AHEAD STILL LIES OUR FUTURE – Format Photography Festival

I am driving to the Format photo festival in Derby (24 March to 11 June). It’s Saturday morning. The sun is shining. Window down.  I’m listening to Tunnel Vision by Kate Tempest on repeat.

She’s angry and she’s brave. I love her for it. And as it turns out she’s the perfect soundtrack to what lies ahead of me.

Ahead still lies our future, curated by Hester Keijser and Louise Clements is the main show.

That’s a title laced with hope. But only just.

It’s an eclectic mix of work. From installation, to mixed media, to straight photography. The focus is on where our planet’s at, where we’re at in relation to that, and what the fuck happens next?

I know all this because Hester Keijser gives me the tour. She’s ferocious in thought and independence. You have to work hard to keep up with her.

So when she pins me down to the spot with her fiery gaze and asks politely (as I’m slinking out the door) my opinion of her exhibition, I bottled it.

I always bottle it.

Just the stock pretentious crap answer about having to go away and think about it, let it sink in. So yeah. I went away, thought about it and let it sink in.

In the meantime we can have an interlude. So Nandos, obviously. And then Format festival pub quiz where I attach myself to a team of photogs for a round and make the incredible contribution of getting all the questions but one wrong. My credibility takes a dent. OK. I’m exaggerating. I never had any credibility. I slink away into the night.

Three days later here’s my thoughts.

There’s nothing cynical about Keijser’s and Clements show. It’s passionate and it’s direct. Not in a charity advert, Armageddon is here, give me three pounds a month way, but with genuine concern that from dust this planet came and to dust some of us are hellbent on returning it. If you’re thinking shades of dystopia. Yes. But forget it. We already built that world. We already made it home for people who can’t afford to move on up.

But hope is built into this exhibition. Landscapes give people a voice. In return people are fighting for landscapes. We just need to listen. I am here listening.

Until I find something better to do.

There’s a moment. At the end of the tour where I take rest on a lounger and plug myself into a VR experience.

I am amazed at how chilled I feel. Centred. It’s almost therapeutic. Everything disappears apart from my virtual world. A slow moving boat.  I don’t want to get off.

In my own life right now I’m bereft. Grieving. Sometimes I can hardly breath. I plug myself into various screens. Escape is not futile. It’s a relief. But the danger is I stop living. Stop feeling. Stop caring.

I never thought that was a possibility.

Oh it is. It so, so, so, is.

Even in Format festival plugged into VR surrounded by burning beauty.

I’m out in the rain

It’s a cold night in London

And I’m screaming at my loved ones to wake up and love more

I’m pleading with my loved ones to wake up and love more –  Tunnel Vision, Kate Tempest

Image © Sadie Wechsler


Discussion (2 Comments)

  1. twentyyearslater says:

    Posted this as a PM on your Fb then remembered you probably won’t see it, so here goes:

    Grief. I’m hoping you’re ok Ben. I’m sure you have good people around you but take a virtual hug from me too.

    My mother died recently and I’m in a puddle of missing her alternating with joy at having known her so well.

    Big love to you. x

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