Album 31

21 May 2014

Exhibitions, Industry news

Artists Sophy Rickett and Bettina von Zwehl have been commissioned by  GRAIN at the new Library of Birmingham, to lead research and respond to one of  the most extensive photography archives; The Sir Benjamin Stone Collection.  The two artists worked from rarely seen images from the Stone archive.  The resulting new work, 10 album pages entitled Album 31, will be exhibited at the Library of Birmingham until 30 June.

Stone, who lived between 1838 and 1914 was the archetypal Victorian collector who was interested in photography as a way of objectively recording the world around him. He amassed  over 50 albums of collected photographs classified to reflect his  interests including anthropology, science, art, travel and customs.

Rickett and von Zwehl have concentrated their commission on one particular album from within the collection entitled ‘Album 31’.  The album contains a selection of images that Stone wanted to keep but didn’t appear to fit into  any other albums.

Sophy Rickett said: “The starting point for Album 31 came from a chance encounter with a page in the extensive Sir Benjamin Stone Archive.  Amongst the meticulously organised albums held at the Library of Birmingham is one labeled 'miscellaneous’.  This album contains the images Stone wanted to keep, but that didn’t ‘fit’ into any of the other albums. Images were collated apparently at random, as if the ‘rules’ that applied to the rest of the collection were 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.

“In Album 31, we pursue this idea, originally rooted in chance and contingency, as a theme in itself.  We have produced a series of album pages, using the different motifs we have identified as characteristic of Stone’s own album 31. The source imagery for the album pages comes from our own archives: visual material from out boxes and abandoned projects that have not until now seen the light of day.

Pete James, Co-Director of GRAIN and Curator of Photography Collections at Library of Birmingham said: “We look to create and deliver ambitious and high profile photography projects, commissions, exhibitions, residences and programmes for fine art photographers and are delighted to be working with Sophy Rickett and Bettina von Zwehl in this way.  This is the first time the two artists have collaborated, the work they have produced is extraordinary and poignant and contributes to our mission to increase the depth and quality of experience of those accessing the collection.

Album 31 runs until Monday 30 June 2014 and can be found on Level 3, at the Library of Birmingham.

For more information on the exhibition and the artists please visit