Collective / FORM Collective: Beyond Authorship & Intention

Collective / FORM Collective: Beyond Authorship & Intention

The first of a new series of investigations into collective photographic practice, Liz Tobin’s essay below highlights the ideas behind the formation and creative work of the FORM collective, of which Tobin is a member. FORM is currently exhibiting new work Brighton Photo Fringe.


We’re sophisticated consumers of the visual medium, so we’re told, with Cultural Theory moving far beyond the simplistic hypodermic needle model, whereby the intended meaning of a text is simply transmitted and wholly accepted. However, as we continue into a digital age that effortlessly churns out instant imaging, it is also clear that we are relying more and more on images to communicate complex ideas in concise ways. So concise that visual icons such as emojis and memes are seen and understood in milliseconds.

Rapidly disseminated and easily digested, photo based memes have room to be particularly pernicious. Just as the iconography of nationalism is all too easily packaged in a flag, memes offer a narrowing of nuance. This narrowing of meaning is a threat to plurality and the Arts are complicit. In particular, photography, which simultaneously operates as an indexical fact of happening while also abstracting that moment from its context – a context that can then be entirely replaced, as we see with memes. This is particularly worrying in an era of short attention spans and micro-targeting, where the message is preordained and highly directed. It is within this critical climate of simplified visual narratives that FORM Collective look to raise questions around authorship and intended meaning.

Initiated in 2017, FORM Collective came together as part of the Lightbox Programme, run by Redeye Photography Network, which supports early/mid career artists in developing their professional practice, and will be presenting their exclusive UK first show, at Brighton Photo Fringe Collectives Hub. Over the course of the year, FORM have collaborated to create a new body of work that looks to move beyond the artist’s intended meaning and open up alternative ways of experiencing the work.

An artist that understands the power of minimising room for interpretation through highly intentional imagery is Barbara Kruger. An outlier of the meme perhaps, she sought to show how the intended meaning of advertising can be subverted through the separation and juxtaposition of image and text. This separation of church and state, of image and text, of intent and meaning is something FORM look to consider.

The work is an immersive new installation that combines seven different photographic artists’ work. We curate our work to challenge the audience – immersive, expressive, and if you so choose, informative. Unattributed to any maker and dissociated from the artists explanation, the images stand alone or can be consumed through one of the several narratives provided to accompany the piece as a whole. We challenge the viewer to consider their options.

Supported by mentor, Nicola Shipley, Director of Grain Photography Hub, members span the UK, with artists based in Manchester, Birmingham, rural Yorkshire, London and Liverpool. True to our pluralistic aims, each artist has their own specialism, with members experienced in commercial photography, filmmaking, graphic design, collage, analogue techniques and socially engaged practice. By working together, FORM draws on each others’ practices, skills and techniques to create unique photographic outcomes. We seek to create nuanced, multifaceted work through combining our distinct practices, and stretch the boundaries of collaborative practice.


  – Written by Liz Tobin


FORM Collective: 

Rachael Burns
Kevin Casey
Joanne Coates
Becky Warnock
Cath Stanley
June Cadogan
Liz Tobin

For further viewing:

FORM Collective’s exhibition will be shown as part of Brighton Photo Fringe until 28th October 2018 at Phoenix Brighton, 10–14 Waterloo Place, Brighton BN2 9NB, East Sussex, UK