Photography studio, gallery and training complex

A Little Light And Shade

Ah, it seems like only yesterday…

A gaggle (what exactly is the collective noun for photographers? A click?) of eager photographers, all fresh from my Advanced DSLR course at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and all at that “what now?” stage, drift into the old fotofilia studio in Vyse St and try to find somewhere to perch while I offer them my suggestion for a new project.

I tell them I’ve taken the liberty of booking the gallery at Birmingham’s Custard Factory for a week long exhibition some eight months later. And their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to show their work there. There is a strange silence. And some bemused expressions. Eventually, they begin asking questions but some also wonder if they’re ready for a public exhibition on this scale.

After some consideration, a few drop out, but others decide to go for it.

From the beginning, one thing is clear: the group members have a wide range of abilities and skills, not to mention photographic styles and interests, to draw upon – which already puts them ahead of some of the artist groups that find themselves drawn together to exhibit. I suggest an organisational framework based upon these skills – they will need money people, IT people, practical people, and PR people, at the very least.

The group has these people. And soon they have a name – Photosynthesis – inspired by the obvious connection between “photo” and their Botanical Gardens “roots” (ahem, if you see what I mean).

The exhibition was a great success on all counts, despite problems with double-booking at the Custard Factory and frantic late night hanging on the eve of the show. At the end I asked a few if they’d do it again. Most said something like, “It’s been amazing – but no”.

But they did. Just a year later and Photosynthesis are back with a bang. Not only another exhibition but at one of the city’s most prestigious venue’s – The Waterhall – adjoining Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery as part of Birmingham’s Artsfest (more about my ideas on this front in a later blog).

The launch of “Light and Shade” (their theme and exhibition title) on Thursday 8th September was suitably impressive, with a surprise appearance by The Gadget Show‘s John Bentley and many many guests.

John Bentley and random stalker in the shape of Photosynthesis member Peter Shipstone.

The group managed to secure Arts Council funding for the show (no mean feat in these straitened times) and also brought in some extra photographic muscle in the shape of the Billesley & Yardley Wood Youth Group and participants in the “Zoom Out” photographic project, whose work can be seen alongside that of Photosynthesis.

A quieter moment

The exhibition continues at the Waterhall until 18th September. I thoroughly recommend a visit.

Photographer Ken Hudson wondering where John Bentley is.

I’d like to express my pride in this great group of people and their exceptional achievements. While I might have played a small part in bringing them together originally, this year’s exhibition has been entirely the result of their own efforts and I think they can be very proud of themselves.


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