17th Mar - 24th Sep

FORMAT23: A Perfect Sentence – Oliver Frank Chanarin – The Museum Of Making

A Perfect Sentence explores the shifting terrain of documentary photography: our drive for attention, the complexity of being seen and our anxiety of being overlooked. Commissioned and produced by Forma with eight partners, A Perfect Sentence is Oliver Frank Chanarin’s first UK solo exhibition and will see multiple presentations across the country, public acquisitions, a digital platform and a publication.

Join us for the premiere at The Museum of Making, Derby on Thursday 16 March 2023, as part of the photography biennial FORMAT23.

Throughout 2022, Chanarin undertook multiple journeys across the UK, often finding himself on the margins – from suburban fetish groups, to carnival troupes in community halls, to gender activists protesting in the streets. His analogue camera became a tool for social exchange. Collaborative photoshoots gave way to chance encounters with strangers and friends, missteps and wilful attempts at getting lost in the world. The resulting photographs capture a subjective and intimate record of a nation in transition.

A Perfect Sentence evolved during a peculiar and unsettling time, when Brexit polarised the country, Covid-19 forced people into isolation and the public’s consciousness of identity politics heightened. This juncture coincided with the disbanding of Chanarin’s artistic partnership – the internationally acclaimed duo Broomberg & Chanarin – whose collaboration came to an end after working together for over twenty years. In response to these events, Chanarin took a cue from August Sander’s collective portrait of German society, People of the 20th Century (1927-64) and turned to the vernacular of documentary photography.

Chanarin recalls:

I wasn’t sure how to be a photographer anymore; how to take pictures in this new paradigm; how to approach people in the street, in their homes, in their communities; and what is a reasonable expectation of privacy.  

I felt unmoored, like a planet that had lost its moon, and I knew the answer was to go back to the impulse that drew me to photography in the first place. Encounters with strangers; the beautiful accidental moments that come with getting lost in the world with a camera. 

A Perfect Sentence is shaped by many spoken and unspoken exchanges. I’ve tried to make these encounters healthy and inspiring but the ‘perfect’ here is aspirational because every human interaction is fraught, especially when a camera is involved.  

In the making I got to be fearless, to seek out one good image in a fog of ten bad ones. They unfold according to my own invisible and intuitive syntax. This is a document of the real, yet a shadow of disbelief binds everything. 

During the year-long production, Chanarin took over 2750 analogue colour negatives, which he hand-printed in the darkroom to produce hundreds of unique, c-type prints. The final artwork includes 300 images, many of which resemble photographs in development. Experiments with exposure, cropping and colour filtration are made visible through the artist’s cursive notations. The letters and numbers annotating the surfaces alert the viewer to the inherent subjectivity of image making.

A selection of photographs from A Perfect Sentence will premiere at The Museum of Making, Derby on 16 March – 3 September 2023, as part of FORMAT23, the UKs leading international photography biennial. Chanarin’s narrative-driven artist texts accompany the photographic installation – poetic prose that fuses fact, fiction and recollection. A Perfect Sentence will see the launch of a digital platform, and the book of A Perfect Sentence will also be published in June 2023 by Loose Joints.

Please note that this exhibition contains images that are unsuitable for younger audiences. Please see the advice below. 

For schools – this exhibition contains images that are unsuitable for younger audiences. We advise that it’s not included in your visit schedule due to some of the content.

For colleges/universities – this exhibition contains images of nudity, self-harm and injury.

If you’re planning to include this venue in your self-led visit, please call the Museum of Making to arrange for a visit: 01332 641901 or info@derbymuseums.org and the following link if there’s space: https://www.derbymuseums.org/learn/

Artist biography 

Oliver Frank Chanarin (born 1971, London, UK) is an artist working primarily with photography. His wide ranging practice is characterised by an openness to experimentation and collaboration. His work, though born out of photography and a critical appropriation of photojournalism, culminates in different media including books, installation, sculpture and photography. A Perfect Sentence is Chanarin’s first solo project in the UK, following the 2021 ‘demise’ of Broomberg & Chanarin, the international photographic duo who, for over 20 years, traversed the globe – tackling politics, religion, war and history.

Chanarin studied Artificial Intelligence as an undergraduate and held the position of professor of photography at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (HFBK) in Hamburg (2016-2022). Chanarin is also a founding member of the masters programme in photography at The Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague. He was one half of the duo Broomberg & Chanarin, whose work is held in major public and private collections including Pompidou, Tate, MoMA, Yale, Stedelijk, Jumex in Mexico DF, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Eye Amsterdam, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Cleveland Museum of Art and Baltimore Museum of Art. Awards include the ICP Infinity Award (2014) for Holy Bible, and the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize (2013) for War Primer 2; the Arles Photo Text Award (2018).

www.chanarin.com | @oliverchanarin


A Perfect Sentence was commissioned and produced with Forma in partnership with 8 institutions across the UK: Artes Mundi, Cardiff; KARST, Plymouth; Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London Corporation; Norfolk Museums Service (Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Norwich, and Time and Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth); originalprojects;, Great Yarmouth; QUAD, FORMAT International Photography festival and Derby Museums, Derby; and Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Wolverhampton.

The production is supported by A Perfect Sentence’s co-commission and co-production partners, and has been made possible through generous funding from Arts Council England and Outset Partners. 72 photographs will be gifted to six national collections, thanks to an Acquisition Commission grant from Art Fund. In addition, National Lottery through Arts Council Wales, Kick The Dust and City of London have supported the productions in Wales, Great Yarmouth and London respectively.

Commissioned and produced by

Production partners

Free Entry.

Museum of Making, Silk Mill Lane, Derby DE1 3AF

Opening hours

Monday – Closed
Tuesday, Wednesday & Saturday – 10am – 5pm
Thursday & Friday – 10am – 7pm
Sunday – 10am – 4pm

Image Credit: Oliver Frank Chanarin, with Pam and Mike, 10 x 8 inches, c-type print, unique artist proof (#0182745383), 2023


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