All eyes are on the Glastonbury Festival this weekend, but there’s also the PhotoFrome festival, which starts down the road in Frome on June 24th. It will feature some great examples of fine art photography, portraiture, street and much more. Co-founder Mick Yates explains more
How did the PhotoFrome festival get off the ground?
The four members of the committee – myself, Martin Banks, David Chedgy and João Diniz Sanches – were originally taking photos for the Frome Festival (Music and Theatre festival). In 2021, we decided that there wasn’t enough for photography in Frome and the southwest of the UK generally, so David suggested doing a festival.
The idea was to raise the profile of the area for photography. The idea has gone from something small we could do locally, to something much bigger, international and national. The first festival took place last June.
What’s new at PhotoFrome this year?
Last year we had seven venues. this year, this year we have 15 – not just gallery spaces, but also coffee shops and restaurants. We are also going to be outdoors for the first time and will be putting photographs all over the front of the Frome library.
We have about 150 photographers showing their work this year, which is twice last year’s number. This year’s show is more international, too. For example, The Makers’ Yard venue is curating a show by the Women Photograph community with photographers from all over the world.
There are big student exhibitions too, with photos taken by students going on walls around the town. It is also great to be celebrating photographers associated with the southwest, for example the famous photographer and cinematographer, Roger Deakin, who was the first photographer commissioned by the Beaford archive in the early 1970s.
We also have a clearer theme for this year’s festival, Decolonising Environments. There have been lots of interpretations of this theme, so it’s very exciting.
We build on the idea of the environment and climate change, which is expanded to consider how different groups in society affect other groups, particularly minorities.
Another new highlight is our Open Book Call, where we invited artists from all over the world to send in books for judging (the winners will be announced on the first day of the symposium, which is July 1st). Ninety books were sent in from all over the world – the USA, Latin America, Japan, all over.
Our new Student Awards programme is supported by MPB, who will be providing vouchers as prizes. The quality of entries was very high, and the four winners and four honourable mentions will be announced at our Rook Lane Chapel venue on June 24th just before the big preview opening event.
MPB is sponsoring this venue as ‘MPB @ Rook Lane’. We’ve been successful in getting more funding this year, receiving an Arts Council grant for the first time. Meanwhile, Fujifilm has helped to fund the printing, and local companies have supported us too.
The support from local galleries has been fantastic – the Whittox Gallery is extending the UKBFTOG exhibition until August, for example.
How do you decide which photographers to include in PhotoFrome?
Mainly we have curated the choice of photographers and we approach people, although as we have become better known we now have lots of artists coming to us.
I have done the curating for the main shows, with the help of Jesse Alexander. The Makers’ Yard show (MOON) was curated by one of the owner’s, Emma Todd, while Jacqueline Ennis Cole curated the ‘Intersecting Matter: Waste’ show at the station.
We wanted this to be a curated, independent festival. Now people know us better, we have a waiting list of photographers wanting to be involved for future events.
Which parts of PhotoFrome are you most looking forward to?
My simple answer is seeing all the work on the wall. It will be both a relief and a major excitement! I am also really looking forward to the symposium. This year we have great names coming along, and many more wonderful photographers. It’s going to be amazing.
Photo Frome takes place from June 24th to July 12th in Frome, Somerset. For full details of events, venues and ticketing see here. Amateur Photographer is a media partner, so we look forward to seeing you there.