New Wave 9: Fotonow

Jonathan Blyth and Matt Pontin run Fotonow a community photography organisation based in Plymouth. Jesse Alexander went to speak to them and find out how Fotonow had come about and what they aimed to achieve with their projects. They describe a variety of influences: community photography; their experience of teaching; the example of other photography organisations like Photoworks and the specific circumstances of the South West of England, where there is not the same arts infrastructure as found elsewhere in the country.


Among their different projects is Camper Obscura, a converted Camper van that they bought on Ebay and now take to events to allow members of the public to experience a camera obscura and have their portrait taken. This was partly inspired by a meeting with Derek Swindley who had created his own camera obscura in a caravan in the 1970s. As Matt explains, they feel that their 'mission is being accomplished, because lots of people are having experiences of photography... you're embedding within them the importance of photography in visual culture and their lives.'

In other words they are evangelists. But evangelists of a particular kind. They use the language of anti-elitism but flavour it with the bureaucratic terminology of funders and the education sector, they look to emulate the work of other photography organisations that mainly show art photography but are genuinely excited by the chance encounters they have when taking their projects out to the general public. They have ventured into publishing and have an ambition to run a building in Plymouth. With the growing number of photography students (and graduates) in the area and no other photography organisations they would seem to have a ready made congregation awaiting them.

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