January 2018 marks 6 years since I moved back to Birmingham to be with my now fiancé. Some of you may be aware that this isn’t the first time I’ve lived in the city, but it’s certainly the first time I’ve engaged with the big-hearted, generous people who reside within it’s borders.
Recently I’ve been reflecting, not just on my own evolution as a creative, but also the boom in photographers and visual artists that can be now be found capturing the constant evolution of the city, from culture to construction.
Back in 2012 I really struggled to find other people who were shooting the city. That’s not to say that there weren’t other photographers making incredible imagery of Birmingham, it just felt, to me at least, that the ‘scene’ was quieter and somewhat confined to the city centre icons such as Selfridges.
Fast forward to 2018 and the photographic community is experiencing something of a boom. Just search various relevant hashtags on Instagram, such as #IGersBirmingham and you’ll see that there are hundreds of creatives capturing the city, from the centre to the outskirts in their own, unique way.
So, what changed?
I’m certainly not going to take credit for this increase in creativity. At the time, the two Birmingham photographers who stood out to me were Tim Cornbill and Ross Jukes. For these past 5-6 years, they’ve been a constant source of inspiration, and the slight hint of competitiveness between the three of us has helped me become a better photographer. I’m glad to call them both friends.
However, If I arrived in the city today for the first time, there would be no shortage of opportunities for me to engage with likeminded creatives. Photographers such as Kris Askey, and too many others to name in a blog (because it would take up the whole blog!). In fact, I struggle to keep up with the many other photographers, photowalks and meet ups that happen on an almost weekly basis (and the guilt I feel is palpable). Events such as Badego is just another example of spaces where creatives (and others) are able to engage with likeminded individuals and speak about their work.
This has been encouraged and fostered in a large part because of social media. Accounts such as Brumpic, Independent Birmingham & even traditional media outlets such as the Birmingham Mail make an effort to share imagery of the city which in turn inspires others to go out and interpret the city in their own way.
And then you have the community hubs such as IGersBirmingham who have played a massive role in democratising photography in the city, and with the diligent hard work of past organisers such as Fraser McGee and current aficionados, Beth Asington & Martin O’Callaghan, continuously provide opportunities to photograph interesting and unique parts of the city.
The beauty of it is that few of these organisations exist in isolation, and regularly link up to create amazing opportunities such as the Best of Birmingham exhibition which took place last year.
From day dot, I feel like Birmingham has nurtured me as a creative, and continues to do so. From the social media accounts that support and share my work, to organisations like Birmingham Museums, who exhibited the imagery I’d shot across Birmingham since my arrival.
It’s been a joy to watch the photographic community grow and thrive in Birmingham. And it’s indicative of a city that is enjoying a well deserved renaissance. Our little section of the creative community is just part of the many sectors that are building up from the grass roots, supporting each other and striving to ensure that Birmingham is recognised for the brilliant, vibrant, thriving citadel that we know it is.
If Channel 4 decide to move to Birmingham, this will only serve to confirm what we already know about the city, that it’s full of creative talent, passionate about the region and determined to demonstrate that Brum is brilliant.