New photographic festival at Frome

WORLD-class photography takes centre stage at Frome this summer at a new festival, PhotoFrome,  running daily for from 21st June to 15th July.

The festival will showcase all types of photography from local, national, and international photographers at five exhibition venues, all with free entry. There will be talks, workshops, a book fair, portfolio reviews and more.

The inaugural theme is The Independent Eye, celebrating photography as an art form and reflecting some of Frome’s own famed spirit of independence. Highlights include Dave Grohl, Oasis, U2 and many other bands coming to town in the photographs of one of the UK’s leading music professionals, Danny North.

Astronauts will be landing in Frome, too, thanks to John Angerson’s unique photos of the training programme for NASA’s Space Shuttle STS-72 mission.

Olga Karlovac’s mysterious but alluring black and white portrayals of her native Croatia are atmospheric and rich with story-telling emotion. Hanna-Katrina Jędrosz is exhibiting for the first time her extensive documentation of the European Green Belt along the former Iron Curtain borderlands, where paradoxically wildlife flourishes. A timely show.

James Ravilious’s world-renowned photography of the Southwest is another highlight of this inaugural festival. James’s widow, Robin, is giving a talk on his work, and his friend Chris Chapman is exhibiting with his beautiful take on Southwest rural life.

Dramatic street portraiture of strangers in East London by Trinidad-born Robert Huggins is complemented by poetry, celebrating the diversity of that great city. Vanessa Fairfax-Woods’s perspective on the role of women highlights the frustrations, absurdity, and fragility of not showing one’s true self.

There are also three group shows. One features many of Frome’s professional photographers. Another is dedicated to work from Frome Wessex Photographic, one of the region’s most successful amateur groups. And the third is a large-scale display of contemporary photographs from across the world.

The talks programme partly reflects the exhibitions, with sessions from Robin Ravilious, Chris Chapman, Olga Karlovac and John Angerson. They are joined by Justin Quinnell’s engaging and practical talk on pinhole photography; Tim Gander’s revelations on his arresting photo-documentary of Frome’s abandoned Saxonvale industrial site; and a compelling, audience-involving debate on the meaning of photography today from a professional perspective (Joss Barrett) and that of a fine artist (Martin Wade).

There will be an event discussing the work of Alice Seeley, later Lady Harris, who lived in Frome for many years. This is in collaboration with Frome Heritage Museum, where she is featured in the Celebrated Women of Frome exhibition. This pioneering photographer shocked the world in the early 1900s with her images of human rights abuses in the Belgian Congo, which led to King Leopold’s withdrawal. Seeley’s enduring legacy is not without controversy.

Complementing the exhibitions, at Rook Lane Chapel, the Round Tower at Black Swan Arts, the town hall, Gallery at the Station and Makers’ Yard,  there will be a series of workshops, ranging from Polaroid-based photowalks to ‘camera-less’ cyanotype photography, a book and magazine fair, portfolio review sessions. Frome College and local shops are also involved in the festival.

PhotoFrome, a registered Community Interest Company, was co-founded by Frome-area photographers David Chedgy, Mick Yates, Martin Bax and Joao Diniz Sanches in autumn 2021.

Pictured: Archie Parkhouse and his dog Sally, Dolton, 1982, by James Ravilious. © Beaford Arts; one of Robert Huggins’ street portraits;  an image from Independent Eye, a group show at Gallery at the Station.