HARD FOCUS: The Physicality of Photography - Exhibition & Symposium (with Shutter Hub)

HARD FOCUS is an exhibition at Nightlight Darkroom, curated by Helen McGhie, which examines the role of contemporary photography in the ‘expanded field’. In the context of contemporary art, photography is no longer an independent medium, but something entwined and closely connected to other art forms and systems of communication including sculpture, video, computer graphics and virtual space.

On Saturday 5th November Shutter Hub's Karen Harvey will be speaking at HARD FOCUS: The Physicality of Photography Symposium at Nightlight Darkroom, alongside leaders in the field of fine art photography. 

We'll also be joining Nightlight Darkroom in Salford on Tuesday 8th November, from 6-8pm, for a Shutter Hub Meet Up – with a Curators talk about the HARD FOCUS exhibition, it's also a chance to meet Nightlight Director Helen McGhie, get a tour of the new darkroom facilities, ask questions, network, and pop to the pub for drinks! It's free, and it's open to everyone, all you need to do is drop an RSVP email to info@shutterhub.org.uk and we'll see you there!

See below for all the info!

(Image above © Hannah Farrell)

Image © Alexandra Hughes


HARD FOCUS: A Photography Exhibition by Nightlight Darkroom

Preview: Wednesday 2nd November, 6pm – 9pm

Exhibition continues 3rd – 10th November 2016. Open daily 10am – 4pm

Curated by Helen McGhie (Nightlight Darkroom), HARD FOCUS is an exhibition examining the role of contemporary photography in the ‘expanded field’. In the context of contemporary art, photography is no longer an independent medium, but something entwined and closely connected to other art forms and systems of communication including sculpture, video, computer graphics and virtual space.  

“Everywhere one looks today in the world of contemporary art, the photographic object seems to be an object in crisis, or at least in severe transformation.” – George Baker, Photography’s Expanded Field, October 114, p. 121, 2005

Physical space is a valuable commodity; over-subscribed cities force us to compress and minimalize our lives into the smallest places possible, de-cluttering ‘unnecessary’ possessions. This crush on the physical can be articulated through photography, consider how digital technology has led to the dense family album being abandoned in favour of online social media (where images are uploaded, but compressed ‘to fit’), or the endless barrage of images deconstructing themselves. Inviting artists to exhibit from the north and south of England, the exhibition/events in HARD FOCUS provide an opportunity for artists to participate in a new cross-country network of exchange investigating the image.

Artists: Hannah Farrell, Alexandra Hughes, Stephen Iles, Leanne Bell Gonczarow, Sandra Bouguerch, Thom Bridge, Julie Cassels, Sarah Tulloch, Helen McGhie, David Partington & Mel Cole


HARD FOCUS: The Physicality of Photography Symposium

ArtWork Atelier, 95 Greengate (Queen Street entrance), Salford, M3 7NG (map)

Saturday 5th November 2016

1pm – 6pm

Tickets: Standard – £5.00 / Students – £3.50 (+ eventbrite booking fee)

Book here

Hard Focus: The Physicality of Photography is a half-day symposium examining the position of tactile, physical images taking up space in a tech-complex, claustrophobic world.

The city of paper-pasted billboards has become rebooted with a number of immersive digital LED screens displaying slideshows of ice-white teeth, wish you were here beaches and crisp-edged condensation on bottled water. Images have become slimlined, squeezed and boxed-in to a series of pixels, of zeros and ones viewed on glitchy, fragile devices. There are plenty more images in the ether than ever before, yet the physical experience of photographic material could be in danger of being permanently ripped down and digitally replaced from the gallery space, in the same way that the family snap storing ritual of mounting glossy moments in leather-bound family albums has been abandoned.

Speakers: Peter Kennard, Karen Harvey, Anna Douglas, Andrea Allan, Moira Lovell, Alexandra Hughes & Martin Shepley (full speakers profiles listed at the bottom of this page). 


Nightlight Darkroom open studio

Programmed by Redeye: The Photographic Network, for Redeye members

Monday 7th November 2016

6pm – 7.30pm

Book here (Redeye members only)


Shutter Hub ‘Meet Up’

Programmed by Shutter Hub, open to all photographers.

RSVP to info@shutterhub.org.uk 

Tuesday 8th November 2016

6pm – 8pm

Join us for a Curators talk on the HARD FOCUS exhibition, a tour of the new darkroom facilities, time for discussion and networking, and a visit to the pub for drinks!


