Birmingham 2022 Festival, working with GRAIN Projects and Multistory presents GENERATIONS, a ground-breaking new photography project from Julian Germain showcasing a collection of multi-generational family portraits from across Birmingham and the Black Country.
Germain’s GENERATIONS uses the format of the family portrait to craft a fascinating celebration of the people of Birmingham, coinciding with the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Germain’s photographs of the 30 families that took part will appear on large advertising billboards across the city from Pershore Road to Coventry Road and Granville Street. All 30 images are also on display at New Street Station until the end of the Birmingham 2022 Festival.
In addition to exploring universal human themes, GENERATIONS offers an authentic portrait of a diverse region, acting both as an invaluable historical record and thought-provoking work of art.
Germain’s images reflect upon time itself – the past, present and future – via their detailed representation of direct lines of genetic descent from old age to infancy across 4 and even 5 living generations. It’s an ongoing discussion about the life cycle, the ageing process, human biology and characteristics. What do we inherit through our genes and what comes from our culture, our upbringing and the surroundings, which form an essential backdrop to each group portrait?
Families from across Birmingham and the Black Country responded to a call out made earlier this year by the Birmingham 2022 Festival, looking for four and five generation families that showcase all different stages of life; new-borns, infants, children, teens and their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents, many coming together for the first time since Covid.
GRAIN Projects and Julian Germain spent time with the families exploring old family photos, their history and their lives uncovering deeply personal stories from mixed race marriages in the 1970s looked down on by other people, Birmingham born and bred five-generation families, the first Bangladeshi woman to be elected to the council in the Midlands, Bournville workers, and Italian emigres who spoke no English on arrival, and a couple who met at an Italian Dance at Edgbaston Reservoir’s Tower Ballroom.
When experiencing GENERATIONS, audiences can expect to encounter fundamental questions that relate to us all; life, death, time and the effects of time, where do we come from and where will we go?
Artist Julian Germain, said: “GENERATIONS is a new collection of portraits from across Birmingham and the Black Country and it’s exciting that the project will be widely seen by the general public on posters and billboards throughout the region. In addition to exploring universal human themes, my hope is that the work offers an authentic portrait of a fascinating and diverse region, now, and I hope too that it will continue to be useful in the future, both as a thought-provoking work of art and a valuable historical record.
“The images reflect upon time itself – the past, present and future – via their detailed representation of direct lines of genetic descent from old age to infancy across 4 and even 5 living generations. It’s an ongoing discussion about the life cycle, the ageing process, human biology and characteristics. What do we inherit through our genes and what comes from our culture, our upbringing and the surroundings, which form an essential backdrop to each group portrait?
“Many people responded to the call-out because they wanted their whole family to be part of Birmingham 2022 and some of the portraits generated quite large gatherings, bringing extended family together from across the region and beyond, on occasions for the first time since Covid.”
Nicola Shipley, Director of GRAIN Projects, said: “It has been an absolute joy and honour to work with the families and artist Julian Germain on this significant project. We have heard so many astonishing and memorable stories from participants and they have shared beautiful and poignant photographs from their albums with us. We can’t wait to see the largescale portraits of families across the city and are very proud of all that has been achieved by everyone involved.”
Louisa Davies, Senior Producer at the Birmingham 2022 Festival, said: “Julian Germain’s incredible images celebrate the people that make Birmingham and the Black Country the place it is, rich with diversity. Seen together they tell a compelling story in a large-scale public exhibition that will sit right at the heart of the Birmingham 2022 Festival. Seeing the work at this scale allows us to notice the wonderful details which illustrate the important aspects or moments in these families’ lives. We are so grateful to everybody who came forward to be a part of Generations and of course to have had the opportunity to work with Julian Germain and GRAIN Projects.”
GENERATIONS is presented by the Birmingham 2022 Festival generously supported by Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
For further information visit birmingham2022.com/festival