For six years Life Framer has been shining the spotlight on emerging photographers. They have a truly international membership with a regular programme of competitions, culminating in annual exhibitions in several countries. They attract a quality cohort of judges for their competitions and their Journal and feedback sessions also increases their ability to provide a much needed sense of community.
We have worked with the group since its inception and have provided printing and mounting services together with collaboration on judging and mentorship – Life Framer Rotterdam opens on the 28th November at Contour Gallery, so we thought it high time we put the spotlight on founders Ralph and Amaury.
Over the last six years Life Framer has been championing and showcasing emerging photographic talent via its website community and annual exhibitions on several continents. Can you tell us a bit about the organisation and how it has evolved and how the membership has grown over this time?
Thanks for this opportunity! It’s not often I’m the one answering questions.
Life Framer is a photography award with a focus on work from emerging photographers. We run monthly calls for entries, each with a different theme and a different judge – usually a well-known photographers, curator, editor or gallerist – and at the end of every 12 months we exhibit the winners in galleries around the world, just as you say.
When I started it with my co-founder Amaury – he a photographer, and me an avid photo book and photography consumer – he saw an opportunity for an award that had artistic integrity, but was accessible to amateur and emerging photographers like himself. And the format felt pretty fresh and different. Hopefully we’ve created something that’s valuable and interesting in that respect.
Since then we’ve grown a bit, bringing in collaborators and expanding what we do – exhibiting in further-flung locations, and adding things like memberships and portfolio reviews – but ultimately the core has stayed the same.
You have a very active and engaged community online via competitions; the Life Framer Journal and the online gallery – how important are the physical exhibitions that you present each year in collaboration with galleries and what criteria do you place on the locations that you select to exhibit in?
In a sense you could argue that online is more important – after all the audience that we can access online is far bigger than any audience that will visit our physical exhibitions. But for me they’re fundamental. A gallery setting, whether it’s the Tate Modern or a tiny pop-up space, is just so much more conducive to engaging with art than a screen. There’s a superficiality in viewing photography online – not that I don’t enjoy it, but there are aspects of a physical show in the curation, print and framing choices that bring so much, and that we just can’t mimic online. There’s something about physically being there, being present. You engage more slowly and deeply. I’m realising that now more than ever while galleries are closed.
As for the locations, there are no specific criteria. We tend to select cities that have an art scene, and where we have an audience; but we like to push to places beyond that too. We would have been running a show in Lagos this year were it not for the pandemic. Often the gallery spaces are run by people we’ve met through the course of Life Framer – it’s always great to work with people who understand what we’re trying to do and vice versa.
The Life Framer competitions are an integral part of the organisation and it’s an opportunity for members to have their work exhibited and critiqued by a high quality Jury. Not only that but you are always keen to provide feedback and positive exposure to those who join. There is a small fee for participating, and there are arguments for and against charging fees – can you explain from your perspective on the charging process?
Ultimately it costs money to run the award and an entry fee is what ensures we can keep the lights on. I do also think there’s a value to it in terms of how entrants perceive the award – you engage more with something that’s not a freebie, thinking more deeply about what you submit and why you’re submitting in the first place. With that said, I totally get the counter-arguments, and if we could subsidise the entry fee via a large sponsor we’d consider it. There are of course other awards, grants and contests out there, many of which are free to submit to. We often point photographers to free opportunities too.
There are a multitude of membership platforms for creatives to join, can you explain what makes Life Framer different and what is the demographic of your audience and community?
I think the format we have is relatively unique, as is the depth of feedback we offer, but really it’s for others to say where there’s truth in that and whether what we’re offering is valuable! As for the audience, it’s an increasingly broad mix of photographers – amateur, experience, young, old, and from countries all over the world. I think the 24 photographers in our current exhibitions represent 17 different countries, and that’s just great. The more diverse the audience, the more diverse the perspectives and subject matter, and that can only be a good thing.
2020 has been a bit of a write off for many, what will be your abiding memory of Life Framer through the pandemic?
Oh man, you’re not wrong – it’s been a tough year for so many in the creative arts, and in many cases the end isn’t quite yet in sight. Without trivialising any of the struggles photographers are continuing to have, I’ve seen a swell of creative responses to the pandemic, and that’s been really positive. Our judges have picked some great works made in direct response – Alex Llovet’s Humans of the World image, Alessio Pellicoro’s Colors image and our Lockdown selection are ones that jump to mind – but more broadly the lockdown has given space and time for reflection, experimentation, rest… and that’s no bad thing!
