Cork Photo Fest in the frame

The Cork Photo Festival celebrates photography and all its forms in a number of venues during the month of April. Mike McGrath-Bryan talks to founder and director Naomi Smith
Cork Photo Fest in the frame
Alison Stolwood's "Nature Study".

PLACING photography at the centre of the city, with a number of different exhibitions and events, Cork Photo Festival has become a fixture of the local arts calendar.

For founder and director Naomi Smith, placing festival hubs around the city centre is an important pillar of its mission statement of community outreach.

“(Last year’s) festival featured a festival HQ at Cork Photo Gallery, Fitzgerald’s Park. We held an open call to source work for the gallery and we were delighted to present Cork-based artist Derek Foott.

“Open calls are an important element to the festival, so this year, we linked up with Triskel Arts Centre, creating the Triskel 40 Photo Prize. Collette Lewis from St John’s Central College came on board as one of the judges.

“This year, we have five festival hubs. These are spaces where the Cork Photo team has curated or programmed the venue. Izabela Szczutkowska joins us as the lead on our partnership with TIFF Festival, Wroclaw, bringing the work of Marlena Jabłońska to CCAD Gallery at No.46 Grand Parade. The festival launches at this venue on April 5 at 6.30pm.

“Kate O’Neill, The OGC, joins us as guest curator to bring Elastic to St Peter’s Cork, a collective exhibition showcasing work by seven photographers, exploring mental health issues in work practice and process. You’ll find even more at the other festival hubs: Cork Photo Gallery, UCC’s Boole Library and The Glucksman.”

"Peagant Wounds" - Kallie Cheves
"Peagant Wounds" - Kallie Cheves

Reaction to the open calls has been enthusiastic, with hopeful exhibitors sending work from all over the world.

“We had a great response to the Triskel 40 Open Call. It was difficult selecting a winner, we had a lot of submissions with a broad range of approaches. It was great to see submissions coming from Ireland and further afield,” said Naomi.

This year’s programme forms a trail across the city with the aforementioned venues joined by the likes of Elizabeth Fort, The Vinyl Lounge at Golden Discs, St Peter’s Cork, South Parish Community Centre and more.

Naomi said: “Cork has a wealth of businesses and heritage sites already engaged in showing work, making it a great city to run a festival in. Also the individual exhibitors joining us over the years have always been adventurous, making for some pretty interesting exhibition locations.

“Preparations for our Hub spaces began back in 2016, we work hard at these partnerships and are proud to be working with some of Cork’s finest arts venues and organisations. Plans have started already for CPF20. While we will continue with our open theme, you can expect some big changes.”

A number of exhibitions and events are happening throughout the month — what would be some highlights for those new to photography, or maintaining a casual interest?

“Follow the map around the city, you’ll get to see some great work by a range of photographic talents. We’re proud to present a solid programme once again this year. We hope you’ll also be inspired by the DIY element of our festival, it is open to anyone working in the medium who has the determination to get work out there, “ said Naomi.

“We recommend dropping in to Phillip Toledano, Maybe: Life & Love at Crawford Gallery on Emmett Place and definitely take a trip out the Sirius Arts Centre to see Spike Island: People & Place. It’s a nice festival trail to follow, pick up a map at any of the venues and make your way round to all the shows!

"Unrecognised Arrivals" by Marlena Jabłońska
"Unrecognised Arrivals" by Marlena Jabłońska

“Triskel Christchurch are also presenting a season of documentary films which focus on four notable photographers — Vivian Maier, Don McCullin, Sebastião Salgado and Bill Cunningham.”

Touring publication curators Photobookshow are coming over from Brighton to partake in the festival proceedings, displaying the photobook medium and showcasing compilations from all over the world.

“Book Show runs just for the weekend: April 14 and 15 in The Glucksman, this pop-up show features photobooks selected from open call and is presented by the great team over at Photobookshow. We’re excited to have them here in Cork.”

Another outlet bringing their specific expertise to the event is photography journal Source Photographic Review, reviewing local photography and touching base with the community. It is the continuation of a long-running partnership.

“We’ve partnered with Source Magazine since 2015, they have offered free portfolio review as part of the festival programme each year. It’s a great opportunity to get work seen by an editor of Ireland’s most prestigious photographic publication and past participants of the festival have been published in the magazine.” The festival culminates in the awarding of two prizes. In addition to the winner of the Triskel photo honours, a public vote opens online for the city’s favourite exhibited work from the festival’s array of submissions.

“The Triskel 40 Photo Prize was awarded to Kallie Cheves after an open call to celebrate The Triskel’s 40th year here in Cork. Kallie’s work, Pageant Wounds, opens April 7 at 2pm in the Triskel Gallery Space, and we are very excited to bring you work all the way from Texas!

“Those joining us on April 7 will get a chance to chat to Kallie about her work. And from April 1, we’ll be inviting you to vote online for the Lomography People’s Choice Award, we have a great prize this year from Lomography and love the buzz that the vote creates. Follow the festival trail and let us know which was your most memorable.

“The winner will be announced at the festival roundup in Cork Photo Gallery at the end of the month.”

For more on the programme see

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