22/06/2020 BPF Press Release

A Sense of Place

Exhibitions open spring 2021


Bristol Photo Festival is a new biennial festival with a year-round programme of commissions and collaborations, culminating in a series of exhibitions by both local and international artists in spring 2021. For the first time, all of the city’s major visual arts institutions, alongside independent and unconventional spaces, have come together to create a programme to demonstrate the power and diversity of photography. Each edition of the festival will be themed and display existing work by emerging and established artists, alongside newly commissioned work engaging with multiple aspects of the city of Bristol. 

The theme of the inaugural festival is A Sense of Place. Relating to the theme, there will be year-round collaborative programmes, including projects on natural, domestic and industrial spaces across the city through the construction and contestation of visual archives, alongside the production of new photographic works and text. The exhibitions have been developed in collaboration with curators from venues across the city and includes work by James Barnor, Jessa Fairbrother, Stephen Gill, Thilde Jensen, Lebohang Kganye, Lua Ribeira, Jem Southam, Sarah Waiswa and an exhibition curated by Firecracker. The full programme will be announced in winter 2020.

Festival Highlights include:


Growing Spaces

This collaborative project encompasses the traditional allotment alongside unofficial growing spaces in the city. Local photographer, Chris Hoare has been commissioned to create an ongoing project focusing on city’s allotments, accompanied by a collection of written narratives. In collaboration with allotment holders, societies and food producers, the festival will accumulate an archive of images representing this sector of city life. For further information on ongoing and future collaborations, and for how to participate please visit bristolphotofestival.com/collaborations

Claybottom Allotments © Chris Hoare


Thilde Jensen – The Unwanted at the Martin Parr Foundation

The Unwanted is a visual account of homelessness in America. Over a period of 4 year, Danish photographer, Thilde Jensen, set out across the US to create an authentic document of this community excluded from mainstream society. 

Bobby dragging his blanket to untangle the energy fields. Homeless for 13 years. Las-Vegas, Nevada, 2016 © Thilde Jensen

Stephen Gill – A Retrospective at the The Arnolfini

Bristol-born Stephen Gill has always created work close to home and explored his locality both directly and indirectly. From buying a cheap camera at a car boot sale, then shooting the same sale with this camera, or pressing flowers found on the wastelands of Hackney, onto photos of the same locality – a sense of place is present in his work. This exhibition will draw upon 30 years of Gill’s work from his best-known series to new and previously un-exhibited images

From The Pillar 2015 – 2019 © Stephen Gill

Lebohang Kganye at the Georgian House Museum 

Lebohang Kganyehas been commissioned to create new work to be displayed in the Georgian House Museum, drawing upon the museum’s own history and archive. Using three-dimensional, photographic collage, Kganye’s past work has explored her personal history whilst resonating with the wider history of South Africa. For this new work, the Johannesburg-based artist will weave complex narratives of this 18th century Bristol sugar plantation and slave owners home – drawing together the stories of the inhabitants, and the larger story of Georgian Bristol. 

You couldn’t stop the train in time, 2018 Inspired by The train driver by Athol Fugard. Paper  From ‘Tell Tale’, 2018 © Lebohang Kganye


Bristol Photo Festival will include a unique educational programme involving students from primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities around the city and beyond. With the role and importance of visual literacy in today’s world, the festival will offer critical spaces for the discussion of photography history, its practices and contexts.

We want to challenge the concept of a festival as a month-long event parachuting into a city. We wanted to create a festival for the city, rather than in the city – with an ongoing programme throughout the year which really engages with the locality and local people in the run up to and beyond the exhibition opening week in spring 2021. Although a majority of the work in the exhibitions will not be ‘about’ the city of Bristol, much of it will relate to issues affecting the city both in its past and in the present day. The aim is for the festival to become a collaborative platform that includes participatory, educational and experimental projects reaching a variety of audiences, locations and demographics. This was only made possible thanks to public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.’

Tracy Marshall – Festival Director

For further press information and images please contact Eleanor Macnair  eleanormacnair@hotmail.com  /  07815 780708


The theme – A Sense of Place

To photograph a place is to describe a location that has been shaped, nurtured and even contested. It can define the frontier between nature and culture and hint at the complexities of ownership and access. It can be attended by competing narratives and polarised histories, whether they lean left or right. It can shape our understanding of the world and the
qualities that come to define us…and it can be about belonging, about appreciation and knowing a place so well that it is like no other. 

Confirmed participating venues include:
Arnolfini, Royal West Academy, Martin Parr Foundation, Bristol Museum and Galleries, Spike Island, Georgian House, Watershed and Bristol Archives.

Bristol Photo Festival has been made possible thanks to public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Tracy Marshall has been appointed Festival Director. She is an Arts Director & Producer specialising in the production of photography exhibitions, festivals, education projects and workshops. She is Director of Northern Narratives- the non-venue-based photography production company- and was previously Director of LOOK Photo Biennial, Open Eye Gallery Liverpool and Belfast Exposed Gallery. Tracy has previously been Director of Development for a number of international Arts organisations covering the development of work for classical music, visual arts and literature. Prior to this she had also been a Director of Campaigns for health, social welfare and education charities across UK & Ireland.

Bristol Photo Festival Team

Rudi Thoemmes — Chair/Development Director  | Tracy Marshall — Festival Director | Education and Engagement Director — Alejandro Acin | Artistic Director for 1st Edition  — Martin Parr

Committee Members

Gary Topp —  Director of Arnolfini | Amak Mahmoodian  —  Artist and lecturer in photography at UWE | Becky Peters  — Senior Officer for Programming for Culture & Creative Industries at Bristol City Council | Emma Chetcuti  —  Director of Multistory, Jim Brown  —  Advisor to the voluntary, community and co-operative sector.