https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/jul/15/my-best-shot-laura-pannack-black-country-wasteland

Photographer Laura Pannack writes about her year-long project in the Black Country commissioned by Multistory for ‘My Best Shot’ in the Guardian.

This month artist Nilupa Yasmin has been in residence in Brixton market as part of a GRAIN and PhotoFusion collaboration. Spending time with the market traders, residents and customers, she will then make a new piece in the PhotoFusion gallery, with visitors able to meet her and engage in her process. At the same time, the gallery will be exhibiting her work inspired by the markets in West Bromwich, commissioned by Multistory, as part of Blast Photo Festival 2019.

Annabel Clarke talks to her about her Brixton residency.

 

I love a market! In fact, when I visit a new place, I always try to seek them out. I feel you can get a good feel of the place from them. What attracts you to them?

I have to admit, I do this too! The surrounding colour and vibrancy are what excite me the most about markets; it’s also something that I try my best to convey through the work I’m creating. Markets have a life of their own, each stall running with their own story and selling their own craft. I’ve learnt the most from markets, be it about the trade or just the many stories the residents have. I always suffer the risk of spending hours (both time and money) in a market just talking to the stall holders. I’m from Birmingham and we have a great market here, so I’ve always been exposed to the market life galore.

Brixton Market is a fascinating one. A real melting pot of cultures, but sadly with the looming threat of gentrification. What sort of things have you discovered and focused on during the creation of your new work? How have residents engaged with the making of the piece?

Brixton is an incredibly multicultural area! but you’re right in that gentrification has already made its way into the stalls. You can see it when you’re walking down the row of shops, in the way they have adapted to the current state of development. Many shops have become a lot more accustomed to accommodating to the current day, age and market they’re selling for. This is in no way a bad thing, as businesses have to thrive, and tapping into their current market is a must for survival; you can almost see the businesses that are being left behind.

Many of the residents speak about all the new shops opening a few doors down, be it the décor of the store or the most obscure things they’re selling. I’ve found that a lot businesses aren’t much aware of the change that’s slowly occurring throughout. Many have been there for years and are seeing it as just one more change in the many years of changes they’ve had. Having had these discussions with them, I fear they’re not aware of how this gentrification is going to affect them and their livelihood.

I’m interested in marrying the visual space of the markets with the products sold, the old with the new and the traditional with the modern. Residents have a lot of opinions about the ambiguous products sold by their neighbours, but are very interested in how different and far the market has come from when they started. They have all been very welcoming and very eager in answering questions I have; the hardest part has been trying not buy everything I see. I think they see me as someone who’s come to take photos of their shops and interview them, so I’m quite excited to show them what I’m actually doing with their images.

I’ve noticed that there is a very evident wave of energy I receive from the space and I can see it being implemented into the images I’m taking and later weaving. Weaving has become a sense of performance for me in this space, something I’ve never quite honed down so much of when I’m creating work. It may just be the structure and nature of the fact that this is a residency and not a long-term project, but the performative act of weaving in the direction of the images has been rewarding. I’ve woven before but this work is different, there’s character in each piece along with my excitement and surprise in what I’m making.

‘Where Can I Find This?’ © Nilupa Yasmin, 2019.

When will the work be revealed?

The residency runs a little different to what I’ve don’t before and is currently coinciding with my exhibition in Photofusion. ‘Where can I find this?’ is currently on exhibit at Photofusion till mid October.
This work was created through for the Blast! Festival, commissioned by Multistory. I am visiting Brixton throughout September and it has been a different experience in almost restricting myself to stick to just the days I’m there (so far failing!). I’m hoping for the work to be unveiled in October so that it coincides with the last weeks of my exhibition. There is also a hope to give back the work I’m creating to the market in some way, so there is a little pressure in making work they can be both proud and pleased with.

You were commissioned to make new work for Blast! Festival. How has the Forge mentorship programme benefitted your practice? What did you find inspiring about the marketing in West Bromwich. Was there a particular part that you found inspiring?

