Evolution Explored was an ambitious outdoor exhibition of work from the Magnum Photos archive that took place in Shrewsbury town centre and closed just last month. Anneka French caught up with one of the exhibition’s partners, Salla Virman, former CEO of The Hive Arts Centre, to find out more about her motivations for this project.


Installation view of Evolution Explored, Shrewsbury.

Passionate about presenting great art to those outside of large cities, Salla Virman was determined to bring a high-quality project to Shrewsbury in Shropshire. “Just because you’re rural doesn’t mean quality should suffer” she notes.

Evolution Explored, an exhibition of Magnum Photos including pioneering practitioners such as Robert Capa and the much-loved British artist Martin Parr, took inspiration from both Shrewsbury’s association with evolution as the town of Charles Darwin’s birth and from the 70th Anniversary of the photographic archive. Shown outdoors in both St. Mary’s Square and The Square, the project was a collaboration with Grain Projects, Shrewsbury Business Improvement District (BID) and The Hive Arts Centre, and was supported by contributions from Arts Council EnglandRedrow HomesShrewsbury Shopping and Shrewsbury Colleges Group.

On the exhibition’s theme, Virman explains “Magnum Photos recorded some of the most amazing and heart breaking moments of our time. This is not just about the evolution of species but about the evolution of everything within the world around us. The exhibition has a key link with its locality and a much wider relevance too.”

“I hope that the photographs within the exhibition have challenged viewers emotionally and intellectually, allowing new discoveries on art, the natural environment, technology and the changes we are experiencing within society. There is, of course, also something about the evolution of the medium of photography that has been explored through this special presentation.”

Installation view of Evolution Explored, Shrewsbury.


Accompanied by a programme of engagement activities for schools and families delivered by Grain Photography Hub  in collaboration with The Hive, the exhibition offered opportunities to find out more about the photographs and photographers shown as well as offering chances for the general public to get into photography themselves. Partnerships with a variety of organisations have, for Virman, enabled new mutual relationships, perhaps most importantly attracting visitors to the town, improving connections with business, as well as enriching the lives of local people within Shrewsbury.

“The exhibition has been cohesive and visually stunning. I want Shrewsbury to have more events like this. It has really brought the community together.”

Evolution Explored ran from 9 February to 20 April 2017.

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