Colwyn Bay Turned into Art Gallery with New Photo Festival

A North Wales seaside town is to become a massive outdoor art gallery as part of a brand new photo festival.

Colwyn Bay is partnering with Aberystwyth to host the inaugural Northern Eye International Photography Festival, with a host of speakers from the world of photography, including the past and present picture editors of the Guardian and Observer newspapers.

The festival, which kicks off on October 9, will also raise funds for the Grenfell Tower Appeal, as it marks the first public showing of the work of renowned photographer Brian David Stevens.

He has taken photos of the block of flats every day since June 15, when the building burst into flames, claiming more than 80 lives and leaving many more residents badly injured. Visitors to the exhibition of his work will be asked for donations to the appeal for funds to help victims.

Dozens of Colwyn Bay shops have also signed up to exhibit images by photographers from around the globe on the theme of legend – linked to the Welsh Government’s 2017 Year of Legend. Their work will be blown up to A3 size for the two-week exhibition – at the end they will be entered into a photo swap, which will see them paired with another photographer at random to enable them to develop an ongoing working partnership.

Amateur and professional photographers have until Monday September 25 to submit work  for the Legend Print Swap photo trail.

The festival is organised by photographer Paul Sampson, curator of Oriel Colwyn – the only dedicated photography gallery in North Wales.

He said: “We have partnered with Aberystwyth Eye Festival, which is held every other year. This year it is a fallow year for them, so we are stepping in with this event, which is why it’s called the Northern Eye International Photography Festival.

“It has also given us access to some major names in the profession, such as Eamonn McCabe, the previous picture editor of the Guardian and Observer, who has won every top photo award. He’s also a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and the National Museum of Film, Photography and TV,  and hosted the series Britain in Focus – A Photographic History for BBC4.

“Eamonn and his successor at the Guardian, Bridget Coaker, will be speaking at a two-day conference at Theatr Colwyn on October 14-15, which is a paid-for event. Tickets for this event are already being snapped up by people from all around the UK and we are expecting a lot of interest.

“Other speakers are Roger Tiley from Swansea, who photographed striking miners during the 1980s and has gone back to re-photograph them 30 years on; Environmental Photographer of the Year Jonathan Goldberg from London whose work addresses issues around sustainable living, such as the Transition Towns movement; and Amanda Jackson from Malvern in Worcestershire, whose series To Build A Home depicts life at the Lammas Eco Village in Pembrokeshire.

“There will also be a chance for ticket-holders to book a slot with a speaker and have their work critiqued – a very rare chance to get such professional advice and guidance.”

Paul, whose professional work includes photographing stars such as Sir Tom Jones, Bryan Adams, Elton John and Lionel Ritchie performing at Stadiwm Zip World in Parc Eirias, added: “We aim at Oriel Colwyn to stage exhibitions of a quality that are more usually only available in large cities, and I am very pleased that we have been able to bring this calibre of work to Colwyn for everybody to enjoy.”

The festival is being supported by the Bay of Colwyn Town Council and Colwyn Business Improvement District (BID), which aims to improve the conditions of the business communities in Colwyn Bay, Rhos-on-Sea, Old Colwyn and Mochdre.

BID project manager Anna Openshaw said: “The Northern Eye International Photography Festival will bring in a lot of people to the area, which is good news for both tourism providers and other local businesses.

“In addition, the free exhibitions, which will be on show around Colwyn from October 9 for two weeks, means that there is plenty for everybody to see plus time to enjoy them.

“We are also encouraging shops and other businesses to sign up for the Legend Photo Swap, so there is a photo trail around Colwyn for visitors to enjoy, 24/7.”

Among the photographers exhibiting are Ed Brydon, who grew up in Menai Bridge and now lives and works in New York. He has captured images of people in Remsen in central New York –  all of whom can trace Welsh family roots –  plus their relatives in North Wales.

The exhibition also showcases work from past and current students at Coleg Llandrillo to mark the tenth anniversary of its photography courses. Among the students whose work will be on show are Alan Whitfield and Gemma Pepper, while staff who teach on the course will also be contributing work.

Other photos include images of triangulation pillars – or trig points –  on North Wales landmarks by photographers Stephanie Wynne and Stephen McCoy from Crosby on Merseyside. They have visited all the UK’s 310 primary trig points, which were built between 1936 and 1962 by the Ordnance Survey to enable accurate mapping. Their work includes commercial photography and they will also be speaking on October 14 at Theatr Colwyn about how they balance their professional work with the pursuit of personal photographic projects.

US photographer Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin, one of Time Magazine’s 12 African American photographers to follow, will be making his UK debut with The Los Angeles Recordings, a photographic record of L.A.’s changing urban landscape.

October 13 sees the launch at the festival of FfotonWales’ #urbanwales photo-zine, with Instagram images celebrating street photography from around Wales.

Workshops cover how to self-publish a photo-zine; camera skills with experts from Colwyn Bay’s Cambrian Photography; taking photos at music gigs by the 02 Academy official photographer Mark McNulty; and book-biding with Tilt & Shift gallery from Llanwrst.

As part of the festival Theatr Colwyn will screen Blow-Up, Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 British-Italian film starring David Hemmings, as a fashion photographer who believes he has unwittingly captured a murder on film.

The festival will be the first time that the images of the burnt-out shell of Grenfell Tower have been put on show in the UK.

Photographer Brian David Stevens said: “I started to photograph Grenfell Tower the day after the fire. I took these pictures as a member of the public.

“I was in the same state of shock as everybody was as I walked around the block. I didn’t want to use privileged viewpoints, I wanted the same view as everybody else. I used a camera with a fixed lens that gives a similar viewpoint to your eyes, you are seeing what I’m seeing and hopefully nothing is getting in the way of that vision.

“I photographed the area every day for a month after the disaster, circling the tower. You have to immerse yourself in the subject, but no matter how many times I went back, each time I saw the burnt out husk of Grenfell Tower it utterly floored me.

“I knew I had to try to make honest, respectful work, and I hope I have.”

Speaker Roger Tiley was previously a commercial photographer before turning freelance, with his work documenting the miners’ strike published in national titles. During the strike, Roger was warned by NUM officials not to photograph the LGBT involvement with the miners -which he says is one of his biggest regrets.

He will be talking about re-visiting the mining communities and his project examining the many areas of the gay, lesbian and transgender communities.

He said: “This project began fairly recently when I was invited to photograph the members of the LGBT Support the Miners group, as they revisited the Dulais valley some 30 years on from the 1984/85 miners’ strike, as portrayed in the film Pride.”

He will also talk about Crisis Skylight – he was commissioned by the homeless charity to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Working with Crisis staff and members, Roger made portraits printed on photocopy paper tiles and placed them in the landscape where member were or still are sleeping rough. Members were also invited to write text indicating their feelings during the past and their ambitions for the future.

For more information about the Northern Eye Festival from October 9-21, including how to buy tickets for the speakers on October 14 & 15, please visit northerneyefestival.co.uk

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