The Forge mentorship has been highly beneficial for me. Working on such a big project for the Blast! Festival has not only helped boost my confidence but has tremendously improved both my skill and confidence in working with various community spaces. The support I received from the Mulistory team (and even still do) has allowed me to expand my own outreach and keep creating work that is both accessible and for the people it’s about. It’s become an integral part of my practise to both understand and implement accessibility in the work I am producing. A lot of the skills I’ve learnt through the mentorship and commission, I’m still applying now and most specifically in Brixton.

I did not initially intend to focus on market spaces for my commission but almost just fell into it. The Forge artists were working in the six boroughs of Sandwell and I found it quite interesting how each borough had its own markets space. Going around to each one, spending time and listening to their stories is where it all began. Funnily enough, many of the traders had been a part of or had worked in at least one other market in Sandwell, many moving due to markets closing down or management changing. The gentrification isn’t as prominent as it is in Brixton, but there is that underlining issue of market spaces being sold out or of changing over time, which many traders couldn’t work their business into.

What next? 

The next few months are very busy in regard to a various number of projects. I’m exhibiting my ‘Grow me a Waterlily’ installation at The Weavers House in Coventry as part of Coventry’s Biennial of Contemporary Art. The piece explores the context of identity, home and belonging. I am also on the Advisory board for the Biennial, as well as running a number of artist workshops throughout.

In November I’m exhibiting some new work at The New Art Gallery Walsall, a collaboration with GRAIN. It’s unseen work that explores gender identity, womanhood and femininity. A lot of my personal work explore many of these ideals as well as self-exploration into my own identity. It’s been great to step a little away from my commissions/community-based work to dabble back into many themes closer to home. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed delving into a lot of theory around female identity and the implications surrounding the male gaze.

Back to starting up a residency in December/ January on a project with Ort Gallery x Birmingham Hippodrome, as well as being part of their exhibition around social class in February 2020. The residency will look at ideas surrounding identity through craft and photography whilst working with a primary school based in Birmingham. I’ve never worked on a project with a primary school before, so this going to be a very interesting experience.

I think that’s about me for a while. I’m quite excited with the mixture of projects/exhibitions lined up but I know I’m not done with market spaces just yet (I hope).

Where Can I Find This?‘ is on show at Photofusion, Brixton until 9 October 2019. Nilupa will also be showing work at The New Art Gallery Walsall from 15 November 2019 to 19 April 2020.

 

This month artist Nilupa Yasmin has been in residence in Brixton market as part of a GRAIN and PhotoFusion collaboration. Annabel Clarke talks to her about the residency.

Two new publications launched in the region last week, at events at BLAST! Festival in Sandwell and at Birmingham School of Art respectively, aiming to forefront some of the best photography, art and writing happening in the West Midlands.

Photography for Whom? is edited by Anthony Luvera, with support from Grain and Multistory. Published bi-annually, its focus is upon socially engaged photographic practice. Bringing together past projects with contemporary practice, the publication aims to connect themes and concerns that continue to resonate within the field.

Issue 1 of Photography for Whom?, available to buy online, and in bookshops around the country, features a text by Luvera that situates community photography in grass roots political activism while considering its lack of profile in contemporary accounts of the medium. Heinz Nigg’s article explores the WELD Photography Project (the Westminster Endeavour for Liaison and Development) in Birmingham in the 1970s, while Kieran Connell considers the political nature of community photography. Photographs by Trevor Appleson, John Reardon, Derek Bishton, Brian Homer, many of which have been recently on display at MAC Birmingham, are interspersed throughout the publication.

Forward, a free publication edited by Dion Kitson and Tom Glover, locates critical writing, interviews, poetry and artworks at its core, and is available to buy online or free to pick up in galleries across Birmingham. The editors describe Forward as “your principal port of call for art in the West Midlands: what’s good, who’s good, where’s good … It is the beating heart of art in Birmingham and the West Midlands, celebrating the connection between the region and its cultural output.”

Forward’s inaugural issue features contributions from artists Fred Hubble, Foka Wolf, Abi Mardell and others, and interviews with Ikon Director Jonathan Watkins and drag queen Twiggy. A feature on the elitism of the art world by Charlotte Russell, the painting practice of Annette Pugh written by Ruth Millington, and a playful feature by Kitson that connects a historic Halesowen park and a bench proposed by artist Ian Hamilton Finlay to Saddam Hussain and the ‘Iraqi Super Gun’ are all included in this wide-ranging issue.

