Peckham 24 is back with a program that blurs the lines between the real and imagined

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© Valeria Cherchi.

This year, the festival extends beyond its annual home in Copeland Park, featuring an exhibition at South London Gallery and a “very small book fair” under Peckham Rye’s railway arches

Returning to South East London once again, this year’s Peckham 24 is themed FACT FICTION FANTASY. The works on show play with the slippery distinctions between those three words, probing ideas of truth and imagination. 

Opening this Friday and running till Sunday 15 May, the festival was founded in 2016 by curator Vivienne Gamble and artist Jo Dennis. It was conceived as a way to extend the celebrations of photography that take place during Photo London each year, out to the south of the city.

Projects on display include a surrealist show by Venezuelan artist Lucia Pizzani, a dreamlike exploration of magic and superstition by German artist Elena Helfrecht, and an installation set to upend notions of image consumption with works by Ruth Beraha, Alix Marie and Jonny Briggs. As part of a wider project exhibiting artists who grew up in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, Gareth McConnell presents a vivid series of floral hallucinations. 

© Gareth McConnell.
© Gareth McConnell.
Les Gatiantes, 2016. © Alix Marie.

Last year’s festival was themed SOLIDARITY: a direct response to the waves of public protest during the pandemic. “We began the new year thinking that we were turning a corner post-pandemic, and that 2022 was going to be a year of positive regeneration,” says Gamble. When Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the team had already agreed on FACT FICTION FANTASY, but considered changing its theme to reflect on the war.

“Ultimately, though, we decided that optimism was important, as long as we balanced the festival programme in a way that incorporated dialogue on the more sinister forces at play,” says Gamble. “Hopefully the viewer will enjoy the tension between darkness and light which oscillates across our shows.”

© Aishwarya Arumbakkam.
© Aishwarya Arumbakkam.

A major new addition to this year’s programme is a partnership with South London Gallery, where it presents a show by Aishwarya Arumbakkam exploring themes of myth and identity. Another highlight is the festival’s Open Call winners, Rake Collective – who explores police states and systems of control – and Gisela Torres, who offers an uncanny dialogue with a figure from the past.

Alongside this year’s exhibitions, the festival is also partnering with Biblioteka – a photobook library space newly opened under the railway arches at Peckham Rye. “They are hosting ‘a very small bookfair’ of independent publishers which promises to be another welcome addition, especially for photo book lovers,” says Gamble.

Peckham 24 opens in on Friday 13 May at 6pm in Copeland Park, Peckham. The exhibitions and events will run until Sunday 15 May. 

Joanna Cresswell

Joanna L. Cresswell is a writer and editor based in Brighton. She has written on photography and culture for over 40 international magazines and journals, and held positions as editor for organisations including The Photographers' Gallery, Unseen Amsterdam and Self Publish, Be Happy. She recently completed an MA in comparative literature and criticism at Goldsmiths College, University of London