Somewhere in between is a collective of six artists who are all MA graduates from UAL Camberwell and their work crosses several imaging disciplines including printmaking; film and photography. They are a close knit group of like-minded people who regularly share their work on and offline. We turn the spotlight on them this week to discuss the collective and its developing practice.
Somewhere in Between is a collective of six female artists, can you tell us a bit about how you came together and what your goals are as a group? And… where did the name come from?
We came together as we were all studying MA Printmaking at Camberwell UAL. We are actually from two different year groups but were introduced to each other’s work during group crits and in the workshops. Printmaking workshops are very social spaces, artists often talk about how and why they make their work whilst making it. We really admired each other’s work and were somewhat outsiders compared to many students who work with painting and drawing as the foundations for their practice. We were drawn to each other through the lens of photography.
As we were graduating during the pandemic our goal really was to support each other. The workshops closed due to Covid and we were unable to have our final shows. We wanted to carry on and explore our connections and conversations around photography and printmaking.
Our name came out of many discussions around our practice, the context within where we saw ourselves. Our practice really does fall between and utilise both photography and printmaking.
The collective is very much rooted in printmaking; film and immersive space – as a lab we have tried to maintain access to our services but for many the pandemic has restricted access to production facilities and in turn our ability to exhibit – how have you utilised online platforms to stay engaged with your audience at this time?
We really embrace online and social media spaces. Printmaking is about distribution and creating images that can be reproduced and seen by many. We see online platforms as a way of distributing our work, getting it out into the world. Art works can now travel internationally with online platforms which in turn can lead to dialogues with artists globally. In the absence of a degree show we are thinking of other ways to share our work. During the launch of the online UAL showcase we hosted a talk and discussed our practice. We then started our online Instagram platform @_somewhere_in_between where we have shown our work we show and engage with work by other artists working with photography and print.
Historically gender inequality in lens-based industries has prevailed for far too long, and we all have a responsibility to recognise, act and bring about change. Of course, our own experiences are personal to us, would you be able to tell us about what it means to you and the collective?
We came together because of our interest in each other’s work rather than consciously making the collective women only. The students on the course at Camberwell are around 90% female and we were a small group who were working with photography as the foundation of our work. The technicians in the print studios were incredibly supportive and have a real ‘can do’ attitude. Printmaking can be incredibly physical, and processes can be complicated and sometimes use very toxic materials. We never felt that gender was ever an issue whilst practically making the work – anything was possible.
You currently have six members in the collective, do you see this growing as you establish or do you intend operating at this size? Also are there any collaboration opportunities within the group or do you act individually on projects and then come together to share and critique?
Having six members in the group is the perfect size as it enables us to meet up frequently. Some of us had been in collectives before and understood that more than six can be problematic with scheduling meetings/having crits. We are very open to collaborating with each other and other artists. We are individual artists who all have established art practices – we are focused and take our work very seriously. We are a small community who are there to support and listen to each other, to give both practical and theoretical advice. As a group we are very open to new ideas and feedback from each other.
It goes without saying that 2020 has been one hell of a year and we have all been touched by the pandemic. Creatives are known for their ability to remain fluid and adapt to circumstances – what are the biggest changes you would like to see happen in our industry in 2021 and what does next year hold for the collective?
We are excited about the future and looking forward to thinking of different ways to share our work. We believe that traditional gallery spaces are only just one way of showing work. We would like to experiment with projections and billboards, with Instagram residencies and online/offline talks. Next year we will be hosting more online talks- the first will be with artist Sofia Sacomani, alumni of MA Printmaking Camberwell who is an incredibly exciting artist.
We would like to see the industry opening up to new ways of presenting art works both online and offline. We would like to engage with a larger audience than just the London art world.
As a group of six new graduates, we believe we are stronger together.
The six artists in the collective are Pippa Healy @pippahello , Rosie Zielinski @rosiezielinskiart , Zoe Prichard @zoeprichardprint , Tabby
Cooper @_tirc_ , B.E, Varga @elizboglarkvarga , Lauren Collier @laurencollierprint
Founded by Christiane Monarchi, Photomonitor highlights lens-based artists at all levels of experience and practice, providing an important online perspective of their projects and vision.
