Cork Photo Festival: “Expect Some Big Changes”

Cork Photo Festival celebrates photography and all its forms in the city’s venues throughout the month of April. Ahead of the festival’s opening, founder and director Naomi Smith speaks with Mike McGrath-Bryan.

Placing photography at the centre of the city with exhibitions and events throughout the city, Cork Photo Festival has become a fixture of the local arts calendar, marrying the art of photography and curation of same with the DIY vibe that permeates Cork. For founder and director Naomi Smith, placing festival hubs around the city centre is an important pillar of its mission statement of community outreach. “(Last year’s) festival featured a festival HQ at Cork Photo Gallery, Fitzgerald’s Park. We held an open call to source work for the gallery and we were delighted to present Cork-based artist Derek Foott. Open calls are an important element to the festival, so this year, we linked up with Triskel Arts Centre, creating the Triskel 40 Photo Prize. Collette Lewis from St. John’s Central College came on board as one of the judges.”

“This year, we have five festival hubs. These are spaces where the Cork Photo team has curated or programmed the venue. Izabela Szczutkowska joins us as the lead on our partnership with TIFF Festival, Wroclaw, bringing the work of Marlena Jabłońska to CCAD Gallery at No.46 Grand Parade. The festival launches at this venue on April 5th at 6:30pm. Kate O’Neill, The OGC, joins us as guest curator to bring Elastic to St Peters Cork, a collective exhibition showcasing work by seven photographers, exploring mental health issues in work practice & process. You’ll find even more at the other festival hubs: Cork Photo Gallery, UCC’s Boole Library and The Glucksman.”

Submissions for various exhibitions and events closed last month, and the reaction to the open calls has been enthusiastic to say the least, with hopeful exhibitors sending work from all over the world. “We had a great response to the Triskel 40 Open Call. It was difficult selecting a winner, we had a lot of submissions with a broad range of approaches. It was great to see submissions coming from Ireland & further afield.”

This year’s programme forms a trail across the city with the aforementioned venues joined by the likes of Elizabeth Fort, The Vinyl Lounge at Golden Discs, St Peter’s Cork, South Parish Community Centre and more. Smith goes into detail on selecting venues and partners to work with. “Cork has a wealth of businesses & heritage sites already engaged in showing work, making it a great city to run a festival in. Also the Individual exhibitors joining us over the years have always been adventurous, making for some pretty interesting exhibition locations. Preparations for our Hub spaces began back in 2016, we work hard at these partnerships and are proud to be working with some of Cork’s finest arts venues & organisations. Plans have started already for CPF20. While we will continue with our open theme, you can expect some big changes.”

A number of exhibitions and events are happening throughout the month – what would be some highlights for those new to photography, or maintaining a casual interest? “Follow the map around the city, you’ll get to see some great work by a range of photographic talents. We’re proud to present a solid programme once again this year. We hope you’ll also be inspired by the DIY element of our festival, it is open to anyone working in the medium who has the determination to get work out there. We recommend dropping in to Phillip Toledano, Maybe: Life & Love at Crawford Gallery on Emmett Place and definitely take a trip out the Sirius Arts Centre to see Spike Island: People & Place. It’s a nice festival trail to follow, pick up a map at any of the venues and make your way round to all the shows! Triskel Christchurch are also presenting a season of documentary films which focus on four notable photographers – Vivian Maier, Don McCullin, Sebastião Salgado and Bill Cunningham.”

Touring publication curators Photobookshow are coming over from Brighton to partake in the Photo Festival proceedings, displaying the photobook medium and showcasing compilations from all over the world. “Book Show runs just for the weekend: April 14th & 15th in The Glucksman, this pop-up show features photobooks selected from open call and is presented by the great team over at Photobookshow. We’re excited to have them here in Cork, they are working their way through the alphabet and you can see the previous lineups on” Another outlet bringing their specific expertise to the event is photography journal Source Photographic Review, reviewing local photography and touching base with the community. It is the continuation of a long-running partnership. “We’ve partnered with Source Magazine since 2015, they have offered free portfolio review as part of the festival programme each year. It’s a great opportunity to get work seen by an editor of Ireland’s most prestigious photographic publication and past participants of the festival have been published in the magazine. You can subscribe over at and get access to their digital library too!”

The festival culminates in the awarding of two prizes. In addition to the winner of the Triskel photo honours, a public vote opens online for the city’s favourite exhibited work from the festival’s array of submissions. “The Triskel 40 Photo Prize was awarded to Kallie Cheves after an open call to celebrate The Triskel’s 40th year here in Cork. Kallie’s work, Pageant Wounds, opens April 7th at 2pm in the Triskel Gallery Space, and we are very excited to bring you work all the way from Texas! Those joining us on the 7th will get a chance to chat to Kallie about her work. And from April 1st, we’ll be inviting you to vote online for the Lomography People’s Choice Award, we have a great prize this year from Lomography & love the buzz that the vote creates. Follow the festival trail and let us know which was your most memorable. The winner will be announced at the festival roundup in Cork Photo Gallery at the end of the month.”

With a packed schedule for the next month, and a steadily-building buzz behind Cork Photo Festival, Smith collects her thoughts on the weeks ahead. “It’s a busy & exciting time full of lists, coffee and emails. We can’t wait to launch and get out there to see some photography!”

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