Peckham 24

As Peckham 24 opens its doors for its 4th edition, Emma Bowkett, director of photography at FT Weekend Magazine, discusses her new exhibition, the definition of community and the subtleties of language and narrative within photography

I wondered to myself whether this whole community that seemed so grey
and heavy 
was hiding an array of colours and a sparkle in their souls
for those who could see 
beyond the surface
– E.A Karlfeldt, 1926

Peckham, the alleged birthplace of William Blake’s poem Angel and once home to Antony Gormley’s phallic Bollards is today hosting the 4th edition of Peckham 24, a contemporary photography art fair held across its Copeland Gallery, Unit 8 and Seen Fifteen. 

Co-founded by artist Jo Dennis and curator Vivienne Gamble, the short festival— showcasing the work of 25 international artists across 13 exhibitions, including Larry Achiampong, Maja Daniels and Raymond Meeks — endeavours to highlight the collaborative effort between artist, curator and community alike, returning this year to its grassroots with a theme harnessing both Collaboration x Community.

Baud Postma, Photographic Memory

Photographic Memory, displayed at Safehouse 2, reimagines the first ever shared facebook album of artist Baud Postma documenting his travels through the Sahara, presented alongside film-stills from David Lean’s 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia and an immersive installation created with set designer Jabez Bartlett. Using his personal archive as departing point, Postma depicts both a ‘death’ of first-hand experience within the social media age and photography as a new means through which to construct the self.

Where John Berger in his essay Understanding a Photograph looked at photography’s integral play with time and the human choice made “between photographing at x moment or at y moment”, Postma develops this within the context of our digital age and social identity. What decision is now being made? 

Tenzing Dakpa, Urgency/Calling 2016, from the series The Hotel

For those who could see beyond the surface displayed at the Copeland Gallery also presents the work of six leading international artists and their disparate personal and political engagements with their external surroundings. Using photography, dance, sculpture and sound art Marianne Bjørnmyr, Tenzing Dakpa, Maja Daniels, Katrin Koenning, Raymond Meeks and Alexander Mourant respectively depict the tension that exists between both community and identity, the external and internal, beautifully illustrating Berger’s thoughts on the photograph as “recording what has been seen, always and by its nature refers to what is not seen”. 

Curator Emma Bowkett, director of photography at the Financial Times Weekend Magazine and winner of the Firecracker Contributors Award (recognising women who have had a substantial impact on the photography industry), talked to Port on the experimental energy of Peckham24, emotional response to photography and the slippery definition of community in the present political and cultural moment.

As part of the advisory committee and a curator at Peckham24, what is it that particularly resonates with you when looking at an artist’s work?

With regards to what resonates, it is often an emotional response. I will be drawn to an artists’ work by their creative approach to storytelling, the subtleties of this language and the vigour in which they strive to communicate this narrative.

The theme for this year’s edition of Peckham24 celebrates its grassroots, founded in community and collaboration. You have said that the term ‘community’ is becoming ever more fluid and complex. Can you talk a little about your curatorial process for the exhibition? How did you select artists in relation to the theme of community?

These six artists are people I have been working with for some time, or artists I have been wanting to work with. I made the decision to focus on the theme of community and Raymond Meeks’ project Halfstory Halflife was the first work selected for it. I had seen his prints at Unseen Photo Fair with Galerie Wouter van Leeuwen and was completely blown away by it. I showed Katrin Koenning at Triennale der Photographie Hamburg last year and was keen to work with her again. Alexander Mourant made new work for this show but also for the FT Weekend Magazine Photo London supplement. I think it felt natural to bring these artists together in the space.

The title for your exhibition at this year’s Peckham24 is For those who could see beyond the surface. To me, the title’s use of tense is ambiguous, creating multiple possible interpretations. Could you expand a little on the choice behind this title?

The concept of community itself is ambiguous, I deliberately chose a title that would reflect this. What draws people together in commonality can be a physical or metaphorical space. Or it can be music, politics, religion – layers of these threads intertwined. The title is taken from a text that was published in the 1926 Swedish Tourism Association Yearbook. E.A Karlfeldt describes his encounter with Tenn Lars Persson and Maja Daniels uses the text as the opening quote for her book “Elf Dalia”. I loved its contemporary feel. Here below, the quote in full:

“I wondered to myself whether this whole community that seemed so grey and heavy was hiding an array of colours and a sparkle in their souls for those who could see beyond the surface.”

“This year Peckham24 is showcasing dance, sculpture, film and sound alongside photography. What do you think these additional art forms bring to the group exhibition?

There is an experimental energy to Peckham 24 which allows us to be bold, for us to try new things and see where they take us.

Peckham 24 is on from the 17th to the 19th May 2019. For those who could see beyond the surface is on at the Copeland Gallery and Photographic Memory is displayed at Safehouse 2.

Peckham 24

Port‘s photography director introduces one of the most exciting events from a weekend devoted to photography in London

The third week in May is fast becoming the most important in the London photo calendar. In part, this is because of the launch of Photo London, Foam Talent opening at Beaconsfield Gallery and Offprint taking over the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. The most exciting event, however – taking place in the south London district of Peckham – is the three-day festival, Peckham 24My London, one of the highlights, occupies the trendy Copeland Gallery, tucked away behind the Bussey Building, a Victorian cricket bat factory-cum-mixed-use art space.

Since the first edition of the art fair Photo London launched at Somerset House in 2015, The Financial Times Weekend Magazine has been publishing a photography special to coincide with it. For each issue Emma Bowkett, the director of photography at the FT Mag, has invited four contemporary photographers to produce a series of images about the city. Bowkett, who was also the photography director for our 19th issue, is showcasing works from nine artists involved in the special issue of the FT Mag: Campbell Addy, Jonny Briggs, Antony Cairns, Juno Calypso, Chrystel Lebas, Tom Lovelace, Hannah Starkey, Dafna Talmor, Lorenzo Vitturi.

Tom Lovelace, Black-Marble London No.1

There are not many young photographers who can claim to be more London than Juno Calypso, who was our alternate cover star for our five year anniversary issue. Over the past few years, she has been taking the capital’s art world by storm, and it’s fitting that visitors to Peckham 24, the capital’s youngest and coolest photo festival, will be greeted at My London by Light Therapy – a larger-than-life, pink, three-meter-tall self-portrait of Calypso. Campbell Addy, who heads up Nii Jornal and Nii Agency, is showing a new series of twenty-five images of his milieu, in a work aptly titled My World. The photos sit in what is one of the most interesting and ambiguous spaces in photography – somewhere between fashion and art.

Contrastingly but also newly produced, Dafna Talmor has photographed the Thames and produced an artwork by collaging sliced negatives. The work fits within her existing practice and becomes part of her series Constructed Narratives that “references early Pictorialist tendencies of combination printing as well as Modernist experimental techniques such as montage, collage and multiple exposures.”

My London runs at Peckham 24, Copeland Gallery, Copeland Park, 133 Copeland Rd, London SE15 3SN from 18th-20th May 2018