“A festival is about taking risks,” says Louise Clements, founder and director of Format, the UK’s leading international photography festival, which returns this year to celebrate its ninth edition. “Festivals can come and go, but to sustain something for so many years, you have to work out how to make it valuable for its participants and its audience, by giving people something to work towards.”
Founded in 2004, FORMAT has over the last fifteen years helped place the UK photography scene on the international cultural map, welcoming artists from around the world to the historic city of Derby, as it brings new and exciting photography to its audiences.
Every festival has been curated around a theme and the concept for FORMAT19 is FOREVER//NOW a dual idea that looks at the zeitgeist of photography, how it is evolving and moving ever forward, while keeping a curatorial eye on its history and how it is being constantly reinterpreted. Photography has grown to encompass many manifestations of itself, moving beyond the straight documentary truth telling narrative, to a more hybrid form where fact and fiction become intertwined in new poetic forms of story-telling.
In this era of Trump’s fake news, where truths, lies and myths are easily interchanged, we need to find a new structure to realign our understanding of reality and provide a frame of reference for identifying where the truth really resides.
The lead exhibition at FORMAT19, Mutable.Multipe offers just such an alternative form of photographic narrative in which each of the six artists, Max Pinckers, Edgar Martins, Stefanie Moshammer, Amani Willett, Anne Golaz and Virginie investigate the slippage between truth and fiction. Weaving their stories through the use of archive images, press materials, literature, interviews and staged photography the artists present a mix of fact and fiction, unconcerned about disrupting the straight truth telling function of documentary photography. This will “fundamentally challenge documentary conventions” says curator Tim Clark, who presents the exhibition as a story of their stories.
Elsewhere in Derby’s museums, art galleries and historic, pop-up and renovated spaces and buildings FORMAT19 will present over 50 exhibitions, each one made by a new generation of photographic artists who are rushing towards the new and embracing the rapid transformation that technology and cultural exchanges bring to it but also incorporating the found, archive and analogue techniques and images of the past.
Portraits of Elvis impersonators and off grid Siberian communities; documentary projects on the tribes of native Indians and the post conflict and wartime landscape of North Africa; a French treasure hunt for buried gold and the search for the truth behind the exclusive American Bohemian Club are just a few of the many extraordinary photography stories visitors to Derby will discover at FORMAT19.