So as well as getting used to its swanky new looks and features, the Library of Birmingham has been keeping itself busy. Grain, a strategic hub for photography and photographers in the West Midlands, has commissioned a collaborative project by artists Sophy Rickett and Bettina von Zwehl. The project is in response to a curious ‘misfit’ of an album by Sir Benjamin Stone (1838-1914), one of 80 to 100 of his albums archived in the collection of the Library of Birmingham. Stone was a philanthropist, politician and magistrate but also a prolific photographer who left behind a rich body of work.
The Sir Benjamin Stone Collection is an extensive archive of prints and albums made and collected by the Victorian photographer. As Rickett and von Zwehl began investigating the formal, meticulous (dare I say Victorian) nature of Stone’s collection, one album surfaced that seemed to be an anomaly - Album 31, title ‘Miscellaneous’. The images were collated apparently at random, and struck Rickett and von Zehl as if the rules that applied to the rest of the collection were temporarily waived. So that subject matters, processes, time frames and approaches co-exist, creating a kind of chaotic spontaneity full of poetry, humour and also some darkness.
The first outcome, a series of 10 album pages, was on exhibition at the Library of Birmingham earlier this year. A major exhibition is planned for 2015 which will tour to FotoGalleriet Oslo, the Library of Birmingham and two further European venues.