The Nottingham Centre for Photography and Social Engagement grew out of a series of conversations between four Nottingham based photographers who spend a lot of time engaging with artists, photographers, community activists, and people from the wide diaspora of Nottingham’s community.
In 2017, Dan Wheeler, who runs the Photo Parlour (the only darkroom/print facilities in Nottingham), and Jagdish Patel, (a local photographer with a long history of human rights activist/casework), and Jake Howe, (based out of The Photo Parlour, with years of industry experience in both photography and graphic design) started talking about how to bring Nottingham’s photography community together. The team were quickly joined by Leah Wareham, a recent photography graduate (from Nottingham Trent University) and founder of The Sisterhood Creative. Leah also works in mental health and student advocacy.
Over 2017 and 2018, the team held monthly ‘Photo Socials’, and organised a series of workshops. The aim of the workshops was to inspire and support local people with the tools to develop their creative skills and engage with galleries, people and social issues. The overall goal of the activities was to create ‘safe spaces’ for aspiring creatives, from different communities and gender, to develop ideas, learn and also to help them access more experienced practitioners.
After talking, listening and working with Nottingham’s photography community during 2017 and 2018, the team realised that there was a huge pool of local talent, local ideas, and local stories which had no platform. Unlike London, the West Midlands or Yorkshire, there was no local open access Photography Festival in the East Midlands to champion the work which was being produced locally.
In November 2018, the team organised ‘Off Centre’, Nottingham’s first Independent Photography festival as a platform to showcase local photographers.
The team also wanted to ensure that local people who wouldn’t usually have taken part in a local Photography Festival could get an opportunity to participate. Over the summer of 2018, Jagdish held a series of workshops for people with a history of mental ill-health to develop a portfolio of work for the festival and during the festival, their work was exhibited at Sobar cafe, and events held to discuss issues raised from their exhibition. Additionally, events we held during Black History Month, including a talk by the Midlands-based Black photographer, Vanley Burke, and ‘women only’ workshops and talks were showcased. Much of this work continued after the Festival. Leah established the Sisterhood Creative with Bridie Lewis in December 2018, and the self help mental health group, Scrambles was launched in January 2019.
In May 2019, the Nottingham Centre for Photography and Social Engagement was formally established to help us develop, and build upon this existing legacy.