Channel / 20 Dec 2018

Looking Back, Looking Forward

In September 1978, the first gallery in Wales dedicated to photography opened in Charles Street, Cardiff, under the name Yr Oriel Ffotograffeg. Changing its name to Ffotogallery in 1981, the organisation continues to thrive forty years on and is establishing a new city centre base in Cardiff.

This year we celebrated reaching that milestone through the Chronicle book and exhibition. Chronicle tells the story of how Ffotogallery developed over those four decades, against the backdrop of seismic changes in the nature and role of photography in society and the rise of digital culture.

Whilst navigating the ebb and flow of public and private funding for the arts, we have embraced the digital opportunity and been a major contributor to the wider creative industries. Digital creativity is fully integrated with the ongoing commissioning, exhibition, publishing and educational work, alongside the more traditional photographic and lens-based media practices for which Ffotogallery is well known.

This year we have provided new platforms for work by emergent Welsh artists and paid internships in such areas as exhibition and events, learning and engagement, media production, archives and marketing and communications. We presented Clementine Schneidermann’s I Called her Lisa-Marie in Dresden and in Wales the UK premiere of highly esteemed Flemish artist Katrien de Blauwer’s Reprise, her first major retrospective. Two Ffotogallery originated touring exhibitions, Mike Perry’s Land/Sea and Marcelo Brodsky’s 1968 – The Fire of Ideas, are travelling extensively through Europe with presentations in Llandudno, Aberystwyth, Plymouth, Lorient, Glasgow, Lyon, Zaragoza and Kaunas.

With Wales Arts International funding through the India-Wales initiative, Ffotogallery delivered Dreamtigers, a two year project in which artists and cultural professionals from India and Wales collaborated around the making and presentation of new work reflecting how creativity, technology and a renewed sense of national identity are shaping the lives of future generations in a globalised society.

The organisation has been awarded two year EU funding under the Creative Europe programme to lead A Woman’s Work, a cooperation project with partners in Ireland, France, Lithuania and Finland. The project will examine through photography and digital media women’s role in industry and technology-based work in post-war Europe, challenging dominant views of gender and industry in Europe. In 2018, Ffotogallery also secured a major two year curatorial contract to deliver The Place I Call Home, a touring exhibition commissioned by the British Council Abu Dhabi that uses photography and lens-based media to explore the notion of home as it relates to contemporary experiences of the Arabic diaspora living in the UK and British people living in the Gulf.

Diffusion 2019's theme of Sound+Vision will explore the relationship between sound, photography and lens-based media, and how the transmission, presentation and reading of images in contemporary visual culture is influenced by sound, and likewise how music is experienced visually as well as aurally.

That after four decades Ffotogallery is thriving, rather than simply surviving, reflects the dedication of staff, volunteers, members and supporters, the many photographers, artists and partners the organisation has worked with over the years, and the enthusiasm for photography and lens-based media that audiences and participants have shown.

Above all, it highlights the important contribution Ffotogallery will make to Cardiff and Wales’ future, as a city and nation with rich and diverse cultural assets and an innovative creative sector.

David Drake,