New UK touring outdoor photo festival to feature Martin Parr and more

A migrant fisherwoman from Mali checks her fish traps near Fatoto, The Gambia (Image credit: Jason Florios)
Meet the pro: Jennifer Berry

Photo Swindon

(Image credit: Jason Florios)

Jennifer Berry is the Founder and Curator of Photo Swindon International Photography Festival. Find out more on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @PhotoSwindon

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m a British/Maltese freelance photographer with a keen interest in documentary photography. I’m based in Wiltshire, UK, and cover projects for charities, editorial and events.  

I’m also the in-house photographer at Earthworm Recording Studio, and the international coordinator and assistant to Singaporean documentary photographer Edwin Koo. I’ve facilitated and assisted Edwin Koo with the masterclass since its inception in 2012.

My early love for photography began when I was eight years old. My father, a military man, was a keen photographer who had a great interest in people photography and storytelling. Regular postings abroad meant that home was in many countries in my formative years.  I grew up around photography and the dark room, and a lifelong interest was born.

I’ve worked on and off within the arts for the past 20 years, and developed the Cirencester Festival of Music, Drama & the Arts both nationally and internationally. I’ve also represented artists from Malaysia and Borneo, and curated art exhibitions on behalf of International businesses.  

Ladies from the Santa Yalla kaffo  - a collective that harvests rice for a landowner near River Gambia at Kaur. The earn 30 dalasis a day - 80 US cents 

Ladies from the Santa Yalla kaffo  - a collective that harvests rice for a landowner near River Gambia at Kaur. The earn 30 dalasis a day - 80 US cents  (Image credit: Jason Florios)

Where did your inspiration for Photo Swindon come from?

In September 2020 me and my partner Jon Buckett decided to create a covid-safe event for our community in Swindon. With another lockdown looming and with dark winter days ahead, I felt the need for a distraction and was inspired to create an arts event to lift people's spirits and bring joy to people's lives as they went about their daily walks in the local park.

The initial plan was to roll out a five month music and documentary photography exhibition.   

We approached the local parish, South Swindon Parish Council, and presented our ideas across a zoom meeting. The parish responded with enthusiasm and offered the use of three parks to host our event.

The next step was for us to raise enough funds to pay for it all. With finances strapped, Arts Council funding not forthcoming, and the Covid lockdown environment uncertain, we had to rethink our plans. We decided to drop the music element for 2021 and proceed with a 3 month photography exhibition from July 1st - October 3rd.

Tell us about the exhibition? Who have you got featured?

The exhibition is for 3 months, 3 photographers, and tours 3 parks in Swindon each month.  I imagined the exhibition to be something which would have an impact in open spaces so the images had to be big.  

Being documentary and photojournalistic in nature, it was necessary to take into account all the different kinds of people who would view the images, so subject sensitivity was a key factor.

At the time I was thinking about how humanity was in sync with one another due to the pandemic, and how we all shared the same hopes and fears, and listening to what people were saying about how they were feeling. I tried to gather a sense of our common shared values and perceptions at that point in time. 

I felt that so many people, not just here in the UK but all around the world shared many of the same experiences during lockdown, and that the nature of our togetherness was an extraordinary state of mind we all experienced in our own ways. 

I'd read an article questioning what binds us as human beings, and it described 'an inter-brain synchronisation of human consciousness, which got me thinking about how people are more prosocial when they synchronise their behaviour with one another, and it was that synchronisation which was a common thread for me personally for this exhibition.

The first exhibition which began on 1 - 31st July is by photojournalist and humanitarian photographer Jason Florio.  I carefully selected 12 images from his collection, "The River Gambia ~ Source to Sea". 

Following on from here is an exhibition by British documentary photographer Martin Parr.  I didn't want to exhibit a complete body of work from Martin, as I wanted to do something different, so I chose images from various bodies of work that I felt represented the overall theme of the exhibition, and it's called "In Sync with Parr ~ Quirky World, and runs from 31st July - 30th August.  

And last but not least, Sanne De Wilde / Noor Images from 1st Sep - 3rd October with images selected from her fascinating body of work "Island of Colourblind".

Gold mining along the River Gambia as it flows through Southern Senegal draws economic migrants from all over West Africa. The gold bearing sand is filtered and then mixed with mercury to draw the gold out

Gold mining along the River Gambia as it flows through Southern Senegal draws economic migrants from all over West Africa. The gold bearing sand is filtered and then mixed with mercury to draw the gold out (Image credit: Jason Florios)

Are you hoping to do another exhibition in the near or distant future?

Absolutely, yes!  I aim to make Photo Swindon an annual event, sponsorship and funding dependent of course. I've already begun working on a new budget, and I feel very confident that this exhibition will attract more sponsors for 2022.  It is unique in Swindon and in that it is a touring outdoor photography festival featuring some of the world's best award winning documentary photographers. 

It is very attractive for sponsors to join us, with excellent brand placement over a three month period. Working together with our sponsors and partners generates more reach, and it's important to work equally together with all of our sponsors and partners for the survival and growth of Photo Swindon.

How has the exhibition been received so far? 

The exhibition has gone down a storm!  The first 10 days of exhibiting photographer Jason Florio "The River Gambia ~ Source to Sea", has already attracted around one and a half thousand visitors to the first park. Judging by visitor numbers in GWR Park, we are looking at similar numbers and there is still one more location Queens Park for this particular exhibition to be seen before we swap over to the next photographer, Martin Parr. I'm in the early stages of planning a photography masterclass workshop in The Gambia with Jason and Helen, more to come on that exciting prospect.

I hope to put Photo Swindon on the map and take inspiration from the two giants who flank Swindon Bristol Photo Festival and Photo Oxford who have done an absolutely amazing job at providing wonderful photography exhibitions across their cities.  

I have a long way to go, as I am holding the fort virtually single handed, so a team of good people to work with is essential for Photo Swindon's future.

Of course I could not have done any of this without my amazing partner Jonathan Buckett, who has been there to share in my joy and equally who has lent a willing and helping hand throughout.

I would also like to thank all of my sponsors and partners who believed in my vision from the start, and for supporting Photo Swindon both financially, and with their generous time and energy.  Earthworm Recording Studio, South Swindon Parish Council, PermaJet, Tom Faulkner, CMS Supatrak, New College Swindon Multidata Ltd, Photography Daily, The Photography & Video Show, Bread and Butter Studio, Captured Singapore, Kate Parsons Creative and Sattya Media Arts Collective

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