It is clear that the pandemic has isolated many and our ability to engage in person has meant that platforms such as Photomonitor have become even more invaluable and vital for the creative community. We connected with Christiane to discuss the platform and how it works with artists.
1. Photomonitor was established in 2011 as an online platform to promote lens-based media and is known for publishing honest and open texts from artists and writers who are at various stages in their careers. Could you please tell us a bit about how Photomonitor was founded and maybe a little bit about your own journey in the arts.
Thank you Steve, for this opportunity; I am interested in asking questions of others and realise I don’t often ask them of myself. I created this platform and continue to love growing it in order to share ideas and images from photographers and artists to further promote their ideas. Particularly I am drawn to projects, series and books which may not be so well known, and would benefit from sharing with Photomonitor’s online readership.
I have worked within commercial and public gallery situations and I feel one of the purposes of this online platform is providing another ‘space’ to see and share images and thoughts, and hopefully one that is relatively permanently visible, online. After the spring and summer lockdown pause I relaunched Photomonitor to invite international content, expanding on previous UK and Ireland focus. It has led to a welcome deluge of artists and projects to learn about, feature and share – as well as a lot more international readership.
My journey into the arts was via studying art history and wanting first to work with artists in galleries. This is something which I continue to love: learning about and wanting to promote artists’ creativity to others. I think I find elements of this in everything I devote time to.
2. Exposure via the Photomonitor platform is seen as an important step in having an artist’s work validated, as you throw a spotlight on creatives in a unique and insightful way. How do you invite or select work to be presented via the platform?
It is a privilege to have time to learn about so much lens-based creativity, and I have built numerous informal, constantly changing collaborations with hundreds of contributors who present ideas for new features. I also receive many international press releases, read every magazine and website that I can, and generally try to know about people. I love to meet students, to go degree shows, and give someone one of their first features, I love to show an artist’s little known early work. I just noticed I talk about ‘love’ – it’s hard to explain but a selection of work for Photomonitor comes about in many ways but always includes feeling engaged and interested in a work and wanting to see more of it, and help explain it to the world. Then it goes on Photomonitor. It’s a personal choice, at the end, who receives commissions for interviews or review pitches or who gets a portfolio, but it comes down to wanting to see and know more because I am moved by the ideas within the work.
3. Not only do you feature work online but you also instigate debate and conversation around the topic that takes you into judging and physical review. Do you ever experience work that contradicts between what is visually presented and how it is communicated, and how important is a works explanation in understanding the artists vision?
It is interesting how much I think I understand from a .jpg, and how different that can be when seeing, and being in the physical haptic presence of, a physical print. The object, the artist’s intent, the specialness of an image when it is translated from the screen can sometimes be different from ‘knowing’ it from an online presentation. But it’s hard to share this physicality, the second best is a really great text and some ideas in your head to go along with the screen. That’s what online can do, and it’s often the stories, interview responses, portfolio texts that resonate in the memory possibly more intensely than a passing glimpse of a framed work in a museum or gallery, if one commits the time to taking it in. An example would be an art fair, with amazing photographs on the wall of a gallery’s stand, with no labels, no names and no one wanting to share information with you. Do you take it in? Maybe skimming the surface, but it will be brought to life and given durational memory if you get to learn the story.
4. Given Photomonitor is almost 10 years young, what is your view on ‘trends’ in photography and the impact it has on potentially free thinking others that might not fit into what is currently being viewed as important? Do you see some artists marginalised because they don’t fit the template and is it important to ‘belong’ to an artistic genre?
On reflection, my platform is well set up to show artists and photographers whose works may function well when viewed serially, and do often fit in and around what would be seen in galleries, museums, festival, photobooks, magazines – so this sometimes includes ongoing documentary projects, participatory work, activist and politically engaged work. It may be that I’m attracted to works that come with some narrative.
I’ve also noted there are fewer experimental, alternate process or abstract projects on there, quite possibly because I sometimes get bored reading only about process and want to know ‘why’ this image was made. I am intrigued with works that are hard to read onscreen, that take up physical or sculptural space and really demand ‘seeing’, and look to show these where possible.
