THE FENCE at Exposure Festival

by Photo Life

THE FENCE is a large-scale travelling outdoor exhibition, and is the largest public photography exhibition in the world. By re-contextualizing the use of large-format outdoor displays normally reserved for advertising, THE FENCE offers a unique opportunity for photographers to present powerful photography in the public realm, becoming more than a showcase for photography – it becomes a shared public experience. Visiting 8 cities across North America annually (Atlanta, Boston, Brooklyn, Calgary, Denver, Durham, Santa Fe and Sarasota), this exhibition features work of international photographers within 7 categories: Play, Streets, Home, Creatures, Place, Food and People. Always eclectic and ready to delight, the 2019 exhibition makes no exceptions.

THE FENCE was conceived and produced by United Photo Industries, and was developed in partnership with Photo District News in 2011. It was presented for the first time in 2012 in Brooklyn Bridge Park and has since grown and flourished through a series of strategic partnerships with like-minded cultural organizations across North America. In February 2018, THE FENCE made its international debut in Calgary, Alberta, as part of the Exposure Photography Festival. As the only venue outside of the United States to host the project, Exposure have continued their partnership with United Photo Industries (creators of THE FENCE), and the project made its return to Canadian soil earlier this month. In addition to the 750 ft of banner, a new portion of the exhibition was created exclusively for Calgary: the Western Canadian Regional Showcase. This portion of the exhibition was exclusive to Western Canadian artists, and 8 finalists were selected to display their work in the exhibition this year.

The FENCE is over 800 feet long, and printed on 4-foot-high banner material that needs to be installed on fencing. The installation in itself is a feat. Last year, for its debut in Calgary, the Exposure team and a group of dedicated volunteers installed the fence in -20 degree weather, and spent 3 days outside in the freezing cold.

Photograph by Ben Berg

While it’s incredibly exciting for THE FENCE to return, throughout the year we have all been mentally preparing ourselves for braving the frigid cold again. As luck would have it, the install dates selected for this year’s installation were MILD and, in fact, on the banner installation day many of us were without gloves and jackets. It was a bit of a dream come true.

Leading the group of dedicated volunteers was the amazing Dave Shelley, Creative Producer and Co-Founder of THE FENCE, from United Photo Industries & PhotoVille. Shelley flew in from New York to help install, and gave a “virtual tour” of THE FENCE on February 2nd.

Left to right: Lizzie Carr, Festival Coordinator & Dave Shelley, Creative Producer and Co-Founder of The FENCE, discussing the plan of action for the next sections of the exhibition. Photograph by Ben Berg.

THE FENCE install takes place over several days, as the first step is putting up dark mesh that will be behind the banner exhibition. This helps make the project more wind resistant, and doesn’t allow for any light to come through, which could deform the images and make them more difficult to view. This installation takes place over one full day, and this year our team was much more experienced and had the added benefit of mild weather: the first day went off without a hitch!

Photograph by Ben Berg.

The 2nd day of installation is THE FENCE itself: the actual exhibition. Rolled into multiple sections, the exhibition is installed one section at a time, and it’s this part that takes a lot of patience and re-figuring, as we don’t want any bends or folds in the banners as they’re going up. Entrusted with our handy zip ties and wires, the installation is a huge undertaking and requires an enthusiastic team. Without the dedication and commitment from the group of volunteers who came out this year, this project wouldn’t have been able to be installed so successfully, and without the inspiring and innovating work from the team in New York, Exposure wouldn’t be able to present this project to the community and take part in such an incredible opportunity for photographers.

Photograph by Ben Berg.

Currently installed on MacLeod Trail, 12th Ave SE and 13th Ave SE, Calgary, Alberta, THE FENCE will be installed until the end of February. The exhibition is worth braving the cold weather – from investigations into cultural and political activities to the before-and-afters of dog grooming, the reason The FENCE is so popular and viewed annually by 8 million people across North America is because of its diversity in subject matter, approach and background of photographers. It’s inclusivity and capability to tell stories we otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to makes this ambitious project a continuous success. You don’t need to be a photographer, or even a photography enthusiast, to walk THE FENCE and become captivated by the images. With its variety and wide-ranging photography, there is truly something for everyone to see and enjoy on THE FENCE.

For more information on the Exposure Photography Festival, and to see ways you can participate in 2020 in this quickly expanding festival, visit

Shannon Bingeman, Exposure Board of Directors. Photograph by Ben Berg.

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