Channel / 15 Dec 2021

Director's Final Blog Post - December 2021

As my tenure as Ffotogallery’s Director draws to a close, I have been reflecting on how our work has changed since my arrival in March 2009. I arrived at a moment when everything seemed up for grabs in terms of photography galleries, and galleries in general, which no longer had a monopoly on exhibiting. There was a growing number of artist-led initiatives and pop-up activities, expanding photographic practice beyond the four walls, whether in online spaces, through artist photobooks or in other areas of practice. The photographic landscape had changed dramatically and was continuing to evolve, specifically the relationship between documentary photography and other fine art practices, and between moving image and still photography. Digital technologies offered both new creative forms and new ways of engaging audiences, with an increasing sense of global connectivity.

I initiated the biennial Diffusion festival to reflect these changes and to re-imagine what a photography festival for the 21st Century might look like, one which is truly international in scale and ambition yet rooted in the Welsh context. Over five successful editions we have not only explored the evolving cultural landscape, but also presented amazing work from five continents in both existing art venues and various ‘found’ spaces and places.

I’m especially proud of our European engagement. This started in 2010 with bilateral projects with organisations in France, Lithuania, Germany and The Czech Republic, and blossomed into a pan-European photography network, and many exhibitions, residencies, books, symposia and dialogues around photography’s role in representing the changing European identity. It has enabled Wales-based artists and photographers such as Helen Sear, Huw Davies, Clementine Schneidermann, Michal Iwanowski, James Morris and Paul Cabuts to exhibit in Europe and gain wider international visibility.

With sustained international collaborations with artists and organisations in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and North America, Ffotogallery’s work has reached destinations further afield, stimulating intercultural exchange and also given Welsh audiences access to outstanding photographic work from across the globe.

Finding a permanent home for Ffotogallery ended up being a ten year journey with twists, turns and setbacks, but in 2019 we achieved that goal. I describe Ffotogallery’s centre in Cardiff as both our ‘engine room and showroom’ - a place where new ideas and creative projects are generated with a presence in other parts of Wales and beyond, and also a welcoming local venue offering inspiring encounters with contemporary photography.

As I step down, I look forward to many more great exhibitions, projects and events being delivered by our energetic team under fresh leadership. Change is always good, it brings with it new ideas and perspectives, and as William Shakespeare said ‘it is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves’.

David Drake, Director, Ffotogallery

December 2021