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Multimedia viewings from Bristol

Alejandro Acín is with us. Photographer and multimedia producer, currently residing in Bristol and member of IC Visual Lab.

In your blog you say that IC Visual Lab is a platform and network for photographic storytelling through multimedia. You have made projections sessions regularly since early 2011. Your goal is to promote documentary photography in Bristol and get close to the photographic community.

With Instant Coffees, your viewings event, you invite both local and internationally renowned photographers, to show their work and give them the chance to exhibit. Also you invite professional from other photographic disciplines to discuss his work.

Alejandro, tell us about where does the idea of creating a photographic collective come from.
The Visual Lab IC group was born after two years of work by organizing small activities and photographic events. It all started with Instant Coffees, a series of regular screenings we did in Bristol, the idea was to gather authors and audience in order to establish a dialogue on the different creative processes undertaken in the development of multimedia pieces. So far we have made 8 editions and about 10 collaborations with other groups, organizations and festivals, showing the work of over 80 photographers from around the world (USA, China, Russia, India, Canada, Peru, Argentina...). Now, it is important to open new spaces for dialogue about the creative process as the visual consumption levels are increasingly elevated and compulsive.

On the other hand, being organized as a collective was a way to distribute tasks and expand our lines of work. We have recently been awarded a prize for social entrepreneurs with a new project focused on empowering residents of an area of Bristol (Old Market) that through the development of multimedia pieces narrate small local realities. In addition to these workshops, the group will make a series of interventions and the production of their own working bodies. Opening a section where we might work as photographers was important, after all is what we like to do.

Who are the group members and what made you create it?
Right now we are three founding members: Ibolya Feher, Andrew Jackson and me. But there is a good network of collaborators who lend a hand with certain tasks. As I said before, we were joined thanks to the coordination of a number of activities and events around the multimedia. From there we decided to see other possible forms of collective work and we are quite excited about this first project.

Which exhibition methods have you chosen and why?
Our main way of photographic promotion has been multimedia viewing. After each session in Bristola small online catalog with the review of the works and authors is published.

We always try to wrap these events with other proposals, in our last session focused on students (Collaboration with UWE and BlankPaper) included an exhibition with a small selection of the work of the authors. In PICS&PLOT, collective international meeting, in its first edition we elaborated a publication with the work of all participants.

Many of the works shown are designed as a visual piece, so changing the media does not work in the same way, this requires a change of language that is sometimes not very good for the work, so sometimes it is difficult to include different media in a single event.

All catalogs:

Focusing on the projections, how many editions have you organized?
As I said earlier we have made 8 editions in Bristol and about 10 collaborations with other groups, organizations and festivals. Also this year we have continued our collective meeting, PICS & PLOT, coordinated by MICROPhotographers in Milan for its second edition.

Our next event will probably be in September under the theme of COMMUNITY, this event will be coordinated in collaboration with another organization. For now, we can not say much more because we have to start working on it soon, but will keep you informed.

What are the criteria for the works selection?
We like stories, real or fictional. Authors who make an effort to create unique and engaging narrative. We like the works using the medium as experiment of sound and visual language. We like the limbo!

Among all the exhibited works, under your point of view, wich would be a very good photographic work that has stood between the rest?
Overall, we are fortunate that most of the work we have shown have good quality and that makes it difficult to select a few. Anyway, as this question is made to know some authors who have participated, I would like to highlight Evgenia Arbugaeva and her work "Tiksi", Deanna Dikeman with "Leaving and waving'', all the work of Jim Mortram, a British author with tremendous potential, and of course local authors like Will Hartley with "Lawrence Hill" or Chiara Tocci and "Life After Zog".

And in a multimedia level, which is at the projection you think that has worked the best?
In multimedia terms, we have had quite powerful projections, with unique and innovative visual and sound editing. A wide selection might be, Pierfrancesco Celada and his work "Japan, I wish I knew your name", a very atmospheric and emotional piece; Alexander Kreher and his work "All those wonderful things", that makes a very complete story and meets very brilliantly all the elements that an author should have in count when producing a multimedia. And finally "Borde" by Collective Supay in Peru, a work on the Amazon that has a pretty cinematic montage that takes you until the darkest corners of the forest.

What other activities do you do or collaborate with from IC Visual Lab?
We have coordinated parallel activities to our projections such as lectures, seminars or meetings. We have been lucky enough to count with photographers who shared their knowledge and experience. We had Daniel Meadows, an international reference in the development of Digital Stories, Brenda Ann Kenneally told us about the way she works in UpState Girls, or Robert Knoth y Antoinette de Jong who shared their experiences about their work Poppy Trail and its experimental multimedia proposal. In addition we have had curators, researchers, historians and archivists.

But this year we are opening other lines of work, PROJECTS & PBLabs, trying to relieve some of the responsibility of organizing regular events and focus on the production of new proposals. We want to experiment with the access that today we have different ways of visual production and take them to a community practice.

To be honest, finding resources and new forms of financing are inevitably important points on our agenda.

How do you see the scene of documentary photography in Britain?
I guess you can answer this question from many points of view, so I will choose three more informative:

In an educational level, for example, most photographic training lies with the Universities and Colleges. Studiying in the UK is about 3 times more expensive than in Spain. There are private schools that offer training but the large activity centers in universities, so that access is a bit biased in my opinion. But if anyone is interested in choosing and studying documentary photography, Newport University is offering a more complete program and counts with a very powerful teaching staff. Brighton University and Plymouth University are referring too.

On the other hand, there are several colelctives working throughout the country with interesting proposals: Human Endeavour, criticizing architectural use and disuse; Wandering Bears with a more artistic and creative proposal. ASAcollective and CONTACT Editions, collectives that coordinate multimedia activities in London.

Finally, one of the most interesting independent spaces that have appeared in recent years is Third Floor Gallery in Cardiff, a non-profit organization that showcases local, national and international artists with, maybe, the best openings in the country.

And in Spain, do you have references there of Spanish authors?
There are many interesting and boiling movements In the peninsula, that of course we follow and support. In fact, we are mulling a proposal for next year where the guest country will be IBERIA. I would like to see the collaborative ties between Portugal and Spain closer together, sometimes look like two separate realities.

Nowadays, geographical barriers are diluted by new distribution platforms and online production, facilitating the distribution of independent and quality works. We commented on the situation with Fosi Vegue, when we made projections in BlankPaper in January, we were in Bristol, projecting in Madrid works made by authors from the United States, UK, France, Uganda, Sweden... Pure hyperreality, but is an example of the number of alternatives we have today to show and share photography.

Do you think we are at a "sweet" moment for documentary photography?
I hope not, that would mean that somehow we have settled. I think we are at a time when documentary photography should be questioned more than ever: their meaning, use and structure.

There is a need to find new audiences and partnerships for opening new ways in image management and storage.

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