Henry Palling, Founder of Lenz Photography, caught up with us to tell us more about a new photography event opening in Manchester this November. 

What is Lenz Photography and how did it come about?
Lenz is an international photography event designed to bring together up and coming talent from around the world. It came about roughly two years ago when I was speaking to one of my neighbours Nick Fraser, a filmmaker and founder of BBC Storyville who had been working with DocFest in Sheffield. After speaking to him a lot about photography he said: “If you are so interested in Photography, why don’t you run a photography festival in Manchester.” Straight after him saying that I was completely sold on the idea and have never questioned it since. 

How did you go about selecting the exhibiting artists and photographers?
I wanted the festival to provide a platform to emerging photographers who are solely exhibited online and not represented by galleries and institutions. The exhibition focuses on the talent of twelve photographers who raise exciting yet critical contemporary questions about how we view the changing landscape of photography. 

Over the past year, I had been rummaging online through blogs and social media researching photographers that I thought would be suitable for the show. At first, it was difficult because I didn't have a website or previous work to prove that the exhibition was definitive. However after many discussions, a number of artists gradually started to show more curiosity and after about six months, I had received a huge reaction from a range of well-respected photographers that I have admired for years, offering to submit their work to the exhibition. 

We received over 100 submissions from over 20 countries. This was great but it did make the judging extremely difficult. When deciding on the final twelve I had a huge amount of help from the festival panel of judges, including Martin Parr, Nicola Shane, Graham Nash, Pavel Buchler, Nadia Lee Cohen and Graham Howe amongst others.

Why did you choose the theme of solitude and how have photographers responded to this?
When looking through all of the selected works, I kept on thinking of the association they all had with solitude. Afterwards, I asked the top 15 photographers if they felt that ‘solitude’ was something their work resonated with. Each artist responded by saying it was something that they either felt on a personal level or could relate to it in their photography.

In addition, I also felt the exhibition would have more impact if it had a theme that tied all the photographers together. In this case, by showing the different ways solitude can be expressed. Photographers often work alone for long periods of time and this can have an influence on the work they produce; yet this is something that is rarely spoken about. This exhibition aims to open up that conversation.

Why did you choose Manchester?
I recently studied Art History at the University of Manchester, so it felt natural to hold the festival here as much of my love of art began while living in the city. To my surprise, there wasn’t an existing photography festival already happening in Manchester, and so I went for it. I loved the challenge of starting one from scratch, and I hope to see the festival evolve further in the years to come.  

In future, I hope that the exhibition will be able to showcase more photographers based in Manchester. My obsession with photography is what drives me to pursue this project and I hope for it to attract more people to the city as well providing a platform for new and emerging international talent.

Catch the first edition of Lenz Photography from 25th November until 10th December at The Great Northern Warehouse and stay up to date with the latest information by following the Lenz Facebook and Instagram page.

Image: Finland Dawns from the series Uusimaa by Janne Savon, Nat-Finland 

Redeye, Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Market Buildings, Thomas St, Manchester M4 1EU, UK
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