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6 Months at the Brighton Photo Biennial

11.11.10 | Josh Alliston

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Original Image by Jen Smith

One day a week for 6 months. It doesn’t sound like much, and to tell the truth it isn’t that much. But there is a lot you can learn in that time, especially in such a diverse, exciting environment like that of the office of the UK’s largest curated photography festival.

I have been working in the BPB office handling the local and regional PR. In my normal day-to-day life I handle national PR and marketing for a publishing company, so upon starting here in May I figured it would be more or less the same. In some ways I was right, but because of the strict deadlines due to it being a one-off event, rather than an on-going subject (such as a book), there is a sense of pace and urgency that brings in a whole new dimension.

So what did I gain? What did I learn? What did I experience? It is suffice to say that I gained a lot, I learnt a lot and I experienced a lot. So, as I sit here in the Brighton Photo Biennial office, soaked through thanks to the sunny south coast’s glorious autumn weather, I find it quite tricky to sum up the events that have occurred over the last few months. Hmmm… let’s try…


Meeting people. Great to start off with a cliché, but it has to be said that the people of BPB and the supporting cast are an amazing group - if more than a little eccentric - they are dedicated, hard working and pretty impressive, considering that they have pulled off one of the best photography festivals in memory, with a limited budget and photographers from across the globe.

Amazing photography. As an amateur photographer with a passion for the art but a decided lack of talent, it is so good to see the works from renowned photographers go from small images on a screen, through the slow process of test print after test print, and then onto the final version, displayed in some of the best venues the south east has to offer.

Brighton. I’ve known the city for as long as I can remember, coming down on the train with friends or family, shopping trips, days out and, as I got older, the occasional expedition to the clubs and pubs. But, not having ever lived in Brighton, coming from the somewhat more subdued town of Eastbourne, it was such a refreshing change to arrive in Brighton each Thursday, often in the summer sunshine, and having the chance to explore more of the city than ever before. For those contemplating attending the Biennial, please do. It is a wonderful show, but just as importantly it is held in a wonderful city.

Spreadsheets. Ah, spreadsheets, how I loathe you. But the truth is, the one thing I have gained from my time at the BPB, more than anything else, is a realisation of the importance of organising and planning. I have never been well organised, in any sense, but with continual pressure from individuals who shall remain nameless I have begun to understand the importance of planning and organising. And what is more organised than a spreadsheet?


Trains. I dislike public transport, always have. I love my car, but cities don’t, so each Thursday I make my way to the train station, put my earphones in, pick up my book and scowl for the whole journey. Or do I? I read a lot, and every Thursday I spend 90 minutes on a train, engrossed in a book. So does that mean that the only thing I can think of as a low point is in fact a highlight? What a lovely thought!

So, I guess that pretty much sums up my experience. To make it more succinct I’ll say that it was superb. The art, the people, everything.

Thanks for the opportunity, BPB!

Josh Alliston