Monthly Archives: April 2016

The story of Fotografiska – a new photography museum

Fotografiska photo by Giuseppe Milo via Flickr:

Fotografiska; photo: Giuseppe Milo via Flickr

Fotografiska in Stockholm, Sweden, is one of Europe’s great photographic successes, and a new kind of museum, opened in 2010. Pauline Benthede, Fotografiska’s Exhibitions Manager, tells Redeye’s Paul Herrmann the story behind the organisation.

Paul Herrmann (PH): What do you think are the key ideas about Fotografiska that encouraged people to support it – Fotografiska’s best or most inventive qualities?
Pauline Benthede (PB): Our best quality is that we aim to be a venue for all people – photography enthusiasts, amateurs, art lovers, and everyone in between. ”Photography is the technology to capture life. We provide and support life worth capturing.” Fotografiska is a meeting place for all kind of photography and visual culture – fashion, documentary photography, video art, examples of how photography can raise awareness on different social and political issues, and much more. This approach has been with us from the very beginning and is part of our DNA. We work as much on making our guests feel welcome no matter who they are, as we do on our exhibitions. And I believe our guests and supporters can feel this from the moment they step inside our venue. We also have many different kinds of exhibitions running simultaneously, with different genres. So if you arrive at Fotografiska to see, for example, a big exhibition on fashion photography, you might also experience an exhibition on a young, emerging video artist. That’s a balance we always aim for, so our guests can experience something unexpected that might deepen their interest even more and open up for new thoughts.

PH: What were the tipping points along the development process when you really felt there had been some progress?
PB: We have been completely independent from the very beginning, and up to the grand opening in 2010, we were also a very small team. Therefore I would say there was no real tipping point, but rather a steady process from the very idea of a meeting place for photography, to where Fotografiska is today. Through this process, we have been honoured to have many supporters who have believed in Fotografiska from the beginning. With this said, we are in a constant development, always aiming towards getting better on all areas, so the progress is never ending.

PH: Can you explain how the museum was, and is now, financed?
PB: We are completely private, which means we have no tax money income or other governmental funding to rely on. Our main revenue is the entrance fee.

PH: What do you think the photography centre or museum of the future will look like?
PB: I believe Fotografiska is in the frontline of a new kind of art experience, where it is not only about the exhibitions, but also about the atmosphere, the food, and being a meeting place. The exhibitions are our core activity, but many of the comments we receive from our guests also include the restaurant, the museum shop, and even how great our bathrooms are. An exhibition on a great photographer can certainly be fantastic, but if the access was bad, the information you received wasn’t great, or the meal you had afterwards left you disappointed, that will certainly lower your overall experience.

PH: Have you got any thoughts on how the growing number of archives and collections in photography might best be managed? Do you have your own collections?
PB: We have our own collection. It is partly based on donations from artists we have worked with, but also art works that Fotografiska has bought for the collection. Having been open for nearly six years only, the collection is of course still smaller than others, but increasingly growing.

PH: How are state photographic collections managed in Sweden?
PB: There are huge collections at the government organisations with national responsibility for collecting and preserving photography, however it is not too often that these collections are made available to the public.

PH: How can we balance decreasing funding with growing collections and archives? How can we increase the public interest in collections?
PB: Being completely independent, our collection is not depending on external funding.
We believe that the interest in photography in general, not only collections but also in exhibitions, is to speak to a larger audience. Photography is a worldwide used medium, an everyday tool for people to interact, share, and save moments. It’s closer than any other art form, and part of our daily lives. Therefore, in order to bring awareness on what photography is and can be, the history of the medium and its future, we need to speak to everyone. Not only to the academic or the professional, but to everyone who is part of our society and visual culture.

NPS videos

Here are some videos of interviews at the last National Photography Symposium in 2014 at the Library of Birmingham. They give a snapshot of the kinds of topics discussed. They were filmed and edited by Katrina Houghton.

Francis Hodgson discusses the purpose of the Symposium:

Denise Swanson reflects on the Symposium, and the value of standards in photography:

Photographer Simon Roberts talks about building a career in photography:

Writer Richard West reflects on portfolio reviews in photography – are they useful and do they give value for money?

