FORMAT23 ‘What Photography Can Be’


19 December 2022

FORMAT23 ‘What Photography Can Be’

FORMAT International Photography Festival In QUAD & venues across Derby

16 March – 9 April 2023

FORMAT International Photography Festival, organised in partnership between QUAD and the University of Derby, returns in March 2023 to transform the historic city of Derby into a vibrant showcase for the very best photography and lens-based media being produced today. For FORMAT23 we invite our audiences and our colleagues to stop, take stock and consider ‘What Photography Can Be’.

Across 12 venues more than 200 artists from 55 countries present works that examine themes that matter now: water scarcity and future food provision; migration; questions of what identity is and the implications of climate change. FORMAT23 will feature the return of the international Conference and two Portfolio Review days alongside the FORMAT Photobook Market. We invite you to shape the photography of now towards a future of what photography can be.

FORMAT23 will feature exhibitions in key Derby cultural organisations including QUAD, Déda, Artcore and the Museum of Making, alongside revitalising repurposed buildings and public places, celebrating work by a worldwide community of artists. Key exhibition projects as part of the festival include Radical Souls at QUAD that will focus on global dance genres and notions of self-identity, and a new body of work by award-winning photographer Oliver Frank Chanarin at the Museum of Making that explores ‘the drive for attention, the complexity of being seen and the anxiety of being overlooked, in the shifting terrain of documentary photography’.

Key Exhibitions

Radical Souls, in QUAD Gallery

The lead festival exhibition, titled Radical Souls, features work by Cecilia Bengolea (Argentina/France); Dele Adeyamo (UK); Luciana Demichelis (Argentina) & Volta Yang (China). The exhibition explores how dance, in its limitless forms, is used as a revolutionary tool for expressing self-identity, reaching out for freedom and communicating experiences that transcend the abilities of spoken language. Works in the exhibition will traverse dance genres and styles that are not governed by rules of strict technique but those that are instead fed through emotion, culture, sounds and in some cases, rebellion. Forms of movement which move beyond the boundaries of their own bodies provide the performer with a sense of unyielding freedom that cannot be achieved through other means of self-expression and become a powerful method of reinterpreting life. Curated by Niamh Treacy, FORMAT Curator & Coordinator.

Oliver Frank Chanarin, in Museum of Making

Photographer Oliver Frank Chanarin premieres a solo exhibition at the Museum of Making with new work which explores the drive for attention, the complexity of being seen and the anxiety of being overlooked, in the shifting terrain of documentary photography.

The project is commissioned and produced by Forma in collaboration with eight UK organisations throughout 2022, with different iterations of the project presented nationally over the next two years. It comprises over a thousand negatives, 300 analogue prints, accompanied by written accounts that offer reflections on the mercurial nature of identity in Britain. The project is the result of multiple journeys undertaken around the country on the peripheries of the mainstream and conversations, unexpected encounters, workshops and collaborations, the resulting images speak to the dynamics and expectations at play between the photographer and sitter, whilst the complete archive captures a highly subjective record of a nation in transition.

Forma has collaborated with eight UK institutions to co-commission Oliver Frank Chanarin’s new project – including QUAD/FORMAT and Derby Museums to make portraits with people and communities in Derbyshire. The other venues are: Artes Mundi in Cardiff; Guildhall Art

Gallery in London; KARST in Plymouth; Norfolk Museum Services; Original Projects in Great Yarmouth and Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

Aaron Williamson Derby Punk Archive, in QUAD Gallery

Based on an extensive archive of photographic images and memorabilia the Derby Punk Archive will be exhibited in QUAD Gallery, curated by Derby born artist Aaron Williamson. The exhibition will explore the Punk scene in Derby between 1976 – 80. Featuring an archival collection of ephemera (posters, fanzines, tickets, badges), it will examine a slice of social history in which Aaron himself was present at most key moments during Derby’s punk years as a band/audience member, clothes shop assistant, promoter, DIY cassette tapes and records producer, writer and general scenester.

We Danced in Derby in Déda

Continuing the theme of ‘dance’, the exhibition We Danced in Derby at Déda will, like Derby Punk Archive, delve into the social history of Derby city in the 1960s and ‘70s. Through the prism of ballrooms, discos and clubs, this nostalgic exhibition celebrates how the 1960s changed the way people danced, foregrounding the music that inspired this transformation. Created in collaboration with Roger Smith, a local writer and heritage researcher, it will feature images of the popular Derby social venues of the time, some of which have since been demolished, alongside visual, written and oral history memories of the people who ‘were there’. This exhibition will take place at Déda – one of our key festival partners. Déda is a Centre for Dance, Movement and Creativity based in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter in Derby – connecting locally, nationally and internationally, delivering an exceptional programme of dance, contemporary circus and outdoor performance.