Image © Leanne Bell Gonczarow


The exhibition HARD FOCUS has been organised to celebrate the official opening of Nightlight Darkroom, a new space for analogue photography on the edge of Manchester.

Nightlight Darkroom: ArtWork Atelier, 95 Greengate (Queen Street entrance), Salford, M3 7NG


Image © Sarah Tulloch

Speakers profiles: HARD FOCUS: The Physicality of Photography Symposium

Peter Kennard

Peter Kennard is a London born and based photomontage artist and Senior Research Reader in Photography, Art and the Public Domain at the Royal College of Art. He is Britain’s foremost political artist and has been at the cutting edge of global political image making since the Vietnam War. Unofficial War Artist, the first major retrospective of Kennard's work was held at the Imperial War Museum, London for one year from May 2015. For Hard Focus, Peter will discuss the relationship between his work and its impact on physical (public/gallery) spaces.

Karen Harvey  

Karen Harvey founded Shutter Hub on the basis of her wide experience of working in the photography industry, not only as an award winning photographer, but as a writer, consultant, curator and mentor. She has a special interest in helping photographers to achieve their full potential. Recently she has spoken at the National Photography Symposium, London Art Fair, the Festival of Creative Industries, and across the UK at universities and colleges. Karen delivers portfolio reviews and professional development sessions at events such as Free Range, Photomonth and FORMAT International Photography Festival. For Hard Focus, Karen will be discussing the digital-physical relationship in GIRL TOWN, Shutter Hub's upcoming exhibition curated from an Instagram open call.

Anna Douglas

Originally studying Art History and Film Studies, Anna Douglas has pursued a successful career as an independent curator of exhibitions including film, photography, sound and performance, as well as authoring a number of publications. Since 2006, she  has pursued an interest in archival photography, brought into  dialogue with contemporary photographic approaches, resulting in dynamic ‘revisionist‘ exhibitions and publications. In 2012, she came across the ‘lost’ photographs of Northern Shirley Baker, and has subsequently devoted her time researching this little known photographer. In 2015, she curated Women and Children; and Loitering Men, opening at The Photographer’s Gallery, London, going on to be one of their largest attended exhibitions. She is a PhD candidate of the University of Leeds, focussing on the work of Baker. For Hard Focus, Anna will explores curating with post-war photography, with a focus on the work of Shirley Baker and Roger Mayne, and the creative and conceptual challenges and limitations that arise due to 'the value' placed on and within the vintage object.

Andrea Allan

Andrea Allan is a photographer and writer. She has recently completed an MA in photography at Manchester School of Art. Allan’s work explores the real and imaginary in an attempt to understand the links between our past, present and future. Combining photography with text she is able to weave past narratives into the fabric of present places, casting old social and political understandings in a contemporary light. She's interested in how photography and text can be exhibited whether it be exhibition space, website or artist book.

Moira Lovell 

Moira Lovell is an artist whose work deals with photography, gender and power. She studied photography at the Kent Institute of Art and Design and the London College of Communication as wells as Gender, Media and Culture at Goldsmiths University, London. Moira is a lecturer in photography at the University of Salford and a distance-learning photography tutor for the Open College of the Arts.  For Hard Focus, Moira will explore the ‘excess’ of photography; and “those photographs that were never meant to be tactile or physical. Made, not for the gallery wall, the paper-pasted billboard or shiny magazines.  These are amateur snaps of stuff for sale, made by women.”

Alexandra Hughes

Based in Newcastle, Alexandra Hughes is a visual artist with a practice in the field of expanded photography, undertaking physical explorations of the photographic medium, moving from the 2D to 3D, bringing image and material together to redefine the photographic object to explore our mediated relationship with the landscape through technology and seemingly immaterial, ubiquitous photographic images in the current digital age. She is currently undertaking a practice-based PhD at Northumbria University. For Hard Focus, Alexandra will question both the effects of engaging with the photographic image and it’s tactile, spatial and temporal dimensions (and how it expands ideas of the photographic object in contemporary fine art) and consider, through the mediation of the photographic object how can a wilderness be constructed and explored as a site.

Martin Shepley

Martin Shepley is a poet, essayist and student of occulture, and writes under the nom de guerre ‘Malleable Art’. His work has been published in various anthologies and magazines, and he has collaborated with a diverse array of artists to create bespoke pieces of text for international and local exhibitions. His work deliberates the unknown and the unseen and aims to contextualise the mystery of the everyday. For Hard Focus,Martin will be performing a spoken word piece titled ‘Hardly In Focus’ looking at the enigma that is the contained image and whether a person, place or object can ever be truly ‘captured’ on film.