It was autumn 2014 and one of those free-ranging conversations that happens in a Picturehouse bar. You know the ones: film, photography, community, beer. It was between myself and the Stratford upon Avon Picturehouse manager, the very fine Tom Roberts (who now manages the Gate Picturehouse).
I can’t remember who suggested what, but in the space of a few minutes an idea was hatched. An idea that brought together current films, the local community, photography… and beer. Or wine. I can’t remember.
The idea was to take a film that was launching and create a brand new photography exhibition based on the themes or title of that film. As one of the founders of a local photography group, The Stratford Clicks, I was able to call on local photographers to take part. And the Stratford upon Avon Picturehouse has a very fine bar, with wall space. So Tom bought 20 picture frames, and I endeavoured to get them filled.
The first exhibition was to coincide with a showing of the remarkable documentary film ‘Watermark’, showing humanity’s relationship to water. And the theme chosen was ‘Water’. We have not always been so literal.
We’ve now had another 10 exhibitions, exploring themes of wildlife, Star Wars, vintage Hollywood, the rural idyll, symbols, women who have inspired us, and more. We’ve chosen to ally the exhibition with blockbusters like Rogue One (Rebellion), indie films like Mr Holmes (Mystery), and with documentaries such as Salt of the Earth (Workers in Monochrome).
Early on we decided to allow photographers to explore the themes as broadly as they wanted to. Sometimes the results have been moving, striking, sometimes amusing, and occasionally paddling cheerfully across the muddy and indistinct boundary between ‘straight photography’ and ‘digital art’.
We’ve been lucky that a local photographic printer, Photozone, agreed from the outset to print each photograph at a hugely discounted rate, less than the price of a small bag of popcorn! This has meant that any photographer, amateur to full time professional, has been able to take part, whatever their skill level or financial means.
One of the defining features of the Stratford Clicks photography group is that from the beginning we wanted to welcome in all photographers, from complete beginners, smartphonographers (if that’s a word?), to established professionals using the latest DSLRs. We created a very relaxed group where encouragement rather than criticism was the order of the day. And I think that’s been reflected in the freedom for all members of the group to send in photos to be considered for the exhibition. You can find the group on Facebook.
Our current exhibition is on the subject of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. It’s free to see this refreshing exhibition in the bar of the Picturehouse, and is best appreciated with a refreshing beverage. Or two. I certainly enjoyed a couple of very fine beers whilst framing the prints last month, with help from several other photographers, and nibbles.
I’d like to thank all the Picturehouse staff who have supported this rolling exhibition for the past two and a half years. We’ve showcased over 200 photographs taken by dozens of photographers. And it’s always been a pleasure discussing and exploring the next theme with staff, based on films coming up. It feels like a real collaboration between the Picturehouse and the local artistic community. We’ve been made to feel very, very much at home at Stratford upon Avon Picturehouse, and I can’t think of any greater compliment than that.