Since 2014, Reader in Photography Sian Bonnell has curated an annual exhibition of UK graduate photography, featuring over 250 images selected from 16 Universities for the Pingyao International Photography Festival held every September in China. ‘Beyond the Camera’ features a selection of graduate work from across the UK, representing a broad cross section of work which when combined gives an impression of the style, techniques and concerns of emerging photographers, and how they have changed over the last five years.
Pingyao International Photography Festival was founded in 2001, and this was the 18th edition of the festival, themed around ‘Crowd Innovation and Sharing’. Since it was founded the festival has displayed the work of photographers from over 100 countries and regions to an estimated 5 million visitors.
Of the 63 graduates featured in the exhibition 23 had recently graduated from the BA or MA courses at Manchester School of Art. Their work was exhibited in the old cotton factory site of the festival alongside international exhibitions including shows curated by Tracy Marshall and Alasdair Foster; and shows featuring the work of Parsons New School of Design staff and students.
Alumni Stan Platford, Daisy Malivoire and Rachael Burns assisted Sian in China, prepping the work, hanging the show and documenting the exhibition. Arriving in China on the 16th September they had two days to curate and hang the show ahead of the opening on Wednesday the 19th. The festival launched with an Opening Ceremony in the morning, followed by a series of floor talks and slideshows over the opening week.
For Sian, “What comes through in selecting this work, is a real sense of enquiry into what is going on inside and beyond, the camera. The exhibition offers an overview of the concerns and interests of these new practitioners, contextualising a spectrum of interest, from commercial through to conceptual approaches.
In asking questions about the nature of images and the role of digital technology we are forced to re-think how pictures are consumed and shared whilst interrogating just what exactly does constitute a photograph in the 21st century?”