Reclaim Photography Festival, West Midlands, was founded in the UK during 2015, following conversations with our Reclaim Photography Swedish colleagues, and subsequently led to our first international artistic project, dedicated to the memory of Reclaim participant Goran Popović – Coga.
The concept of Reclaim Photography began in Sweden during 2011 through a group of photographers who wanted to inspire people, take art photography back to the streets and public spaces, spread photography as an art form and create a new visual language in our everyday environments. Find out more on our history page →
The aim of our first international Reclaim Photography Festival was to offer a completely democratic and inclusive project, free of cost or competition for all participants, by taking back art photography to our streets and public spaces. Individuals suffering particular hardships are often financially stretched or are unable to access photography competitions and exhibitions. This project offered the public and emerging artists the opportunity to showcase their creativity and to exhibit their work alongside our international Reclaim Photography colleagues, and established internationally exhibiting photographers. We were overwhelmed by their response, having received prints from participants world-wide, for the street events, which were displayed in collaboration with our partners, across five venues in the West Midlands region.
To accompany the street events we hosted a joint gallery exhibition, which offered the public a unique opportunity to see a selection of photographs from Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the USA.
The exhibition showcased a selection of limited edition and signed hand prints from UK and internationally renowned and emerging art photographers, including fine art, landscape, mixed-media, photojournalism, portraiture and social documentary photography, thus making photography accessible to everyone.
It was thanks to the generosity of all of the photographers involved, who selflessly donated their work, that we were able to stage these exhibitions for the viewing public and to raise funds for regional charities. Prints from the street and gallery exhibitions were auctioned for Ladies Fighting Breast Cancer and provided photography collectors the opportunity to support our international art photographers and our emerging artists; our great photographers of the future. We also self-funded an international group autumn exhibition at Dimbola Lodge, the home of the Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.
During our second year, we were able to offer an electronic submission process, enabling photographers to save further printing costs. We offered professional awards and a travelling gallery exhibition. We also worked with regional foster children and St Basils charity on a special project, “A Day in the Life… Hear Me… See Me…” After the spring festival closed, we self-funded a print auction to raise funds and awareness for St Basils charity. We also self funded our second autumn exhibition.
For our third international Festival Reclaiming Our Future, we were thrilled to host our international exhibition alongside talks events and popup displays across the West Midlands. We were also delighted to be invited to organise a special Black Country project: Reclaiming Our Industrial Might, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Black Country Living Museum, capturing the people, places and industries, past and present, of the Black Country region. This special exhibition travelled to Himley Hall and Park during 2019. In addition, we curated a special exhibition of work by local photographers and students at the John Lewis Community Hub, organised a week-long collaboration with staff and students at Stratford Upon Avon College, and offered professional awards for some of our gallery exhibitors.
2020 saw a return to the essence of the Reclaim Photography Sweden manifesto by showcasing the best in art photography. Twenty-three regional, UK and international photographic artists set out to explore the aesthetic value of Wabi Sabi through analogue, camera-less and digital photography, creating unique and limited-edition fine art prints, with an international group exhibition, Beauty in Imperfection.
During the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond, we continue to support our photographic exhibitors and community through book and project promotions via our web and online platforms. We also continue to plan future collaborations, events and exhibitions.
Reclaim Photography Festival is a community arts project which offers an annual programme of collaborations, events and exhibitions, aimed at promoting art photography through inclusive projects free of cost. We encourage participation from young people and those most disadvantaged.
We are committed to encouraging participation and to providing professional, volunteer and work experience opportunities for young people and emerging artists. Reclaim Photography Festival continues to develop partnerships with community and student groups, show artwork from regional and international photographers and exhibit them across our public spaces and in our galleries, both here in the UK and internationally. Reclaim Photography Festival West Midlands is not affiliated or associated with any charities, clubs, member groups, organisations or societies.
Reclaim Photography Festival is directed by Maxine Watts, organised by Reclaim Photography West Midlands, and supported by multiple partners from the UK and international origins.