Thursday 13 June 2013

Interview with Patrick Henry: director of LOOK/13

Interview with Patrick Henry: director of LOOK/13

This summer sees the second edition of Liverpool’s international photography biennial, LOOK/13, offering a full and varied programme of exhibitions and events across the city. Presenting work by artists both local and international, the festival combines archival exhibitions with contemporary solo and group shows, bringing to the fore resonances and clashes between photographers from across the generations.

Anna McNay spoke with the festival’s director, Patrick Henry, about the challenges and rewards of working on this edition of the biennial.

Anna McNay: Can you start by giving me a little bit of background about the festival? This is its second edition in Liverpool…

Patrick Henry: Yes. The festival did have a previous incarnation, not exactly as a festival, but as a season of events, organised by Redeye [the not-for-profit photography network] in Manchester in 2007. From there, it was picked up by a group of photographers involved with Redeye, who were bitten by the festival bug, and who hatched a plan to create a biennial festival in Liverpool. They came to me, as I was then the director of Open Eye [the North West’s only gallery dedicated to photography], and I was very enthusiastic and became very involved very quickly. By the time I left Open Eye last year, I was on the board of directors and quite caught up in our plans for this edition. I took on the freelance role of artistic director, and, due to unanticipated events, soon became overall director of the festival.

AMc: How involved were you with LOOK/11?

PH: I was on the board of directors, and I was involved as the director of Open Eye as well because we contributed an exhibition.

AMc: The theme of this year’s festival is “who do you think you are?” Who came up with this and how important a role has it played?

PH: I came up with it. Themes need to work on a number of levels: you need a strong, simple idea that gives all those involved a clear territory to inhabit. It needs to be broad enough so that everyone can do their own thing within it, but narrow enough to be something that’s worth talking about and that everybody understands. We’re aiming to engage with really broad audiences: specialists – whether they’re photographers, other visual artists, or people who are interested in photography from a more academic point of view – but also people who don’t have any specialist interest in photography and whose interest is sparked by the theme itself. I’m actually really happy with the way this theme has worked out. It’s about a conversation in your own head that you’re always going through and changing, but it’s also about how the world sees you, how you’re perceived. “Who do you think you are?” works on two levels: as an innocent, straight question, but also as a challenge, like “who do you think you are?”

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