Jason DaPonte explains his innovative archive linking project, Mining The Archive:

Christian Payne discussed old and new business models:

Glocal in the work of C Y Frankel

A guest post by Camilla Brown, a speakers at this year’s Symposium.


This image is taken from a series titled Careful by a recent MA Photography graduate from Middlesex University, where I work. I first came across C Y Frankel’s work at BA level when he was working on his series My Brent Cross made around the 1970s shopping centre in North West London. When he was studying, the university photography department had recently relocated to the Grove Building in Hendon. Frankel was living at home locally whilst studying. This more recent work, Careful, broadens out from earlier themes but still has its roots both metaphorically and geographically in the same area of London.

As it happened I started working at Middlesex University at about the point they relocated to Hendon in part as the photography department moved quite literally to the end of my street. Working freelance as a mother of young children my work was becoming increasingly local in nature. Frankel’s work therefore had a very particular resonance for me as he captured and played back to me the area I knew so well. It is an odd area and an odd image, a suburban area not deprived yet equally not regenerating at the pace of so many other parts of London. There is the continual ebb and flow of new communities to the place and yet it is also home to a distinct and entrenched demographic who have for generations called it their own. This image is a particularly quiet work and captures a typical home. It has been caught at a moment where a mist hangs eerily around the house. It is a place that is at once ubiquitous and yet also unique and for residents it is instantly recognisable in Frankel’s work.

It is so local that I was keen in conversations with Frankel to see how he could widen out its appeal. How could something so specific become more universal? Of course countless personal photography projects make this leap: Larry Sultan’s Pictures from home; Richard Billingham’s Rays a laugh to name but two. But at a nascent stage it can be hard to work out which students can do it. In part my role at Middlesex is to help with the students’ professional development, which leads me to often repeat that making the work is only the tip of the iceberg. Often the real graft is getting the work out there and showing it to people. There are many ways to try to do this which require a big expense, or one could suggest investment, of time and money. But of course that is where living in the Web 2.0 age offers us all new horizons and possibilities – the virtual network.

Frankel submitted this series to a Lensculture Emerging Talent 2015, at which point I was not involved in any way with their work. Through his work’s merit he was one of the award winners for that category which gave the work some online exposure and meant it was also exhibited. For him the best outcome was the online portfolio feedback session with an internationally connected photography specialist. Dialogue and feedback on projects and work is often the thing most photographers want. Submitting work to a black void with no response leaves them with so many unanswered questions. Virtual platforms seem a new way to offer that global perspective, and Lensculture is a website keen to nurture and develop an online community for photographers.

The Lensculture platform has not transformed life for Frankel still working to find his way as a photographer but it has answered one specific question – could the local work he made have a global reach and appeal? could he embrace the glocal? Resoundingly so, and for me that is the curatorial question that can only be answered by having your work seen in amongst your international peers’. As a curator it is partly by looking at a lot of work that you can assess where someone’s practice sits. Some fly others flounder. Frankel flew on this platform with a sincere, questioning and quiet documentary series. As is often the case – it is not the work that shouts the loudest that has the greatest impact but the understated and the considered, perhaps the work that is ultimately more Careful.

Camilla Brown trained as an art historian completing her BA at Leeds University she then studied for her MA at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She is a curator, writer and lecturer on contemporary art, specialising in photography. For ten years she was Senior curator at The Photographers’ Gallery, London previous to which she was Exhibitions Curator at Tate Liverpool. She is on the Board of Directors at Quad.

Since 2012 she has held an academic post as Senior Lecturer in Creative Industries at Middlesex University, and in 2015 was appointed Visiting Fellow in Photography at the University of Derby. She regularly gives talks at universities, museums and galleries. She writes for artists’ monographs and history of photography books, and is also writes submission reviews for Lensculture. In 2016 she will publish a chapter titled ‘A curators perspective’ for a forthcoming book Photography and research: the idea, the process and the project, a Practical Guide for Photographers to be published by Focal Press.

Examples of her work appear on her website.

Click here for further information on C Y Frankel.

Camilla will be speaking at this year’s symposium about her own work over the past 8 months with Lensculture. She will explore what such online platforms offer photographers and curators and what the challenges are of presenting work in this context.

Find out more and book your place on the Format website.

Image at the top by C Y Frankel