On balance, I don’t think artists would be marginalised by not belonging to a genre, it is quite refreshing looking at someone’s site to see they engage with portraiture, narrative, landscape, moving image, or sculptural objects – and interesting to ask them why they are moving in and around different ideas, why they experiment.
5. Turning the tables on the interviewer for this feature, what’s the question you’ve never been asked but wish you had?
That’s clever – I have to remember that. How about:
What do you want to be remembered for?
New ideas. My relationship to photography is one of intellectual curiosity combined with the desire to see something new. I have an overarching yearning for stories – the words we think about when we see pictures – and also the excitement of seeing something new and possibly being the first person to get to share it. Ten years ago I didn’t find enough of that on the internet, so I built it.
The search for new ideas is now also driving my interest in creating Hapax Magazine, a new publication that will award commissions to artists and curators to make new images and ideas to be seen in this print magazine first, and not online. An anti-internet magazine, kind of a reset of what a photography magazine can be, to incubate new ideas from all reaches of the globe. The first issue of Hapax Magazine will be launched next year, it is an exciting project to work with co-editor Gordon MacDonald in crafting this idea into an international magazine. This will be also around the ten-year celebration of Photomonitor’s online project of sharing and promoting work that already exists, but may be hard to see. Hope I’ve got all bases covered by then.
Founded in 1987, LIP is a not-for-profit photography members group that with over three hundred members, promotes free thinking and active collaboration. This week sees the launch of its annual exhibition and series of talks and lectures and due to C-19 the majority of which has had to move online.
We took some time to talk to them about the exhibition, its membership and how the organisation has evolved over the years.’
LIP was established in 1987 as a movement to support photographers in their career and providing a platform for independent thought and debate. Can you tell us a bit about LIP as a not-for-profit group and its diverse membership?
LIP is not specifically directed towards career development but follows the guidance established in our original constitution “to encourage members’ self-expression using the medium of photography through collaboration (rather than through individual competition) amongst photographers and artists at all levels of experience and expertise”.
That constitution goes on to say that “Membership of LIP is open to any person over the age of 18”. As we embrace all photographers we have in fact a membership with a very diverse ethnic & educational profile as well as including amateur, academic, and professional photographers. As we are inclusive we have not yet felt the need to record specific attributes by members and so cannot provide percentage analyses.
All the executive committee offer their services without renumeration. We do not permit
advertising but agree to promoting other organisations without charge where there is a
clearly recognised mutual benefit. Our financial objectives are to balance expenditure
against income in the long term and we therefore operate on not-for-profit principles.
With such a rich heritage have you seen the membership change over the years and as a group that has come through the analogue / digital evolution, how has this affected the organisation? For instance what would be the percentage of analogue versus digital practitioners and also how many utilise print and darkroom services?
LIP was founded as an informal gathering of like-minded photographers. As you say the membership as a group has come through the evolution of photography. We have not categorised members as analogue or film practitioners.
Our Satellite Groups provide an informal setting to discuss and create a programme of events specific to the needs of that particular group. As the industry changes so too does the needs of the LIP community. Since January 2019, 3 new special interest satellite groups have been created. These initiatives were led by 3 separate members. The Film and Darkroom Satellite Group (F&DSG) provides a platform for interested members to primarily promote the use of film with traditional darkroom printing and its inherent skills. Drawing on the success of the F&DSG, an Alternative Processes Satellite Group has been set up. This group allows for dedicated discussion to photography practices outside the traditional film format. The third recently formed Satellite Group is Photo and Text, this group’s purpose is to look at, share, and discuss texts that accompany and enhance photographs – and vice versa.
Many members have printers at home, some have darkrooms; other members outsource print and darkroom services such as those offered at Metro.
All members are encouraged to actively partake in the many offerings of LIP; the Satellite Groups, a programme of events and talks, the annual exhibition, fLIP and much more; members have multiple platforms to become engaged within LIP.
This week sees the launch of the annual LIP exhibition and talks series, can you tell us more about the timetable and also how Covid-19 has impacted on the delivery of the exhibition and accompanying talks programme?
Yes, of course. LIP Chronicles: Life Under Lockdown opening occurred this past Tuesday. However, the online exhibition went live on November 1st and will be accessible for the next two months via www.lipchronicles.org.uk.
