In to the studio first. I guess it was interesting in some respects to see how the artist works, surrounding herself with her chosen “geek zone”, but personally I didn’t find the collection captivating, I’m from a later era and don’t have an affinity with the 50s. A bad omen for the paintings to come perhaps?
Yes, maybe. On first walking into the exhibition my thoughts were quite negative. The colours were sugar coated and the subjects incredibly kitsch; I think the Japanese youth scene would lap it up! As I’m sure the Americans would too. Me though, a man from the north west of England: it’s just not my thing. Undeterred by this, I soldiered on and looked at the various pieces, trying to remain objective.
The presentation of the pieces was pretty much spot on - they’re an vibrant bunch of images, in an eclectic variety of frames, sometimes huddled together (as shown below - the Start at go collection - again, the iPhone doesn’t do it justice), other times more conventionally spaced.
The overall effect is an assault on the senses, the eyes swimming around the various colours which both complement and clash with equal measure. As Archer states in the exhibition notes “”I like to concentrate so hard my eyes are watering.” Personally, I’m not so sure that it’s the concentration that makes the eyes water, rather the colour palette being used!
I’m not a painter, although I’ve done a bit in the past, so it was interesting to see the application methods used. in places the paint (acrylic) is thick and lumpy on the canvas, adding an interesting texture, other places it’s thinner, around the edges between colours, the white of the canvas even shows through. In a way, this put me in mind of adolescent painting, even of painting by numbers - certainly the block colour is reminiscent of this type of painting (does it still exist?) Now, I know that sounds negative, but really it isn’t. I think that’s actually the point. The images are all of “childish” things, and done in a child-like style. I’m sure that the exhibition will be very much a trip down memory lane to some.
Overall, the exhibition worked well within itself, and I’m glad I went to see it, I’m just not so sure I’d be inclined to go again as the subject matter isn’t one that appeals to my (mucho macho and ever so slightly English) sensibilities. ( ! )
Anyway, the collection of large scale photographs was very impressive, and shot in an objective manner that can be thought of as very contemporary. In isolation, some of the photographs don’t provide much in the way of a narrative. Technically they might be pretty much spot on, at least to my eye, but individual narratives...? But we don’t see them individually, there was a large number of prints on show, so you look at them all and together they do create a narrative. Quite a sad, depressing narrative in my opinion, but then I’m not a cryogenics convert - to these people it must be very exciting, after all this process can’t be cheap!
And that’s something that I found odd in looking at the photographs. If we figure that the cost to have your head frozen is $90000 (see here - ok, perhaps not the most authoritative source), then the add-ons, the stand-by team, the annual membership, etc. then that’s a good chunk of money to invest in a possibility, some for the rich? Well, the room that Maria Camacho is photographed in doesn’t look to be the kind featured on MTV’s Cribs, rather a quite normal urban house, with boxes on top of the wardrobes. Is the dream worth more than material possessions or experiencing things in the life we’re actually living? For me, no, it’s not - not by a million miles. And this exploration of hopes, dreams and the reality of the processes (bodies, heads and dogs all together in a big freezer in Russia) makes the series very interesting.
Finally, I used the NeoReader app on my phone to grab the extra information - the links are all here. The order they’re presented in isn’t the same as they were displayed, and it’s a shame that there’s no links to the photographs to which they apply, but this additional source of information is very useful when going around the show - it adds an additional dimension to the experience of the exhibition, especially the audio clips from the people in the photographs - this could also be something to look for in the future of e-books.
It was all a bit of a rush due to traffic problems getting to Bradford, and it would be good to spend a bit more time there, but I guess I’ll make do with the website for now.
This reservation comes with respect to the obvious choice to shoot all of the photographs with a flat white sky (well, almost all of them - some do have a little cloud texture there). I know why this was done, it’s for the same reason the Bechers will have done it: for the flat, soft lighting. Here though I think it’s a little too white (although it must be stated, it’s not “paper white”), the contrast between the sky and the buildings sometimes makes them look like they’ve been clipped out, super-imposed. Maybe this is a personal thing, I hate it in my own photographs but then I also like the cloudy sky effect when there’s something in there...
For me, this really detracted from the photographs, if I didn’t look to the sky then I enjoyed the photographs, they’re in a general style I like to shoot myself from time to time. A very contemporary British style, or what I currently understand this to mean anyway - I’m about to embark on some serious research in this area for the Advanced module essay.
I think I’ll leave it at that for now - just a little disappointed but appreciative of the concept.
The first part of my day was over at Impressions Gallery (The prospect of immortality), and on arriving at the Media Museum, I went to see Churches by David Spero. So, before the tour at 2:00pm, I hadn’t looked around the exhibition. Because the talk by Brian Liddy went on for 1h40m, I didn’t get to look around it afterwards either, so whilst I’ve been to the exhibition, I’ve not looked around the exhibition, other than at some of the photographers the curator spoke about - George Davison, Edith Tudor-Hart and Robert Capa. A bit of a poor show really, as there was so much more on offer.
That’s not to say that the talk wasn’t interesting, although I sense some of the others were quite disappointed. The part on Davison’s The onion field was interesting to hear, and how he pushed for photography to be considered an art form, and the controversy it caused.
