Volunteering for Digital FORMAT International Photography Festival 2021.
by Jessica Miller.
I previously visited Derby for FORMAT in 2017 and 2019, so when the opportunity to be involved with Digital FORMAT21 came up I jumped at the chance. 99 volunteers and interns from across the world including representatives from the UK nations, USA, UAE, India, Portugal, Greece, and covering 15 languages also joined the volunteering team. Like some of my peers, I am not local to Derby and any other year I would have had to travel a long distance by car to be involved with FORMAT. Though I have missed the social interaction with visitors and meeting my fellow volunteers in person, I have been grateful for the opportunity to participate from home; with a constant flow of tea and biscuits of course!
The volunteer team has been comprised of people from different backgrounds including practicing photographers, artists, curators, writers, students and recent graduates. All of us have had our study and careers impacted in some way by the pandemic; having recently completed my Master’s and now in search for work, volunteering with FORMAT has given me the opportunity to continue learning and gain core virtual gallery skills that I haven’t been able to access in a physical space. I’m really interested in digital content and photography exhibitions, and though I have done in-gallery work before, FORMAT21 has given a completely different experience and the opportunity to use digital skills. Of course, with any new technological experience there have been preconceptions, however I think we can all agree that the design and virtual implementation of FORMAT21 has been superbly executed.
We have worked closely alongside the FORMAT team and enjoyed hearing about the technical, curatorial, marketing and event roles in the lead up to the festival. I have really appreciated learning more about the process of putting the festival together and the imaginative freedom available within digital and virtual platforms. Uniquely we experienced an online gallery space where we could ‘walk’ around, and communicate with each other and the public simultaneously. Helping out during launch night was a fantastic experience, it was great to see so many visitors within one space, talking to each other and having a good time listening to music and live talks. It was the first time we could see and engage with visitors in the space. When in the gallery, I particularly enjoyed trying to jump as high as possible and running through walls – something that I would probably be judged for in a physical gallery, if not escorted out.
By taking shifts invigilating the space, we were exposed to a broad selection of projects, genres and styles of photography. As a photographer myself, it has been really inspiring to see how others have used the medium in the creation of their projects and seeing such a diverse response to the Control theme. Favourites for me include Eduardo Boldrini’s Clapton Station, Barnaby Kent’s Cycle of Seasons Need for Nature and Toyama Hiroto’s Aizuwakamatsu-shi, Fukushima.
I recommend visiting the FORMAT Volunteers social media pages for more of our highlights and #VolunteerPicks reviews!
On behalf of my fellow volunteers, I’d like to thank FORMAT, QUAD and New Art City for this opportunity and for the support they have provided us over the last few months.