I guess most Bristolians are familiar with the Paintworks development, a small business enclave off the A4 which is home to a host of creative companies (including Tangent Books) and the popular Bocabar Restaurant. Having recently got wind of a couple of new arrivals from the world of photography (yes!) I decided it was time to go down and take another look.
First of all I had to get myself orientated. Paintworks is bigger, more colourful and more stylish than I recalled but not blessed with the best of signage. After some frustrating 3 point turns I managed to park right next to the two places I was looking for.
I sometimes think the Royal Photographic Society is following me around. As a student in London (long, long ago!) I visited its library in Mayfair and by the time I had settled in the West Country they had moved to Milsom Street in Bath where there was a historical exhibition and display until the collection was moved, first to the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford and subsequently to the V&A. You can imagine how intrigued I was to learn of a new building with exhibition space being opened just a few months ago in Bristol and currently housing this year’s International Photography Exhibition.
Although I’ve always leaned towards early photography I did find the exhibition absolutely arresting and would recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest.
It’s on until March 24th and although I can;t find a link I think there’s a talk on Saturday 23rd – do give them a ring and if you’re a practitioner check out the workshops and events on offer. Perhaps because it’s still quite new and relatively tucked away, this building didn’t have a ‘public’ feel, but anyone can go and the staff are very welcoming. The current exhibition is £7 (£5 concessions) and there free hot drinks in the foyer as well as lots of info on membership and events. .
Having spent longer than in tended at the RPS I didn’t have much time left to explore its immediate neighbour, the Martin Parr Foundation. Martin Parr is one of our best known contemporary photographers in the UK and even those who aren’t aware of him will know his BBC Oneness series of film idents which sum up his unique perspective on us as a nation (or nations).
There is currently a major exhibition of his work at the National Portrait Gallery while here in Bristol the foundation, which opened around a year ago, “supports and preserves the legacy of photographers who … make important work focused on the British Isles”.
Despite my lack of time I was given another arm welcome to the Document Scotland Exhibition (entry free, until March 16th) where I spotted a few very familiar locations! Again this is a public space and a community I suspect only the cognoscenti are aware of. Do take a look online or go along.
I suppose neither of these organisations is ‘mainstream’ and both will be known to those students and practitioners who need to know about them. I still think it’s worth raising a cheer for this relatively new development on our doorstep and to hope they will get a bit more recognition in the popular media as places where we can all celebrate photography as an art.
Parking is not generous at Paintworks but there are green transport options , and hopefully signage on site will be improved before too long. Meanwhile If you do venture along, head for the staircase at the east end of the Paintworks through road – or take Google maps with you!
Finally, they saw me coming with this nice nod to history in the RPS interior staircase.