Some aspects of putting on a show seemed quite hit and miss, certainly they were rushed as it was described by Brian that normally they like 2 years per exhibition, he was given 9 months for 3 exhibitions. As a result of this, 3 same size prints by Capa were framed to different sizes. Instead of this being a conscious decision, in response to my question he said that the larger frame was probably already in its matte in the stores, the other two just as prints. So? Well, they go into separate boxes, and the two un-matted prints will have been assessed without the other in the rush, and a different judgement call made. Hence, two different sizes of frame - it had nothing to do with the more famous of the prints (the dying Spanish soldier) being given some preference or implied significance!
So, as I said, the day was not as expected. I’ll possibly not rush back for this one either; whilst I know that the history of photography is important, I’m more interested in the contemporary scene, or in recent history (say, the 60s onwards). It’s a reasonable trek over to Bradford, and I’m just not sure this one is worth it for me in isolation.
I had planned to go to the Constellations preview night, but I was feeling a bit lousy with a head cold (the dreaded man-flu), so I put it off - shame really, as I would have liked to have attended the opening night. I finally managed to get in there today though. Initial thoughts as I walked through the door were those of slight bemusement - I was outside my comfort zone after all and the first thing I saw in Constellations was a pair of socks on an old table. But this was actually the work of Takahiro Iwasaki. It was also, when looking closer, quite fascinating.
Iwasaki has modelled fragile and and potentially transient scenes out of socks, towels, fluff, thread and pencil lead. It sounds odd, and if someone described it to me, I’d probably dismiss it, but I liked them. Reading his blurb, he talks about false images created for an instant in a pond, and how mountains change over eternity. He uses towels to model these mountains, seemingly just thrown on the floor, although the colour flow works perfectly (green>blue>grey>cream>white>pink), and in amongst these towel mountains are towers and radio masts apparently formed from the towelling thread. I’ve no idea how he’s done this, either from a technical perspective in making them stand firm (glue? starch?), or from the point of view that they look just so damn intricate and fiddly! It’s often said that any art that provokes a good memory is one that you will like, you’re attuned to it already, and this is the case with the towel mountains - it reminded me so much of Japan, and this photograph came to mind:
This was taken in Hiroshima, and in looking at Iwasaki’s profile, I see that he is from that city. Has this hill and tower structure I saw and photographed also been an inspiration to Iwasaki? Maybe, or perhaps this sort of thing is quite prevalent. Either way, his sculpture triggered memories. It communicated with me.
Another of his installations initially looked as if there was a pile of fluff in the corner of the gallery, an oversight from the cleaners. But no, in this pile of fluff were further towers, constructed (I believe) from hair.
Ok, this poor photograph from my iPhone really doesn’t do it any justice. You can however see the levels of intricacy involved - yes, those are normal hairs on the floor around the towers. This particular work looks so fragile, it could be easy to see this being swept away by a clumsy viewer or even just by the passing flow of air caused by people visiting the exhibition, perhaps this reflects the recent tragedy in Japan?
Kitty Kraus’ performance/installation piece had already run its course, and all I got to see was the aftermath. The patterns made by the melting of frozen ink by the warmth of the light bulb embedded within the ice cube are completely random, and no two installations could ever be the same because of chaos theory: so many variables will affect the way that the ink runs and pools. Looking at the black shapes is akin to looking at the clouds and seeing animals and other shapes, the mind can run wild. In this I see a genie emerging from a lamp, with the light bulb being that lamp...
Moving further upstairs, Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ installation is a stack of posters of an image of water. I didn’t understand the relevance of this at the time, but on reading further into the meaning of this, apparently the intention is that these posters will be taken away by visitors. The stack is transient, keeping with the idea of change, of impermanence.
There was also an audio piece being played in the gallery, one of two exhibits from Katie Paterson. The sound was of the piano playing 4’33” of Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven - the length being a nod towards John Cage I would wager. I didn’t notice anything unusual in this, but the music was organic, it was being transmitted and reflected off the moon in morse code, before being converted back: the transmission is prone to error, with dropouts, etc. so that a new piece of music is created by chance. That’s the theory anyway, personally I didn’t notice it, but I’m a luddite who is unfamiliar with Beethoven’s work so any imperfections would wash over me. A shame really.
Patterson’s other work, the confetti canon, is only fired at certain times of the day, so I didn’t get to see this.
Whilst all of these exhibitors are totally different in form - intricate sculpture, melting ice painting, poster stack, music transmission and confetti canon - they are intrinsically linked by the idea of impermanence and change. A visit to the show last Friday will have shown a different exhibition, or at least the exhibits in a different state of being. Paterson references John Cage, but I believe all of the exhibits are broadly consistent with the idea of Fluxus, and I find it odd that the show notes don’t even mention the movement.
Crazy Mad was very different, and I’ll cover that in a different post.
I was watching TV earlier and Man Ray’s Dust Breeding was shown - I couldn’t help but think how similar in idea this was to the work of Iwasaki, what with the random formation of dust and the introduction of pencil ‘lead’ - albeit drawn lines as opposed to sculpture. Surely Iwasaki took some inspiration from this...