Each Friday of November at 7pm there will be an Artist Talk via Zoom with registration available through Eventbrite, LIP’s website or @lipchronicles. We begin this Friday 6th with ‘A Brexit Conversation’ where Tereza Červenová, Natalia González Acosta and Uta Kögelsberger are joined by Emma Mowat in a presentation of their photographic projects that focus on Brexit. Each photographer is in a different stage of their careers and we bring them together in this talk to discuss Brexit and the way photography can be used to comment on our political and personal views towards Brexit.
On Friday 13th we will continue the programme of talks with Magnum photographer, Chris Steele-Perkins. The evening will encompass from the beginning of his career through to today. He will highlight work from many of his books such as Afghanistan, Fuji, Tokyo Love Hello, The New Londoners, and most his most recent book, The Troubles, which will be published in 2021.
For our third Friday Artist Talk on the 20th, we will be joined by Chris King who will share his work produced on the issue of food waste, and the thinking behind the approach he took. This approved has now informed all his subsequent work and has motivated him to launch Documenting Climate Change, which aims to promote more effective communication on the issue of climate change.
Finally, on Friday 27th, the esteemed selectors of LIP Chronicles: Life Under Lockdown: Carole Evans, D Wiafe, Professor Steve Macleod and Anthony Luvera along with LIP Honorary Member, Paul Hill, will share the bodies of work developed during Lockdown. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A with the audience.
Regarding Covid-19, it is important to mention that the entire exhibition was in fact reinvented due to the pandemic. LIP Chronicles: Life Under Lockdown was initially going to be an adjacent project as part of the 32nd Annual Exhibition. However, we soon decided to completely change our focus and made LIP Chronicles: Life Under Lockdown the main exhibition of 2020. We have been using all the digital tools available in order to remain connected and informed in this new way of living. We believe we have delivered a diverse yet critical exhibition, one that offers an online gallery and an accompanying tabloid publication. This multi-platform exhibition would not have been without Covid-19.
Can you outline what membership of LIP stands for particularly during these challenging times when it is vital to support each other in the creative community. What can any new member can expect from joining such a prestigious organisation?
We feel that LIP offers two particular advantages that are hard to come by elsewhere: the
opportunity to show and discuss work in progress and finished work in a non-competitive
sympathetic environment via our satellite groups. LIP also provides opportunities to have
work in the various exhibitions we organise. Members are also encouraged to submit work
for potential publication in our fLIP magazine. fLIP’s aim is to showcase (primarily)
members’ work and to engage readers in a wider dialogue concerning diverse approaches
to photography. fLIP is free to members and is also sold at The Photographer’s Gallery
LIP stands for a committed and collaborative creative community. Any new member can expect an opportunity to join one of our many satellite groups, which presently numbers 11. These groups have been organised by special interest groups or locality.
It’s been a real pleasure to view the varied perspectives on photography that LIP embraces, the support from member to member is incredibly strong and many give their time and advice for free in support of the common good. Where do you see LIP going in regard to direction and membership?
Our committee is aware of the changing needs of our membership. In particular we know that much previously difficult to access technical guidance is now freely available on the internet. We are also aware that the choice of association with other photographic organisations is wider than when we formed. We feel that LIP offers two particular advantages that are hard to come by elsewhere: the opportunity to show and discuss work in progress and finished work in a non-competitive sympathetic environment via our satellite groups. LIP also provides opportunities to have work in the various exhibitions we organise. Members are also encouraged to submit work for potential publication in our fLIP magazine. fLIP’s aim is to showcase (primarily) members’ work and to engage readers in a wider dialogue concerning diverse approaches to photography. fLIP is free to members and is also sold at The Photographer’s Gallery and elsewhere.
Due to Covid we have had to avoid face-to-face contact and follow government guidelines, but we have successfully replicated many of our activities using Zoom and also continue to publish our magazine in a physical form.
We have over 300 members and are seeking to expand that number by improvements in our website ( which accounts for 50% of our new members), by our increased talk programme which further publicises LIP as they are open to non-members, and by beginning a programme of targeting photography departments at academic institutions with the objective of providing a place for students to share their work and ideas once they graduate.
We invite interested individuals who want to learn more about LIP to please visit our website at www.londonphotography.org.uk.