Early developers

New season of exhibitions and events celebrates early photography in Birmingham.

Developed In Birmingham is a season of exhibitions, events and activities celebrating early photography in the city, devised by curator and photographic historian Pete James, which runs from 15th June until 3rd September 2017.

Two complimentary exhibitions; Thresholds, a virtual reality artwork by Mat Collishaw at the Waterhall Gallery, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and A White House on Paradise Street by Jo Gane at Birmingham Open Media, accompany the season which explores early photography in Birmingham in 1839 through a variety of hands-on workshops, talks, walks, and events in a range of venues and public spaces across the city.

Throughout the summer members of the public and photography enthusiasts can learn about historic photographic processes using a range of techniques to create their own cameras out of re-cycled materials, hear the artists and photographers involved talk about their work – how they create work and what inspires them, join in photo walks around the city looking again at familiar places and placing them within the history of photography as well as signing up to participate in portrait sessions using antique photographic techniques.

Conceived and developed by Mat Collishaw and Pete James, Thresholds will restage one of the earliest exhibitions of photography which took place in 1839 when British scientist William Henry Fox Talbot presented his photographic prints to the public at King Edward’s School in Birmingham. The experience will be fully immersive with visitors walking freely through a digitally reconstructed room. A soundscape for Thresholds will include the sound of demonstrations of the Chartist protesters who rioted in 1839 on the streets of Birmingham, and who can be glimpsed through the digital windows. Alongside the exhibition visitors can view rare archive material from The King Edwards Foundation Archive as well as a series of new works by sculptor and installation artist Cornelia Parker.

A White House on Paradise Street by Jo Gane in collaboration with Pete James and Leon Trimble is inspired by the absence of what has been claimed by some writers to be the first photographic image made in Birmingham, and potentially the first image made in England using the daguerreotype photographic process*. Now missing, the image is said to have depicted a White House on Paradise Street, and is thought to have been made by George Shaw in late August or early September 1839.

In response to research by Pete James, the exhibition places small time machine camera devices around the city in locations relevant to key moments and events in the early history of photography in Birmingham. These devices are constructed using historic techniques in mahogany by master cabinetmaker Jamie Hubbard, to resemble the Wolcott daguerreotype camera patented in 1840. Artist Leon Trimble has used Raspberry Pi micro computers to enable them to live stream analogue images from inside the camera back into the gallery space and online.

Pete James, Artistic Director for Developed in Birmingham said: “This new season of events and exhibitions celebrates Birmingham’s incredible role in the development of photography both in terms of the processes pioneered here through to the first photographs and exhibitions. With the current rise in digital photographs we look forward to working with a range of artists to encourage people to look again both at their city and at how they photograph it.”

Jo Gane, Artistic Director for Developed in Birmingham added: “There really is something for everyone, from budding young photographers to established artists looking to expand their knowledge of those first processes and photographs taken right here in Birmingham. I’m particularly excited to see how people respond to my exploration of George Shaw’s missing early Daguerreotype and look forward to a fantastic summer celebrating photography from the 1830s through to present day.”

Developed in Birmingham has been made possible by funding from Arts Council England, University of Birmingham, Argentea Gallery and Millennium Point and is supported by BOM (Birmingham Open Media), Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and neighbouring development, Paradise.

Full event details will be available on the Developed in Birmingham website.