Review: Photography festival, Photomonth east London

14:54 11 October 2011

Peter Marshall

Peter Marshall's work looks at how Stratford used to be before the Olympic developments

Archant

Photomonth east London is an international photography festival. Now in its 11th year more than 100 galleries and venues are exhibiting work by established and emerging photographers.

Major events include the Photofair in Spitalfields Traders Market, the Photolounge at the Old Truman Brewery, the Photomonth lecture at the Whitechapel Gallery and the Photo-open at the Rich Mix. There is also a whole series of Photowalks and a range of workshops, portfolio reviews, seminars, talks and discussions providing opportunities for everyone to engage in photography.

Festival director Maggie Pinhorn stresses: The festival aims to demonstrate the diversity of contemporary photography and reach the widest possible audience. Photomonth owes a great deal of its success to the open call for exhibitions giving the opportunity for emerging artists to be appreciated in a variety of interesting and unusual spaces alongside leading internationally renowned photographers. We are committed to the creative development of photography. The exhibitions present work of the highest possible standard, giving exposure to photographers from the world over as well as those that are locally based or come from other parts of the UK.

The opening, at the venerable Bishopsgate Institute, showed a retrospective of Phil Maxwells work, spanning 40 years of life in the East End. The photos were displayed around the old reference library, which holds a collection of the London archives, making it the ideal background for these historical images.

During the following evenings, I have been enjoying a visual feast: Guy Smallmans committed work on the Afghan conflict, seen from a humanitarian angle, at Amnesty International Human Rights centre; followed by Peter Marshalls black-and-white images from his book Before the Olympics at the Shoreditch Gallery.

Peter shows the Olympic area 20 or 30 years before 2012 and is a part of a long-term project on the Lea Valley. The dramatic prints, digitally produced after scanning the negatives, show a stark contrast to the glitzy images supplied by the PR machine of the Olympic Delivery Authority. The faade of a long-time-ago-bulldozed little greasy caf remind us of what once was the soul of the area: small businesses and a sense of community, now gone forever.

There are more pleasant surprises in store. A walk around Brick Lane and Redchurch Street discloses another dozen venues highlighting the power of the medium. The East Gallery in Brick Lane has been hired by the Uncertain States to showcase their work. Co-founder David George creates cinematic images around east London at night, using a medium format camera and long exposures, the public lamps the only source of light. The eerie images are inspired by Alfred Hitckcocks childhood haunts, and are part of a long-term project to try to photographically capture the famous filmmakers East End childhood as one of the elements that shaped his work. The collective releases a quarterly magazine that attempts to expand a critical dialogue and promote visual imagery. www.uncertainstates.com

With another month of this veritable photo feast to go, I look forward to sharing my discoveries with the readers on a future issue. Highlights to come are Hackney Observed, a screening at the Hackney Museum, and a debate on the coverage of the Arab Spring at Amnesty International. Watch this space!

Photomonth, at more than 100 galleries and spaces in east London, till end of November. To see full programme of events visit 2011.photomonth.org

www.julioetchart.com

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