FORMAT International Photography Festival features the work of over 300 photographers in various venues across Derby, from Galleries, shops, churches to disused school buildings.

The study visit started at the main exhibition in the Quad Gallery, Beyond Evidence: An incomplete narratology of photographic truths, with a nice small group of students.

Quad Gallery – Derby

Quad Gallery Student meet

The gallery starts with a small collection of images from Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan’s legendary Evidence as its starting point and moves on to displays challenging that photography offers material evidence, that photography tells the truth.  There’s a lack of captions and detailed information on the artists work, but a small handout provides further information.

Giorgio di Noto – The Iceberg are picture taken from the dark web, the hidden under surface (hence the iceberg). To display these hidden images, visitors must use uv light torches to make the images visible. An interesting display idea, using images of drugs advertised using torches often used to hunt for traces of drugs.

The role of surveillance is addressed with Mishka Henner and Dutch Landscapes. These are Google Earth views of Holland that have been partially censored by the government in order to hide hundreds of sites deemed sensitive to national security such as royal palaces, fuel depots or army barracks, replacing the detail with multi-coloured polygons laid over the concealed area making it obvious it’s been redacted.

KA-BOOM by Andrea Botto looks at blasts and explosions, how explosives are used for demolition purposes, remediation or pyrotechnics. Rather than showing just the explosion, it’s put into a scene with onlookers, almost as we were viewing it ourselves. There is a feeling that some may be staged and some real.

Cristina de Middel Jan Mayen 2014 display


I really liked Klaus Weidner  LA-X Collection, 4×5 inch black and white images purchased from auction houses from an anonymous photographer between 1956 and 1979 in Los Angeles, hence the title LA-X. There’s a feel that these were taken to document the area, with the occasional shadow of the photographer creeping in.

Thomas Keenan and Eyal Weizman, Mengele’s Skullwas an interesting study of overlaying photographs of Josef Megele with those of his skull to prove identification of his body.

Having been in Thailand last year for the protests against the government, it was  interesting to see Miti Ruangkritya work taken from the social media page “Thaskin Where are you”.  Thaksin Shinawatra was the former Prime Minister deposed by a coup over corruption claims and went into exile, prompting a humorous where’s wally type response on social media.  The display shows several edited images of the former president in humorous situations. (interesting fact is that it was his younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra, president from 2011 to 2014 who the protests were about when we visited).

Miti Ruangkritya – Thai Politics #2 [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 31 March 2015].

Students and tutors discuss the exhibition


Outside the main gallery and up the stairs were further works by artists. I really liked the work of Pixy Yijun Liao – For Your Eyes Only, documenting her fictional relationship with a younger Japanese man, in which she shifts the power to her as the older Chinese woman.

Pixy Yijun Liao – Creating a world just for us [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2015].

Pixy Yijun Liao – Home made Sushi [ONLINE] Available at:—copy.jpg. [Accessed 01 April 2015].

I’d already looked at this series and felt it a shame that it was restricted to 5 images and didn’t have a detailed description available to explain the series.

The other series that caught my eye was Scrublands by Antoine Bruy. The photography and processing was beautiful and attractive, really drawing the eye and the images chosen worked well up the stairwell.  These are images of people who have decided to live off grid and leave their city life and jobs behind.

Antoine Bruy – Scrublands – [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2015].

Overall I thought the Quad exhibition interesting but wished they’d used more images from the various series and provided additional descriptive notes. It had the feeling of quantity of artists, where less may have made more.


After the Quad we moved onto St Werburgh’s church, converted into an exhibition space.

St Werburg’s church Derby

St Werburg’s church – Derby


Upstairs was a Sculptural manifestation of the William Eggleston photograph, Greenwood Mississippi 1973, where Ed Watts had reproduced the top half of the room as asked people to take their own images and resubmit them.

