Alighting at Peckham Rye train station in south London, a short walk across a busy market street takes you to the Bussey Building complex, a former cricket-bat factory that is now home to an assortment of bars, music venues, yoga studios and art spaces, including the Copeland Gallery.
This bright exhibition space is once again the main site of Peckham 24 festival of contemporary photography, celebrating its third edition this year and running over the weekend of 18 to 20 May to coincide with Photo London – more than the 24 hours with which it launched and took its name.
“Last year we were literally pushing people out of the door at midnight,” laugh the co-founders, Vivienne Gamble, whose Seen Fifteen gallery is in a nearby space, and artist Jo Dennis.
Although still classed as a photography festival newcomer, Peckham 24 has quickly evolved since it launched in 2016. In what has become something of a counterpoint to Photo London, showcasing contemporary practice at the heart of south London’s most dynamic art scene, Peckham 24 attracts a young crowd (especially on the opening night, when many people head down after Offprint), and is not constrained by lack of space or early closing times.
“Our site has the opportunity to do a lot of extra things,” says Gamble.“Copeland is a hire space, but we knew we could bring quite a lot of people over. It’s massive, so artists have the freedom to do slightly different installations.”
Dennis adds, “When we’re choosing artists, we want to be experimental and more experiential.”
Elsewhere within the Copeland Gallery, Tom Lovelace returns to curate another show, this year presenting Concealer, featuring artists including Hannah Hughes and Ruth van Beek, who deliberately attempt to distort our understanding of visual depictions of the familiar world around us with a collection of distinct, abstract works.
Lovelace’s own work will show in My London, curated by Emma Bowkett, director of photography at the FT Weekend Magazine. The exhibition highlights nine commissions Bowkett has made over the years for the special Photo London supplement published by the magazine, for which photographers created arresting visual projects about the capital. Her selection also includes Campbell Addy, Jonny Briggs, Hannah Starkey, Dafna Talmor and Lorenzo Vitturi.
Australian interdisciplinary artist Zoë Croggon will exhibit work curated by Iona Fergusson (who was behind Sohrab Hura’s much-talked about audiovisual presentation last year), while performance and collage artist Lalu Delbracio will be appearing live on the opening Friday.
Gamble’s own gallery, Seen Fifteen, presents a solo exhibition by Taisuke Koyama. A self- taught photographer who originally trained in biology and environmental sciences in Tokyo, Koyama’s Sensor_Code explores the light sensitivity of sensors in digital cameras, resulting in a sculptural presentation of inkjet prints hanging from the ceiling. A video of a related project, Nonagon Photon, will be projected on an outside wall.
Other venues include two neighbouring derelict houses; Safehouse 1 presents Overhaul, a collaborative exhibition exploring The Peckham Experiment from a modern perspective by Laura Pannack, Rhiannon Adam and Natasha Caruana. Safehouse 2 will be taken over by a transformative installation by Dennis, raising questions about our dependence on technology.
“It’s what Peckham is about – repurposing old spaces,” says Dennis, who has made an alternative career of doing just that as co-founder of Asylum and Maverick Projects (AMP). The Hannah Barry Gallery and AMP are also hosting shows, as well as a small space in Holdrons Arcade exhibiting the winner of their open call.
“It’s about the spaces we are in all year round,” says Gamble. “We all met by just being on this site [Gamble, Dennis and Lovelace all have studio spaces in Peckham]. There’s already a community here to build this big event around. You don’t have to force it, you just encourage people to work together to show it off!”
Dennis adds, “It’s bringing the photography world to Peckham in a way it hasn’t before.”
Indeed, having joined in as media partner last year, this time around BJP has become much more involved and will be staging a small exhibition of five of this year’s Ones To Watch – Valeria Cherchi, David Denil, Rie Yamada, Phoebe Kiely and Phillip Prokopiou. “We’re really excited to be part of Peckham 24,” says BJP editor Simon Bainbridge.
“While Photo London brings together some of the world’s most renowned photography dealers in a landmark building between the Thames and The Strand in the West End, Peckham 24 represents another reality – that of the emerging artists, producers and galleries who have helped create such a vibrant arts scene away from the centre and gentrified east London.
“Last year’s opening night was buzzing; a meeting of the two worlds, with hundreds of young artists and students mixing with the collectors and curators and publishers who’d come over from Photo London and Offprint, drinking and talking together into the early hours of Saturday morning.
“It’s the ideal place to present the new generation of talents we are showcasing in this issue, and the first event we’ve produced since joining Futures, a new platform with funding for promoting early career photographers across Europe.”
The initiative, co-funded by the Creative European programme of the European Union, was put into place by Unseen Art Fair and the Vandejong creative agency in Amsterdam, who invited BJP to join the network alongside nine other organisations – Photo España in Madrid; Camera, the Italian Centre of Photography in Turin; Hyères festival in the south of France; Fotomuseum in Antwerp; Fotofestiwal in Lodz; Hamburg Triennial of Photography; the Capa Centre in Budapest; Photo Ireland in Dublin; and Photo Romania in Cluj-Napoca.
Each will present shows and events of their own talent programmes in their own countries, and then elements of these will come together for a large-scale exhibition at Unseen in September.