Chris Dorley-Brown: Foreign Exchange Winner
Foreign Exchange was born early last year right after I curated a photography show in Cleveland titled It’s All Been Done Before. It was a great way to connect and collaborate with fellow artists, which is something my practice had been lacking. Once life sets in as a practicing artist and responsibilities add up, time for real photo camaraderie seemed hard for me to find. I thought I’ve got to curate another show, but at the same time, I wanted to be exposed to new and exciting work, something that would help me come up with a vision for an exhibition. A juried competition was just that thing.
Over the next few months, I organized the jurors, met with partners and launched an exhibition website. It all came together very fast. The generosity of the people in the photo and art community always amazes me. Laura Ruth Bidwell, Andy Adams, and Katherine Oktober Matthews were kind and open to being jurors, and took the daunting task seriously, carefully sifting through more than 350 entries. MOCA Cleveland and LENSCRATCH, along with Lauren Davies of 2731 Prospect, were right there with my vision willing to jump in to help promote the competition and provide a great return on the participant’s investments.
In this age of technology, it is amazing how far our connection can reach. This process simply blew my mind. We had responses from photographers all over the world. Wonderful, thoughtful, innovative and unique voices from all over were shared with the jury team, me and all the Foreign Exchange followers on the Spotlight Tumblr. My primary goal was to connect the artists with significant opportunities and exposure, something beyond just winning. I truly feel that there are many more winners than just the six who were chosen. Unfortunately, the juror system can be flawed, forcing us to choose only six artists out of so much outstanding work that was submitted to Foreign Exchange. It proved to be an almost impossible task. I always say not winning a contest like this is not really losing. It is about being a part of the dialogue. Andy, Laura, and Katherine all told me they found and were inspired and excited by the work submitted, much of which they hadn’t seen before. Perhaps some opportunities will arise from outside the contest. This is my goal.
As for the winners, the ones who will be featured on LENSCRATCH over the next couple of days, their work could not be more diverse. I wanted each of the jurors to select two bodies of work, with my goal to showcase the differences and similarities in taste and interest, hence the title Foreign Exchange. I love how each juror had unique concerns during their jurying process, which are revealed in the diverse selection of winners. So, please stick around and check back this week to see the six incredible winners from this year’s Foreign Exchange and also take a look at the Foreign Exchange Spotlight Tumblr for selections from all the entries.
Foreign Exchange opens at the 2731 Prospect Gallery in Cleveland on Friday, March 25, with a preview party and panel discussion at MOCA Cleveland on Thursday, March 17.
Trained as a silkscreen printer and print finisher after leaving school, Chris Dorley-Brown joined Red Saunders studio as a camera assistant and then set up his photographic practice in 1984, concentrating on documenting east London. In 1988, he was appointed artist-in-residence at London’s Homerton Hospital, which remains the UK’s only residency of this nature. In 1991, he expanded his interest outside photography to film-making and other activities associated with burgeoning new technologies. In 1992, he received a Photographers Gallery Bursary to photograph the administrative buildings of the EC in Brussels, Strasbourg, and Luxembourg.
Since 1993, Chris has been collaborating with artists, filmmakers, curators, publishers, performers, and writers as well groups and individuals in the public sphere in a variety of cultural contexts, and institutions primarily outside the art gallery (radio, print, cinema, television, the internet, and architecture).
In 2006, he was one of three artists the BBC commissioned to research and create new perspectives for developing the iPlayer application using the corporation’s vast TV and radio archive. The resulting publication BBC in the East End 1958-73 was launched in 2007.
Exhibiting internationally, Chris has increasingly become concerned with the development of London’s social and civic environment and has used photography and writing to accompany his text pieces in the form of a journal. Extracts were published in The Art of Dissent in 2013. In the period before, during, and after the London 2012 Olympics, Chris created The Cut, a major document of the event.
In 2015, two widely acclaimed photo books, The Longest Way Round (Overlapse) and Drivers in the 1980s (Hoxton Mini-Press) were published.
Chris lives and works in London, and his work can be found in many significant public collections, including the BBC, British Library, Wellcome Trust, National Sound Archive, Museum of London, and Bibliotheque Nationale (Paris).
These images are from a still emerging series begun over five years ago. The idea started out from some research I did into my family history for a different reason and I just did some snapshots to illustrate this research, something to show my brothers some day.
I found myself going to street corners and just looking, sometimes I wasn’t carrying a camera, I was just fascinated by watching how people moved and negotiated the space around them and particularly how they acknowledged each others presence. I didn’t think how it could be photographed at first so I began making pictures of just the architecture or the spaces between things and waiting for people to exit the frame before I made the picture. I then had this backdrop to start playing with and add figures selectively to each part of the frame. I was intrigued how these composites seem to create alternate narratives and constructions that had a degree of artificiality, a bit like a still from a movie or maybe a painting. I still think of them as documentary photographs, kind of multiple decisive moments if you like.
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