Two new publications launched in the region last week – Photography for Whom? and Forward, which aim to forefront some of the best photography, art and writing happening in the West Midlands.

Blast! is a new festival from Multistory made with and for the people of Sandwell which runs from Friday 24 May to Saturday 29 June.

The festival has invited 40 artists, photographers and curators to showcase work, develop projects and collaborate with communities to present stories about everyday life. With exhibitions, film screenings, events, talks and walks across Sandwell, Blast! will be presented on the streets, the Metro line, in shops, libraries and pubs, on historic buildings and in the community halls and venues of Sandwell.

The festival takes place over six weeks in each of Sandwell’s six distinct towns: West Bromwich, Tipton, Rowley Regis, Oldbury, Smethwick and Wednesbury.

Highlights include:

The Caravan Gallery / Sandwell Pride of Place Project
24 May – 29 June 2019. Open: 11am – 6pm, Wednesday to Saturday.
Former Poundland, Unit 3, Kings Square Shopping Centre, High Street, West Bromwich, B70 7NW

Photographers Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale of The Caravan Gallery will turn the former Poundland shop (next to West Bromwich bus station) into an exhibition space and alternative ‘Visitor Information Centre’ for the duration of the Festival. The Sandwell Pride of Place Project is a dynamic, diverse and creative celebration of Sandwell and its communities, evolving daily as visitors add to the artwork on display, share stories and make their mark on ‘The People’s Map of Sandwell’. The Caravan Gallery will exhibit their own photographs of Sandwell and publish a set of unofficial visitor guides to the six towns, inspired by people’s responses to their Sandwell Surveys.

 

© Janine Wiedel

Black Country Living
24 May – 29 June. Public locations across Sandwell throughout the festival.

Black Country Living revisits the work of two photographers renowned for their portrayal of the industrial landscape in the West Midlands during the 70s and 80s. Presented across the six towns of Sandwell, the photography of John Myers and Janine Wiedel reflects a rich social history at a time of significant change and upheaval. As a divided Britain contemplates a future outside the EU, how will the changes brought about by Brexit impact on Sandwell, here at the heart of the nation? Curated by New Art West Midlands Director, Craig Ashley.

 

© Jocelyn Allen

Girl Gaze: Journeys Through the Punjab & The Black Country, UK 
24 May – 29 June 2019. Opening times: Wednesday – Saturday, 11am-4pm.
The British Muslim School, Latifiah Fultali Complex, Lodge Road, West Bromwich, B70 8NX

Girl Gaze is a photographic exploration of the Punjab and diaspora communities in the West Midlands through the voices of young girls and women. Bringing together newly-commissioned work by four women artists: Jocelyn Allen (UK), Jennifer Pattison (UK), Andrea Fernandes (India) and Uzma Mohsin (India), the exhibition explores diverse themes regarding gender, identity, patriarchy, tradition, culture, memory, place and the differences that shape the lives of women in both countries.

 

© Erik Kessels

Erik Kessels: Comeback
24 May – 29 June 2019.
West Bromwich Town Hall, High Street, West Bromwich, B70 8DY. Open: Thursday: 1- 6pm, Friday: 10am – 6pm.
West Bromwich Indoor Market, Kings Square Shopping Centre, West Bromwich, B70 7NW. Open: Monday, Wednesday – Saturday: 9am – 5pm, Tuesday: 9am – 4pm.

Comeback is a two-part project by Dutch artist, Erik Kessels, which reappropriates photographic archives found through meeting community groups in the Sandwell area. Tipton Carnival Queens Shine Again will present images of former carnival beauty queens in an installation at West Bromwich Town Hall. Market Hall Turns Into Gallery presents images from Kessels’ own photographic collection placed onto the blinds of the West Bromwich Indoor Market; each image responds to the type of goods being sold in the market stall.

