Developed in Birmingham

Now we’ve announced it on all the usual channels, I’m delighted to be able to finally speak about a project that’s been bubbling away since I first moved back to Birmingham. Together with brilliant people Jo Gane and Philip Singleton, we have formed a new Community Interest Company – Developed in Birmingham CIC – and I’m really excited for what we hope to do.

Developed in Birmingham was originally conceived as a season of photographic events and activities back in 2017 by Jo Gane and the late, great Pete James. I was in London then, but had taken a great interest (and pride) in knowing that such creativity around photography was taking place in my home city. I had attended, at the very first opportunity, Mat Collishaw’s Thresholds, then at Somerset House for Photo London, but which later toured to Birmingham as part of the Developed in Birmingham programme. In fact, I even supported it as a Kickstarter project I was so excited. Here’s my badge!

Thresholds Kickstarter Reward Badge

Pete James’ knowledge and expertise ran through that project: a virtual reality re-staging of Fox Talbot’s exhibition at King Edward’s School, Birmingham in 1839, where he presented his first photogenic drawings. As it happens, I went to one of Birmingham’s King Edward’s Foundation grammar schools here (Handsworth Girls) some 150 years later, and there were eerie visual connections between the two sites, making it personally resonate even more for me.

Anyway, when Thresholds toured to Birmingham I couldn’t make it up there but packed my dad off for a visit. As a retired school photography teacher he loved it of course.

More than three years on, and Pete is so tragically no longer with us. I’d told him I had potential plans to move back to Brum a long while before he passed. How I wish – we all wish – he was still here, to continue to learn from and have a laugh with.

Nevertheless, Pete provides enduring inspiration to many, and I know that Jo, Philip and I are immensely privileged to be able to take forward, in keeping with Pete’s wishes, the Developed in Birmingham concept as a more formal entity; thus creating this CIC. Our ambition, subject to funding, is to make photographic knowledge and resources accessible and enable diverse audiences to engage with the medium and the city in a variety of ways.

Jo and Philip as we made wet plate collodion portraits together

As we state on the inherited but newly adapted website, we ‘aim to continue to share knowledge about Birmingham’s photographic history with the same spirit of openness and development’ that Pete is so remembered for.

I’m honoured to be involved and to be able to delve into Birmingham’s evidently strong relationship with photography. Returning to mid-nineties school for a moment, I recall a GCSE photography trip (I think it was) to the old Birmingham Central Library, where Pete showed us the Bill Brandt photos of Bournville. I remember it vividly, and I told him years later too that it had been my first inspiring glimpse into curating photography, and I had him to thank (or blame). His legacy of extensive research is going to continue to point me in the right direction.

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