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Dark Peak Photography Festival, Glossop

We meandered over the Derbyshire High Peak to the first Dark Peak Photography Festival in the wonderfully positioned market town of Glossop. Historic mills and buildings are peppered throughout the town against a backdrop of the dark moors towering ominously on all sides. We got a sense that Glossop, being only 15 miles east of Manchester, has become a creative hub given its easy access to all that the big city has to offer. This was evidenced by a high percentage of Dr. Marten footwear, a community second-hand book store and of course a Zero Waste shop.

Art exhibitions are as much about the work as they are about the environment they are placed in and most importantly, the skill of the curator(s). This exhibition was exceptionally put together in some great spaces. Victoria Hall was the main venue and was perfectly suited for hanging work, complete as it was with peeling paintwork and that slightly damp smell of Victorian corridors. I love these places. The other main venue was the Distant Hills Brewing building, set in the beautiful old part of Glossop. The work was set amongst the paraphernalia of the brewing business and worked wonderfully.

Highlights included the social commentary of Closure Year, documenting the last days of Glossopdale school. I loved the low colour saturation in these images. Fallen was a powerful record of some of the countless air crash sites across the dark peak. Our Future is Ancient was quite something, as on approaching the images there was little to see until we were told to illuminate the photographs with our phone cameras. They then came to life and it was as if we were walking around the scene at night. Some of the experimental work was interesting, including huge prints from pinhole cameras, the unpredictability of out-of-date film and cyanotype printing, a technique that is on my list to try. Finally, there was a collection of Manchester University BA student photo books to browse through and the quality of these was exceptional. A takeaway for me was to set a task to create my own photobook, I wondered if this might be a more effective way to stir my creativity than a single photographic task. I’ll ponder on that.

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