In a room to the side was Philip Toledano’s exhibition, when I was six, detailing the effects of the loss of his sister when he was young.  After the death of his parents, Toledano found a box of Claudia’s things that his mother had kept. “Clothes, toys, health records, notes she wrote,” he says. “But also, everything to do with her death. It was a museum of sorts. But it was also a second chance; a chance to know my sister; to understand the pain my parents carried, and the strength it took not to bury me along with my sister.”

I’d seen the article in BJP, so really wanted to see this series and wasn’t disappointed. I think everyone was left quiet and thoughtful for a few moments on leaving the room.

Images of his sister, or sisters belongings are mixed with small text descriptions and images and images of clouds, space, things that Toledano became fixated with after her death.

The small display of images and small text forced you to get close, personal with the powerful images.

Phillip Toledano exhibition in St Werburghs church



Debbie Adele Cooper’s If on a Winter’s Night, St Werburgh’s church

Debbie Adele Cooper’s If on a Winter’s Night combines images with structure. As part of her exhibition, the artist created this beautiful lit installation in the church. During World War Two, a shortage of glass led to local photography studio W.W. Winter Photography Ltd donating off-cuts from large glass plate negatives, which were used to build greenhouses. Here, Adele Cooper creates her own glass plate negative greenhouse from glass plates found in the same photography studio,

Also here was a Simon Norfolk film , time taken, showing locations as they changed through the year, and 50 contemporary photobooks produced in China between 2009 – 2014.

Kenneth O Halloran ‘The Handball Alley’, was cleverly produced in a loose leaf format, with different images on opposing pages, but so each half combined to make a new image.

San Yanchu wandered through China during 2004 to 2011 creating his book “Obsessed”, everything he took in pictures, “are just the marks of my shivering, at the moment I and reality came across each other.

Sun Yanchu – Obsessed – [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2015].

Another interesting book was Muge – Going Home [6]. The Three Gorges Dam Project looms large over Going Home. There’s nostalgia in his return, travelling the banks of the Yangtze river and some of the images are almost dreamlike.  You can see the enormity of the project and the effect and transformation of the lives of the people along his chosen route.


Muge – going home [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2015].

Muge – Going home [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2015].

Muge – Going Home [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2015].


A mention must also go to Ren Hang – Son and Bitch, an interesting work which explores in raw and often disturbing detail issues of gender, fetishism and sexuality. Part performance and part carefully posed floor show Ren’s confrontational and provocative works tread a delicate line between art and pornography in which friends and lovers are shown in explicit poses and fetishist contortions.

Ren Hang – Son and Bitch


Lastly we visited the Art Museum for coffee and whilst some sat and discussed the art with the tutors, I visited the displays.

Zhao Renhui – A Guide to the Flora and Fauna of the World, was disappointing as the images were the size of large postage stamps on a display board, tucked away in a doorway between two rooms, but then perhaps that was the point as it was a catalogue of curious creatures and life-forms that have evolved in often unexpected ways to cope with the stresses and pressures of a changed world.

The Sputnik Photo Collective were interesting, with the images printed, then nailed to the wall, telling the story of the Hunter as you travelled around the room.

Sputnik Photo Collective – Hunter

Sputnik photo collective – Hunter


So much to see and we only scratched the surface on the Saturday Study Visit, but my thanks to the tutors who were informative and stayed late answering questions and thoughts.






[1] SULTAN & MANDEL: “Evidence – Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel” (1977) | AMERICAN SUBURB X. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 31 March 2015].

[2] SULTAN & MANDEL: “Evidence – Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel” (1977) | AMERICAN SUBURB X. [ONLINE] Available at:

[3] Experimental Relationship : Yijun Liao. 2015. Experimental Relationship : Yijun Liao. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2015].

[4] Scrublands : Antoine Bruy. 2015. Scrublands : Antoine Bruy. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2015].

[5] Phil Toledano – When I Was Six » British Journal of Photography. 2015. Phil Toledano – When I Was Six » British Journal of Photography. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2015].

[6] Muge – Going Home : 木格摄影.  [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2015].

[7] Exhibition / HUNTER by Sputnik Photos and Sputnik Mentoring Program on Format Festival in Derby | Sputnik Photos. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 01 April 2015].