“This year’s theme is Belonging,” says PhotoEast/Panos Pictures director Adrian Evans. “Brexit, Trump and the rising tide of nativism and nationalism inspired us to explore just what belonging means today from the role of family and community through to larger global concerns.”
Initially, Evans set up the festival with his wife Jo after moving to rural Suffolk, in an attempt to “bring something of what we did in our daily working life to where we lived.” For the second festival they were keen to broaden the appeal and and accommodate different points of view.
“You get bored of your own taste after a while and we love the FT Weekend Magazine and the way they use photography,” says Evans, “so we approached Emma Bowkett and Josh Lustig (director and deputy director of photography on the magazine) to curate a series of shows around this year’s theme.” In response, Bowkett and Lustig brought together over 30 photographers, including Mark Power, Matt Eich, Sian Davey, Giulietta Verdon-Roe and Julian Germain.
“We are keen to investigate the theme of Belonging through different photographic approaches and aesthetics,” say Bowkett and Lustig. “It’s a relatively broad concept, but it has provided us with a strong framework to hone in on.
“It also, coincidentally, tied in with the 2018 FTWM photography special issue which we publish each year in January. This year’s theme was Identity, and two of the artists we’re showing at PhotoEast are also featured in the special issue – Nina Mangalanayagam and Adama Jalloh.”
“Our aim is to showcase work that is both challenging and diverse, looking at younger and early-career photographers such as Cian Oba-Smith, whom we have worked with a lot here on the magazine, and Adama, and to more established, well-known practitioners like Seba Kurtis, Mark Power, Daniel Meadows and Sian Davey. As well as from the more general, such as the national borders and physical landscapes of Giulietta Verdon-Roe, to the specific and deeply personal work, such as Nina and Sian.”
For Evans, one of the most fulfilling aspects of setting up the festival was creating an event that connected with the people of Ipswich. “Often we have been to festivals where the location is just that, a location with little to no engagement with the people who actually live and work there,” he tells BJP. “We always wanted PhotoEast to work with the local community and commission new work that relates directly to Ipswich, and we will continue to do so.”
Many of the exhibitions are outdoors and are aimed directly at the non-gallery going audience – presented in gallery spaces, shipping containers, cafes and outdoor billboards along the Ipswich Waterfront during the month-long event.
Previously in 2016, PhotoEast partnered with the local bus company to commission George Georgiou to photograph Ipswich from the local bus network. This included a major workshop on the buses led by Georgiou with local photographers and a major outdoor exhibition of his work during the festival itself. “This year we’re running a participatory studio portrait project with local refugees and local photographer Gillian Allard,” says Evans.
“2018 also happens to be the 40th anniversary of Ipswich Town winning the FA Cup,” he adds, “and we’re working with Julian Germain, a lifelong Ipswich Town supporter, to create a body of work exploring football’s place in creating a sense of community, identity and belonging.”
Ultimately, Evans says the main goal of the festival is twofold – to put Suffolk on the map for photography, but also for it “to be known as an excellent, thoughtful, inclusive visual arts event that makes people want to visit Ipswich and in turn, make the town feel proud of what it has to offer.”