 

© Jon Tonks

Jon Tonks: Stories of Home
24 May – 29 June 2019. Open: Wednesday – Saturday: 11am – 6pm.
Former Poundland shop, Unit 3, Kings Square Shopping Centre, High Street, West Bromwich, B70 7NN
Jon Tonks’ exhibition is a portrait of the Central and Eastern European communities living in Sandwell, home to the biggest Polish population in the UK. The photographs were taken during a two-year period against a 3 of 8 backdrop of divisive geopolitical rhetoric following the 2016 EU referendum. Thanks to their generosity, the project also reveals much about the cultural identity and hopes and fears for the future of each subject. The series explores a question that reaches beyond borders: what binds a community to make a place home?

Artist Talk & Film: Janine Wiedel
Friday 21 June, 1-3pm. Booking essential. £3 per person.
Former Poundland, West Bromwich. B70 7NN

A screening of Camera in the Streets, a documentary about Janine Wiedel’s work photographing industries in the West Midlands, followed by a discussion between Janine Wiedel and curator, Craig Ashley, as part of the Black Country Living exhibition.

The full festival programme can be viewed here.

Blast! is a new festival from Multistory made with and for the people of Sandwell which runs from Friday 24 May to Saturday 29 June.

The festival has invited 40 outstanding artists, photographers and curators to showcase work, develop projects and collaborate with communities to present stories about everyday life. With exhibitions, film screenings, events, talks and walks across Sandwell, Blast! will be presented on the streets, the Metro line, in shops, libraries and pubs, on historic buildings and in the community halls and venues of Sandwell.

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(18)30140-1/fulltext

Medical journal The Lancet, feature Multistory’s recent project Black Country Lungs with Dutch photographer Corinne Noordenbos, which formed part of the Arts and Science Festival at University of Birmingham.

Following a fantastic response to the Blast! call out we’re excited to announce our selection of artists/curators: @anandbcva @andrewjacksonphotos @beth_kane_ @fayeclaridge @katejacksphoto @moif_collage @nilupayasmin_ @redhawklogistica @stephenpburke #TrevorPitt #SOUNDkitchen #vickyroden They’ll all be creating new work for #BlastFestival2019 Congratulations; we’re looking forward to working with you all in the New Year!! . . . #BlastPhotoFestival2019 #multistory #Sandwell #AmbitionForExcellence

Multistory announce the artists working with them on Blast Festival 2019.

Lipi bread, made by the Popa family

Liz Hingley speaks with Anneka French about her current touring exhibition and publication, both titled Home Made in Smethwick. A commission by Multistory, the project was developed between 2014 and 2016 and includes portraits and still lives taken in the homes, social spaces and work places of residents of Smethwick, a town in Sandwell which borders Birmingham.

 

Mariana Popa, Onana Popa, Elizabeth Popa. Sile Popa, Diana Popa, Vanessa Popa

How did the commission for Multistory come about?

Exploring and celebrating the ever-evolving ethnic diversity of cities is an ongoing inspiration for my work. When I was a child growing up in the West Midlands, our Yemeni neighbours often bought over fresh malawah bread; I also have strong memories of scrumptious Caribbean rice and peas eaten at the houses of Barbadian friends.

I was based in Shanghai at the time Multistory commissioned me as part of their Black Country Stories series and I jumped at the opportunity to begin a project which would reconnect me with my West Midlands roots. Multistory had already been working with Martin Parr for four years in Black Country as well as with other photographers I highly respect, such as Mark Power and David Goldblatt, and we wanted to further explore the richness of Smethwick, a small town in the Sandwell, in the Black Country, that is one of the most culturally diverse areas in the UK.

My practice and perspectives developed significantly during the three years I lived in China creating the work Shanghai Sacred whilst spending the summers producing Home Made in Smethwick in the UK. Living between two very diverse locations gave me an understanding and compassion for those who carry their sense of home from place to place.

It has been a personal and surprising journey of discovery and I am only just beginning to reflect on and appreciate this experience.

 

Lipi bread, made by the Popa family

Smethwick has a rich and significant social and political history within the West Midlands and beyond. What specifically drew you to Smethwick?

