Top ten photography exhibitions from The Social: Encountering Photography festival

By Ben Miller | 23 October 2013

An exciting cast of domestic and international photographers are bringing their work to new contemporary photography festival The Social: Encountering Photography across the north-east during the next month. Here are ten to look out for...

A photo of a classroom full of children
Julian Germain’s short video works, Classroom Portraits (2006-13), are part of You Are the Company in Which You Keep© Julian Germain
Ships that Pass, National Glass Centre, Sunderland

John Kippin’s photographic works are a suitably large-scale reminder of the intensity with which the shipbuilding industry once prospered in Sunderland. The artist’s installation features vessel recreations by modelmaker Fred Gooch, inspired by 600 years of Wearside industry.

You Are the Company in Which You Keep (Part 1), Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art and Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Sunderland

An embarrassment of artistic riches across these two impressive spaces, from Martin Parr’s satirical take on countryside retreats – Beauty Spot – to global conflict as seen by ex-soldier Craig Ames. A host of brilliant artists are taking part – we’ll mention Paul Graham, who recalls the spiralling unemployment of the 1970s and 1980s, and Tim Mitchell, who centres on a 20,000 tonne military ship and clothing recycling in the culminating of five years of creative work.

Coastal Retreats – Damien Wootten, West Gallery, Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland Archives, Ashington

Returning to the area he initially portrayed in black and white more than 20 years ago, Damien Wootten reveals the results of seven years of colour snapshots from the coastline – inspired by landscape photographer Raymond Moore, the majority of them focus on Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.

Simon Roberts: Landscapes of Leisure, City Library and Arts Centre, Museum and Winter Gardens, The Bridges (all Sunderland); Central Metro Station, Newcastle

Memory, identity and the uncanny emerge as the themes in Simon Roberts’ observations on everyday life, reflected in huge colour photographs taken around the foyers, facades and shopping centres of the area. Dogwalking and picnics feature strongly.

Mark Henderson – The Concert Room: Steels Social Club Residency, Steels Social Club, Sunderland

As the heartbeat of Working Men’s Clubs, Concert Rooms are the scenes of birthdays, parties, christenings, wakes and singsongs. Mark Henderson surveys these social institutions as part of a residency  (November 6-13) inside one of them: built in the 1950s, Steels remains a popular meeting place.

Juliet Chenery-Robson – Portraits of a Postmodern Illness, Old Fire Station, Sunderland

“By closing their eyes, they ask the viewer to open theirs,” says Juliet Chenery-Robson, who has explored ME by portraying sufferers of the illness with their eyes closed, projected onto the façade of the Old Fire Station.

Ananda van der Pluijm – Martin, University Boulevard and Sciences Complex, University of Sunderland, and University Metro Station, Sunderland

Having been housebound by Guillain-Barré disease, Dutch photographer Ananda van der Pluijm started this award-winning project as a way of reconnecting with a world she felt she had lost contact with. A contemplation of loneliness, much of it is about her half-brother, Martin, who returned to his maternal home after years living with his father and in a youth hostel.

David Bate – Indian Notes on Democracy, Monument Metro Station, Newcastle

In a departure from the established use of billboards, this installation swaps advertising messages for scenes from the streets of India. The idea is to contrast the realties and preconceptions surrounding first and third world urbanity.

Arabella Plouviez – Connected, The Bridges Carpark Rotunda and The Bridges Shopping Centre, Sunderland; Virus Portraits, Pelaw, Newcastle Central and Sunderland Central Metro Stations

Selective communicating is pondered in Connected, which looks at a mobile world affording disconnection from the physical world. Virus Portraits channels common anxieties and “diseases of modernity” through SARS, avian and swine flu and other aiments.

The Social, Sunderland Minster, Sunderland

The nave of the minster accommodates two projects: British-Guyanese artist Ingrid Pollard has spent four decades exploring the romanticism of the English landscape, most recently while based in the remote hills of Northumberland. Marjolaine Ryley visits communes in southern France, squatting in south London and free school education for her series, Growing up in the New Age.

  • The Social: Encountering Photography runs until November 16 2013. Visit for full listings.
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