FORMAT23 OPEN Call, Various venues

The FORMAT23 OPEN Call received 979 submissions and nearly 15,000 images from 72 countries across 6 continents. 26 projects have been selected by the FORMAT and QUAD curatorial team following recommendations and selections from our international jury, to be exhibited in venues across Derby as part of FORMAT23. Ranging from themes of imagined utopian futures and queer ecology to the impacts of extreme climate change, through to the use of digital, analogue and alternative processes these projects all push the boundaries of and explore ‘What Photography Can Be’.

Open Call Selected Artists: Antone Dolezal (US); Too many Pictures (France); Terje Abusdal (Norway); Alex Davenport (UK); Crystal Bennes (UK); Sheung Yiu (Hong Kong/Finland); Joanna Vestey (UK); William Lakin (UK); Md Fazla Rabbi Fatiq (Bangladesh); Wai Hang Siu (Hong Kong/UK); M’hammed Kilito (Morocco); exsample (Germany); An Su (China/UK); Joshua Phillips & Benjamin McDonnell (UK); Maryam Wahid (UK); The Sustainable Photobook Publishing (SPP) network (UK); Ngadi Smart (Sierra Leone); Curator: Peggy Sue Amison (Germany) with Artists: Adrian L Burrell (US), Rana Young (US), Tanya Habjouqa (Jordan/US), Matthew Thorn (Australia), Derik Lynch (Australia), Pádraig Spillane (Ireland), Aideen Barry (Ireland), Arko Datto (India) and Katrin Koenning (Germany/Australia); Theo Ellison (UK); Philippe Braquenier & David De Beyter (Belgium); Claudia Amatruda (Italy); Phillipa Klaiber & Michael Swann (UK); Yzza Slaouoi (Morocco); Craig Ames (UK); Pratya Jankong & Olga Fedorova (US); Curator: Helen Starr (UK) with Artist: Kinnari Saraiya (UK).

Louise Beer, Derby Cathedral

Derby Cathedral and QUAD/FORMAT are partnering on a co-commission for a site-specific work to be presented at the Cathedral during FORMAT23. The partnership sought artist project proposals that took inspiration from the Christian observance and celebrations of Lent. Artists were asked to consider themes such as spirituality, sacrifice, release, isolation, rising/ rebirth, temptation, confession, forgiveness, and community. The selected artist, Louise Beer will present the project Gathering Light, consisting of three works – a large scale installation; a quiet contemplative projection space and a space for sharing thoughts. Each work inviting a moment of reflection of our place in the cosmos, and a moment of space to try and find inner peace.

Picturing High Streets, Outdoor exhibition

FORMAT/QUAD in partnership with Historic England and Photoworks present Picturing High Streets which is a three-year project that will create a contemporary picture of England’s high streets. The project has two parts: a socially engaged photographer in residence programme and a public call-out to create an unofficial photographic archive of the English high street on Instagram.

A national outdoor exhibition showcasing work submitted by the public will go on display throughout England from Spring next year. As part of this project FORMAT will be selecting submissions to feature on Derby’s high streets. Working with Jack Arts, supported by Historic England and Derby City Council this outdoor exhibition will give a view of the best and most celebrated parts of the country’s high streets through the eyes of the general public, charting and celebrating the history and experiences of the people and places that make up an often-overlooked fixture in all our lives.

Over the next two months FORMAT/QUAD are inviting the people of Derby and Derbyshire to respond to the theme ‘Art in the Streets’; by sending us the photos that celebrate Derby and Derbyshire in all its forms – the people, public art and performances that turn your high street into a piece of art. A selection of photographs from across will form an outdoor exhibition opening on 16 March 2023 as part of FORMAT23. The artwork will be installed within freestanding outdoor exhibition panels and displayed in multiple sites around Derby City Centre.

FORMAT23 – Festival Opening Weekend events 16 – 19 March 2023

Thursday 16 March Exhibition openings in venues across Derby.

16 – 19 March FORMAT Photobook Market curated by Francesca Seravalle with publishers, bookshops, artists and photographers from across the globe. FORMAT Photobook Exhibition, workshops, activities and artist talks.

Friday 17 March FORMAT23 Conference, in QUAD organised by University of Derby, inspired by the thesis: ‘What Photography Can Be’ featuring artists and curators exhibiting as part of the festival. FORMAT23 exhibition launches at the University of Derby, Markeaton Street Campus. Afterparty at Derby’s Dubrek.

Saturday 18 March FORMAT23 Portfolio Review UK’s largest gathering of experts with 40+ international photography professionals. Followed by the Portfolio Walk and presentation of the Portfolio Review Awards. After Party at Derby’s Chocolate Factory.

Sunday 19 March Bus tour trip to The Wireworks Project hosting new work by artist Thomas Wynne, yoga and wellbeing & art installations walk around Shining Cliff woods. In conversation event and food by Ivan Smith, co-director of Wireworks.


FORMAT is organised by QUAD and the University of Derby and is supported by Arts Council England, Derby City Council and multiple partners from the UK and abroad. The FORMAT23 Press Launches have been generously supported by Marketing Derby. For more information please see:

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QUAD is a registered charity.