe contents? “I feel the sheer variety of them, in terms of genres, topics and specificity, means that they can give a very broad but also detailed picture of someone’s interests. I feel that it is this massive variety of specificity that makes them more interesting than say clothes, or for me, films or DVDs.”
Lee thinks that Look/13 is not only great for visitors but offers good opportunities for photographers based in Liverpool too: “I think that for photographers and artists who get involved, through the core program, parallel program, competitions, conferences and any fringe activities, the festival offers an international and high profile platform to get work seen and network.”
• Look/13 Liverpool International Photography Festival will be held from 17 May to 15 June at various venues in Liverpool. For full details please see the festival’s website
• Kenn Taylor is a project manager and writer with a particular interest in culture, community and the urban environment. You can view his website here
via Art and design: Photography | guardian.co.uk http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/the-northerner/2013/may/16/look-13-liverpool-photography-festival Kenn Taylor Thanks for reading Jay
Posted on May 16, 2013, in Photography News and tagged Art and design: Photography | guardian.co.uk, arts, guardian, IFTTT, info, information, journal, Kenn Taylor, news, newspaper, photo, photography. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.