Photo North Festival organisers Georgia Pick, Peter Dench and Sharon Price
Photo North Festival organisers Georgia Pick, Peter Dench and Sharon Price

5 questions to the Photo North Festival, ahead of the weekend

28 November 2019

Photo North Festival is back for a second year from 30 November – 2 December 2019, at the Harrogate Convention Centre.

This year’s event builds on the success of the inaugural festival in Harrogate, this unique photography event is aimed at the professional photographer, art-enthusiast, keen amateur and students. The festival brings together a sensational display of exhibitions, talks, workshops and portfolio reviews from highly respected and emerging artists.

We put a few questions to Peter Dench, part of the small team behind the event.

How would you describe Photo North and who is it for ?

The festival is for everyone with a creative interest in the arts and in particular, photography, from the amateur enthusiast to working professional. We want to create a lively festival where everyone feels welcome and engaged and leaves feeling nourished and inspired. In addition to the main exhibitions, talks, screenings and signings, the programme includes lots to enjoy with live music, food stalls and a licensed bar. Visitors can browse the industry trade stands and book stalls or just relax with friends or make new ones. We have included an area for painting and sculpture.

Who is behind the event and what’s their backgrounds ?

The three main members of the Photo North team are Sharon Price, Peter Dench and Georgia Pick who has a background in sales. Sharon and Peter (who are brother and sister-in-law) were co-creative directors at White Cloth Gallery Leeds for three years from 2012-15. After they moved on from there, they were looking for another opportunity to showcase world-class photography in the region. Sharon lives in Harrogate, she is most recognised for working with award-winning global creative organisations producing an eclectic range of events for international brands such as Saatchi, Opera North, Leeds International Film Festival, VW International, Alpha Romeo, Human Film. Peter is an award-winning photographer, writer and curator with over 20 years experience in the industry based in London.

This is the 2nd year, how did it go last year ?

It was hard work and very gratifying. It wasn’t for everyone but it was for most of the 500+ visitors who came through the door. We have listened and learnt a lot and tried to address the criticisms. The events are now back to back rather than overlapping so no-one misses out. This year everything takes place in one hall, last year it was more spread out. We hope that by having everything in one place it will encourage people to engage with the exhibitions longer and create more of an atmosphere. There was enough positive feedback from the inaugural festival to make the decision to progress on to a second year. This year we have 17 main exhibitions (five more than 2018) plus a few extras including our student competition winners. It’s important for us to continue to give the opportunity for up and coming photographers to exhibit alongside world renowned ones.

What have been the challenges in putting the event on ?

It’s a labour of love. The team have other employment besides the festival so time is always a challenge. Funding is always a challenge. We haven’t the budget to commission new work, so we try to source existing exhibitions which can be tricky timing wise. We rely on a great deal of collaboration and goodwill from everyone involved from the artists to volunteers. If an artist has an exhibition in storage or coming to the end of a gallery run, we can potentially offer it a space in front of a new audience. Peter lives in London and gets to see many exhibitions and tries to divert many of them up to Harrogate. This is a big part of our drive, to keep existing exhibitions on the road. We often have to wait until close to the festival opening to confirm who can commit to being involved. What we hope, is people see and understand what we’re trying to achieve and support us in getting there, to create an annual go-to event for north Yorkshire.

What are the must-see exhibits this year ?

Oh everything of course! Jim Mortram’s Small Town Inertia is very impactful, Jim is as much an activist as photographer. It’s vital for Jim to use his photography to effect change. His work documents the lives of a number of disadvantaged and marginalised people living near to his home in order to tell stories that are under-reported. We are also particularly proud to have collaborated with Getty Images Gallery who have loaned us some classic images from their signed limited edition portfolio.

Homer Sykes, Mik Critchlow and Denis Thorpe are legendary for documenting Britain and are all exhibiting and giving an accompanying talk. We try to mix up the exhibitions, some have international content Like We Feed the World, a global reportage celebrating the farmers and the land that feed us, others have a more distinct flavour of The North. Talking of flavour, Pink Lady® Food Photographer of the Year are exhibiting with some diverse and stunning imagery.

  • World Renowned Photographers
  • Emerging Artists
  • Film Screenings
  • Talks
  • Q&A’s
  • Workshops
  • Book signings
  • Meet the Artist
  • Live Pop-up Portrait Session
  • Student Competition
  • Live music
  • Indie Market Stall Traders
  • Portfolio reviews


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