Photographers’ artwork putting city in the picture

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A festival puts photography talent from Sunderland and beyond into focus. Katy Wheeler finds out more

For the next month, photographic artwork will be springing up around Sunderland, from bus shelters to shops and social clubs.

The Social: Encountering Photography is the largest festival of its kind, celebrating talent on our doorstep while also attracting renowned international photographers.

It’s the brainchild of the North East Photography Network (NEPM), which is hosted, based and partly funded by the University of Sunderland and Northern Centre for Photography, at City Campus on Chester Road.

As well as hosting exhibitions in Wearside galleries, including Arts Centre Washington and NGCA in Fawcett Street, the festival will be taking art onto the street.

City centre buildings, including the Winter Gardens and The Bridges car park, will be transformed by large scale contemporary photographs and social clubs will host pop-up displays.

Amanda Ritson, programme manager at NEPN who has helped develop The Social, said: “There’s a really strong photography programme at the university which formed the basis of the network.

“It was set up to create opportunities for photographers in the region, from fine art to documentary photography and photo journalism.

“Sunderland’s main cultural exports are seen as music and glass, but there’s a thriving visual arts scene which we’re gaining national recognition for.

“Photography is something that’s around us all the time, whether in adverts or on social media. In that sense, it’s the most accessible art medium.

“That’s why we called this festival The Social, because it’s such a social medium, it’s part of family life, it’s part of work life.”

Co-curator Carol McKay, also a programme manager at NEPN, added: “We hope this festival sparks debate, inspires and intrigues as well as introduces new audiences to photography, making it accessible in the public realm to those who would not normally visit an art gallery.

“Photography is around you all of the time, from billboards to posters, so we’re trying to infiltrate those images and introduce new subject matter.”

The Social will run from tomorrow until November 16 and features a host of displays and exhibitions. Highlights include:

* On the façade of Sunderland city centre’s Old Fire Station building, is Mimesis 3: Portraits of a Postmodern Illness (2013), Juliet-Chenery Robson’s ongoing photographic exploration of the illness ME.

* Photographers Karen Ward and Brenda Burrell are hosting a series of informal photography sharing events, at the British Legion Social Club in Silksworth.

* John Kippin, Ships That Pass sees a large scale installation on windows at National Glass Centre, which celebrate 600 years of shipbuilding on the River Wear.

* Simon Roberts captures Sunderland residents at leisure, including at former sites of heavy industry such as Herrington Country Park, in works on display at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art and in The Bridges.

* Sarah Pickering’s work at Durham Art Gallery features both new and recent commissions, including Celestial Objects, which features a revolver being fired in total darkness, each exposure capturing the entirety of a gunshot from start to finish.

* The Bridges Carpark Rotunda will feature portraits by Arabella Plouviez which explore issues of identity and community.

* Photographic work will appear on billboards, advertising screens and University of Sunderland buildings by photographers including David Bate, Harry Hall, Mark Henderson, Paul Alexander Knox, Melanie Manchot, Ananda van der Pluijm, Arabella Plouviez and Louise Taylor.

* Sunderland Minster also hosts a programme of exhibitions, events and screenings throughout The Social.

* Pop Recs Ltd in Fawcett Street will display photography from Edition Magazine, produced by students at the Northern Centre of Photography.

* Pop Recs will also host Deleting Memory, a project by Tita Salina and Irwan Ahmett, which invites Wearsiders to become unofficial tour guides, creating a collective photographic record documenting their experiences of Sunderland.

* For more details and a full line up of The Social visit www.thesocialnepn.co.uk.