Original article Photomonitor, October 2016
Francesca Genovese / Introducing: Francesca Maffeo Gallery
An exciting new photography space opened its doors this summer in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. Francesca Maffeo Gallery combines a contemporary photography exhibition programme, print sales and education and has already drawn a large following for its first two acclaimed exhibitions of work by Spencer Murphy and Sophie Harris-Taylor.
Below, Photomonitor caught up with Gallery Director, Francesca Genovese, to learn more about her plans for this welcome new photography gallery, which is named in honour of her grandmother.
CM: Could you tell me a bit about yourself and why you have decided to start a gallery now?
FG: I had always hoped to set up a gallery one day, I remember finishing my degree and thinking that it was something I would do when the time was right. Quite soon after graduating I began a PGCE and went into teaching photography which became 17 years managing and developing photography courses in FE & HE [Further & Higher Education]. Alongside this I continued to develop my own personal practice, my area of research is situated within the family album and memory. Embarking on a career as both a photographer and lecturer was essential to the gallery model I have established; the passion and joy I have seen in my students, my peers and my colleagues when making images never tires. Essentially it is my love of the medium which has driven the gallery project.
Why now? Well, the landscape of teaching and photography/creative arts education is changing, so when the college I was teaching at decided to restructure, I saw it as a perfect opportunity to be brave and go for it. It also coincided wonderfully with my son starting school and allows me to have a really lovely work-life balance.
CM: How did you decide on the photographers you now represent?
FG: That is a difficult question to answer succinctly – I spent a lot of time looking at work, going to exhibitions and reading print and online journals. Ultimately I do not have a thematic agenda or focus, I have a broad love of photography and I select work I am drawn to, that I react to emotionally. It is essential for me to believe in the work and be able to stand by it as a curator and as a gallery. The majority of the work I currently represent are artists who work predominantly with analogue/film, I think that this is something I feel a strong affinity with. It was not a conscious decision, albeit I suspect it was subconscious and is simply an aesthetic and a visual language with I can relate to and read more easily.
Prior to the opening of the gallery I met with a number of photographers such as Spencer Murphy, Sophie Harris-Taylor, Laura Pannack and Jordi Ruiz Cirera – there had to be an element of trust and a leap of faith at this stage so it was essential that we understood the plans for the gallery and the aims – these early relationships have been fundamental to the set up and evolution of the gallery.
CM: I see a growing offering of photobooks on your gallery table, is this an area you are interested in promoting in future?
FG: Most certainly – one of the core aims/remit of the gallery was to make photography accessible and the photobook is an essential and beautiful way in. I am increasingly interested in working with photographers and publishers on book projects – in fact we have launched Sophie Harris – Taylor’s self- published book (MTWTFSS Chapter 1. 2010-2015) with her solo show in August.
It is important to ensure that the books I stock are something special – this is why I look to independent publishers and limited editions. The gallery also has a growing reference library which visitors are welcome to browse at their leisure, this I hope will further foster and promote the importance of the photography book as a wonderful way to experience photography.
CM: I noticed the education and professional development area of your gallery is quite distinct offering in the commercial gallery world, could you tell me a bit more about your plans here?
FG: The gallery does share many if its aims with that of a public space, and offering an education programme is a fundamental shared goal. The programme is constantly evolving and aims to meet the needs of recent graduates, emerging and established artists – as well as those who are not artists/photographers but share a love of the medium and simply wish to engage further.
Sharing ideas and having a space to articulate and develop their work is something that is essential to all levels of practicing artist. As such we provide opportunities for 1-1 support as well as focussed professional development and practical development workshops.
We are looking forward to developing and announcing our planned future programme of events, these will include opportunities to engage with the gallery artists in the form of Artists Talks, Q&A and In Conversation events. In addition to this we will be scheduling guest speakers, workshops and portfolio events with a range of industry specialists.
What is also very important to the gallery is to be able to work with the local community and local schools in the form of a programme of free events to support visual literacy and have access to photography workshops. The gallery is also an Arts Award supporter and my background in teaching allows me to develop student events which are in line with the aims and objectives of the National Curriculum in creative, art based subjects.
Francesca Genovese is the Founder & Director of Francesca Maffeo Gallery. Her background is as a contemporary photographic artist and a lecturer in photography. She has managed photography departments in Further and Higher Education since 1999, and received her PGCE from the Institute of Education in 2000. In 2003, Francesca was awarded her MA in Photographic Studies from the University of Westminster.
Her family and sibling relationships are key influences to her work, stylistically influenced by Noir and Neo Noir film genres and concentrating on themes of memory and family melodrama.
Having spent over fifteen years developing photography programmes, Francesca is dedicated to providing opportunities for a wider audience to learn about and enjoy photography within a gallery setting. She is also passionate about mentoring the photographers she works with, supporting them in their artistic careers.
Currently showing at Francesca Maffeo Gallery:
MTWTFSS Chapter 1. 2010-2015 a solo exhibition and book launch by Sophie Harris-Taylor, continues until 15 October, 2016.
Youth Without Age, Life Without Death: Chapter 1, a solo exhibition by Laura Pannack, 23 October – 23 December 2016.