Smethwick emerged as an industrial centre during the nineteenth century. Rows and rows of tightly packed terraced houses were planted on the surrounding farmland to accommodate the factory workers arriving on masse from the countryside. Since then, these modest houses have become the spaces of new beginnings and have been continually adapted and personalised to suit myriad lifestyles and home-styles. From the 1950 onwards, the paths leading to these homes have extended further and further across the globe.

I was interested to capture how the traditional Victorian terraced houses have been transformed to suit cultures and tastes from around the world.  On my initial wanderings, I found Smethwick’s densely populated streets surprisingly quiet. Only a rich mix of smells seeping out from behind closed doors filled the silent air. Naturally, when resources to make a home in a new environment are limited, food comes before wallpaper or even beds. The taste of home feeds both the body and the mind.

 

Dennis Holmes

Many of the photographs are based in people’s homes. How did you begin and build up relationships with the sitters of your portraits? What was this process like?

I was initially drawn to photography by the opportunity it offers to have uniquely intimate experiences with strangers whom I would not otherwise have the opportunity to meet. Like all relationships, these particular exchanges are built on trust and are intuitive so therefore hard to articulate in words. I want to portray people rather than subjects.

Posing the simple question, ‘What is your favourite recipe?’ from door to door, I was welcomed into homes to join the preparation of personal dishes rich with meaning and memory. Conversation flowed over the kneading of family-size naans; it continued over the harvesting of herbs grown from seeds stuffed into suitcases; and while waiting for blueberry crumble to bake with a cup of Pakistani pink tea. Cooking and eating together drew out remarkable life stories and revealed the complex journeys that have brought people from 130 different countries (and sometimes from just down the street) to their Smethwick home.

All those I met contributed to this celebration of the social heritage and culinary richness of Smethwick today. With the aim of capturing the essence of a community, I have been the lucky guest at their table and passenger on their journey.

 

There is a sense of intimacy and generosity within the work. In what ways does your project explore a sense of family and community?

My photographs are developed through collaboration. I seek opinions on how people wish to be represented and allow them to intervene in positioning themselves. The majority of my time is spent engaging through observation and conversation. After developing an understanding of my subjects and their contexts, I then see the moment to capture.

Using digital camera equipment enabled me to share the results and offer people copies of their images quickly and easily; this was crucial in building trust and sustaining relationships. Returning these photographs led me to engage in further discussion with the individuals. People’s quotes are an integral part of the Home Made in Smethwick book.

Ayeman Ferdos, Hashim Abdullah, Zagham Ali, Shakil Ahmed, Dawud Raza

How do the portraits, still lives and recipes that you collected intersect with one another?

Rather than a cookbook, this collection of portraits and recipes reveals how food can act as a bridge from one continent to another; from one generation to the next; and from one house to its neighbour. The tastes of home are never left behind; they accompany people through their lives. They cement relationships and are passed on and transformed by new generations and new contexts. With this series I hope to celebrate the social heritage and culinary richness of Smethwick today and so reveal another perspective on the migration experience.

In the book the recipes are printed on greaseproof-like transparent paper and inserted over the portraits, opening as doors into the intimate space of peoples front rooms.

 

How does being an anthropologist feed into your photography?

Photography gives me an insight into people’s intimate stories and experiences. It also enables me to reflect on my own perspectives and feelings about life.  I trained as a photographer and then studied anthropology; my work brings these two interests together. I tend to immerse myself in long-term projects that require in-depth research. This led me to begin collaborating with academics to develop the visual side of their research into society. I enjoy the challenge of finding ways to communicate complex issues through imagery and aim to continue producing work which bridges art photography and social research. It is an exciting intermediate space of constant discovery.

 

What are your hopes for the legacy of the project?

The UK is in a crucial time of social assessment and reflection and it is vital that we build a bigger more empathetic picture of ourselves. I hope that this work can become part of this dialogue and remain as an active historic document of Smethwick reveals today.

 

Home Made in Smethwick is currently on display at Blackheath Library. Hingley’s publication can be purchased here.

An interview with artist and anthropologist Liz Hingley about her photographic series Home Made in Smethwick, now a publication and touring exhibition commissioned by Multistory.