Interview: Life Framer

For the past five years Metro Imaging has partnered with the Life Framer Photography Award, producing their globe-touring exhibitions and collaborating on various portfolio events. As they plan for their 5th edition Exhibition and gear up for 2020 we catch-up with co-founder Ralph Wilson to hear about the journey so far…

Life Framer was established in 2013, what inspired you to set up this platform?

Back then I was already passionate about photography but on a personal rather than professional level, and looking for a new creative project to sink my teeth into outside of my day job. My co-founder was working in various aspects of photography and had a perception that for good or bad, awards are an important part of professional development, but that for emerging photographers there was this empty void between the prestigious but inaccessible big awards, and the accessible but insignificant small online competitions. The aim was to fill this gap with something that was artistically credible but also accessible, that could give a leg up to less experienced photographers, particularly through offering them a chance to exhibit their work in a gallery setting.

Of course neither of us had any credibility ourselves, and so the key thing was to find some good partners, and to enlist a strong panel of judges. As luck would have it, earlier that year my co-founder had found a wallet in the street belonging to a fairly well-known London photographer. He’d returned it, and as a thank you that photographer offered to take his portrait, but they hadn’t got around to arranging it. So instead we asked him to be our first judge. It was a nice bit of coincidental karma!

Since then we’ve been growing slowly but surely, trying to respond to feedback from the community of photographers who’ve got involved. We’ve been building more prestigious juries, running exhibitions in further-flung places, adding portfolio review services, adding an annual Series Award and so on.

Where does this inspiration for the themes come from?

I’ve always been uncomfortable with the classic photographic categories of “landscape”, “portraiture” etc. They seem limiting, and to me the best work always straddles multiple “genres”. We liked the idea of themes that were a little more open ended, and that could be responded to imaginatively. Really, we’re interested in storytelling, and that might be through reportage, or portraiture or street photography or studio work… We want themes that are open to interpretation and a bit of boundary pushing. Every so often (like this month) we do still run a fully Open Call without a theme, just to provide an access point to photographers who feel their work doesn’t fit our other themes, or don’t want to wait months to submit.

What can we expect from Life Framer’s 5th Edition exhibitions?

Each Edition showcases the work of our 24 winners (2 winners per 12 monthly themes) and our 5th Edition exhibitions will start on 23rd September in London at Bermondsey Project Space, before moving on to Milan on 16th October at Officine Fotografiche. This year we’re trying to bring a digital element into the exhibitions, and to programme a few events so you can expect some talks and portfolio review sessions at the galleries (watch our Instagram feed for info on those).

What’s in store for LF in 2020?

Our 6th Edition will be up and running, and we’re currently arranging exhibition spaces for that – this time in some pretty cool art hubs we haven’t been to before. We’re really proud of the jury we’ve managed to assemble, and will also be launching a few new ventures as part of the Life Framer brand, although I need to stay pretty tight lipped for now.

Dates for your diary:

Life Framer 5th Edition Exhibition, from Sept 23rd at Bermondsey Project Space

Exhibiting Your Work: Relevance, Reality + Sustainability – panel discussion 6pm, Sept 25t, Bermondsey Project Space

IMG 1 © Open Call, Willem Kuijpers
IMG 2 © Face of the Earth, Michael Meissner
IMG 3 © Face of the Earth, Sage Szkabarnicki Stuart
IMG 4 © The Human Body, Jo Bayliss

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