FORMAT International Photography Festival

FORMAT is the UK’s leading international biennial festival of contemporary photography and attracts thousands of visitors from around the world. It is organised and delivered in Derby as a collaboration between QUAD and the University of Derby’s Digital and Material Artistic Research Centre (DMARC).


FORMAT presents an exciting and innovative programme of international commissions, open calls, residencies, exhibitions, conferences, portfolio reviews and collaborations in the UK and internationally.

The FORMAT19 launch took place at 6pm on Friday 15 March at Markeaton Street. It followed the FORMAT Conference, an all-day multi-strand event organised by DMARC that will run from 10am to 6pm. The FORMAT19 festival ran until 14 April.

FORMAT logo      QUAD logo

The 2019 festival was on the theme Forever//Now. It looked at how photography is evolving and moving forward while keeping an eye on its past and how it is being constantly reinterpreted.


Forever is an idea built into the very nature of the photograph that records the moment and immediately presents us with a visual memory of the past. Forever touches upon our obsession to record and share the continuous moments of our lives.

Yet forever is an illusion and the immortality photography proffers can quickly sour when digital anonymity becomes virtually impossible to obtain. The eruption of selfies and Instagram is contradicted by campaigns around the right to be forgotten or opt out.


Now is the new photography orthodoxy in which the message is all, the product of an era that is seen as “post truth”, regardless of whether it is a fictionalised story or a factual narrative or an aesthetic mixture of the two. The challenge for the photographer is how to establish their message in the now and stop it being transitory.

In this era of Trump’s fake news, where truths, lies and myths are easily interchanged, we need to find a new structure to realign our perception of reality and provide a frame of reference for identifying where the truth really resides.

What is FORMAT?

FORMAT happens every two years (biennial or biennale) and is the place to engage with an incredible range of new work alongside some of the best-known practitioners in the world. It attacts tens of thousands of visitors to Derby - the 2013 festival welcomed over 100,000 people from all over the globe.

The festival is focused on developing opportunities for audiences to see, debate, develop, contribute and participate in the best of what photography is and can be, with comprehensive professional practice programmes and a yearly International Photography Portfolio Review.

The biennial and off-year programmes celebrate the wealth of contemporary photographic practice. The programme features major conceptual works, participative projects, documentary and all that falls between categorisations, from the mobile phone to the archive. We are concerned with what is happening right here, right now in the scene and beyond, whilst sharing and contributing to it.

Each edition of the festival is curated and programmed in response to a theme, reflecting current debates and issues. This has included Evidence (2015), which considered the place of the photograph as a document, and Habitat (2017), which examined the ecological impact and legacies of humankind on the physical environment.

FORMAT confirms Derby as a major centre for photography in the UK with an international reach and reflects the reputation and heritage of the University of Derby in the area of photographic research and education over more than five decades.

As well as the University’s Markeaton Street, FORMAT19 used over 30 of Derby’s most beautiful buildings and key landmarks including: arts venue QUAD, the University of Derby, Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derwent Valley World Heritage Sites, Market Place and satellite venues in nearby cities.

You can find out more on the FORMAT Festival website.

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Our undergraduate photography courses

We have a long and proud history of photography degrees at Derby and we’ll help you create your own identity as a photographer by taking risks, challenging conventions and breaking moulds.

Find out about our undergraduate photography coursesFind out about our undergraduate photography courses