The biennial Photo Oxford Festival is celebrating its fifth year in 2023, taking place from April 14th to May 6th. This year’s theme is based around “The Hidden Power of the Archive.” The festival, founded by local photojournalist Robin Laurance in 2013, aims to showcase the transformative nature of photography as it has been used to document the past and present through personal and recorded experiences.

Over twenty free exhibitions and installations will be in place across varied locations as well as online. There will also be events, talks, short courses, and one-to-one professional reviews.

Exhibition image from photo oxford by dian davey
Image courtesy of Photo Oxford – Image by Sian Davey

One of the main highlights of the festival is the “Pictures from the Garden” exhibition. The exhibition brings together the work of seven documentary photographers responding to Oxford-based Paddy Summerfield’s acclaimed book “Mother and Father.” Curated by Clare Grafik of The Photographers’ Gallery, it features a number of Summerfield’s original prints alongside the new works.

Exhibition poster from photo oxford
Image courtesy of Photo Oxford

Other exhibitions include: “Live from the Moon”, offering visitors a glimpse into a personal collection of press prints from NASA in the 60s and 70s, “Losing Freedom”, paying tribute to Afghan women with embroidered photographic portraits by Jenny Matthews, and “Women and the Photobook” featuring in a pop-up library at the Bodleian’s Weston Library and at The Old Fire Station.

Exhibition image from photo oxford open call winner
Image courtesy of Photo Oxford – Open Call Winner by Simen K. Lambrecht

The festival is also exhibiting the winners and finalists of its Open Call competition, which invited photographers to submit ‘their own personal inventories of experience’ in accordance with the event theme.

“The Hidden Power of the Archive examines photography from its beginnings to contemporary discussions around race, identity, sexuality, and what it means to belong. We want visitors to immerse themselves in a wide range of exhibitions and participatory events, many of them free, and experience Oxford as a center of photographic excellence.” – Photo Oxford Festival’s Artistic Director, Alex Schneideman

If you are around the area or attending, there will be a panel discussion on the topic, “Where is Photographic Publishing Heading in the UK?” on the 29th of April from 3:30pm to 5pm at Blackwell’s Bookshop, Broad Street.

To find the full programme of the festival with more information, head over to the Photo Oxford website here.

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