The exhibition was split over two floors, the upstairs featuring large wall mounted photographs by Takanashi Yutaka (of Provoke) and some much smaller photographs by Watabe Yukichi mounted on an almost maze-like arrangement of tables/pedestals (not sure what they should be called). Downstairs was entirely given over to Kitajima Keizo, with different works spread across the 4 walls and a selection of magazines in the centre of the room, under glass.
Japanese photography from the ‘60s and ‘70s is predominantly known for its monochromatic nature, and Provoke in particular for the high contrast, are, bure, boke style, however Takanashi’s photographs from the series Machi, published a year after the photobook Toshi-e, are in really quite sumptuous colour. The photographs show an old area of Tokyo, Shitamachi, as signs of modernity started to appear. They’re all printed large, such that the fine detail is becoming a little soft but this doesn’t matter, perhaps this helps the feeling of ‘memory’, of passing. They’re also full bleed mounted onto block edged frames (no doubt this is the wrong terminology - the prints are flush mounted onto box frames so that you can’t see the frame from the front, just the 40mm-ish depth from the side).
One of the first photographs you encounter as you walk the room is of what is obviously the entrance to an old wooden building, with slippers waiting on the steps, and two bright red fire extinguishers (Hongo - Hongokan Apartment). The wood has an ancient feel to it, it’s worn and faded yet somehow quite intense, and the slippers add the added sense of the traditional. Whilst the gallery notes state that this tradition was being invaded (as evidenced by the fire extinguishers), and the intervening 35 years may well have changed this part of the city, the photograph still brought back memories of a holiday to Japan - I didn’t visit Shitamachi, but did go and spend a couple of days in rural Hakone, and this photograph is almost my memory, even more so than the photographs I took myself. Needless to say, this image was my favourite of those shown.
The other photographs were all similarly traditional, and because of the general absence of people, quite melancholic (only the first shot of the liquor store had people in view). Again, this is something I quite like in my photography (the Ribble project is a bit of an unusual one for me). And yes, these other photographs are similarly old and wooden yet featuring splashes of modernity through colour - plastics or painted metals, often in blues or reds - buckets, chairs or a fish tank, or through the newer products on sale. There’s also plenty of almost incidental detail in these photographs - boxes of sweets, different pots and pans, etc. There is just so much to look at. It really was a shame I didn’t have time to spend all day there! These photographs are from a book, Machi, published in 1975 - I’ve had a quick look to see if it’s been reprinted and I think not, but you can pick up the 12 page original for about $1500... (I think I would be become homeless if I went for that!)
Watabe Yukichi’s section of the exhibition features 60-odd photographs documenting a criminal investigation: not the crime itself or the arrest, just the investigation. The inspector looks to be a “Columbo” type, wearing a long coat and thoughtfully looking through the evidence. These small black and white photographs (7x5?) from the 50’s give a feeling of film noir, a typical black and white crime thriller.
The presentation works well. The photographs are small and mounted under glass on table like pedestals. You bend over, looking closely at them and could almost be looking for clues yourself, following the story. There are several photographs from behind the inspector (such that I tend to disagree even more with a comment received that photographs from behind don’t work), and also a number of photographs that look to have been taken in fairly quick succession - not quite “snap, snap, snap”, but with the same people, in the same room from the same position, but the people have moved (police man on the phone, inspector standing to inspector on the phone and police man looking at what I presume to be the evidence board, for example). I mentioned the maze like arrangement of these display units; walking around them is perhaps supposed to give a sense of following the investigation, reaching the end of a stream of photographs and then deciding which way to go next. The procession of images is not linear, you make your own narrative to a degree.
Kitajima Keizo occupies the basement level, and the work on the 4 walls is all quite different, going down the stairs the opposite wall is dominated by a grid of photographs, which I gather harks back to his work in the 70s when he would take over a wall of a gallery and project images onto photo paper and add developing solutions with a sponge. It’s certainly impressive, and also very reminiscent of what I consider Moriyama’s style, with the high contrast black and white images printed full bleed, butted up to one another so it is sometimes difficult to tell where one image ends and another starts. On the opposite wall, there’s a number of candid colour street portraits from outside Japan, displayed with white matte/frames and printed large. Very different, and perhaps difficult to grasp they’re by the same photographer. There’s a slight upwards tilt to the photographs, so I’m guessing these are hip shots, although I can’t be sure. I can’t find the leaflet that I picked up, so I don’t even know if there’s anything there to inform. This raises an interesting question for me, I’m assuming these are candid, and therefore no model release available, but I was under the impression that releases were required for gallery work that showed people as opposed to people in context (i.e. street photography). The issue of model releases is perhaps something that could do with being covered in the course notes, especially for YOP, which the old name used to imply would end in an exhibition...
The other two walls featured a number of photographs printed much smaller and arranged in rows according to where they were taken (Tokyo, New York or Eastern Europe). The smaller size (A4-ish) made these photographs feel much more normal, and whilst interesting in their own right, for me they struggled to compete against the adjacent walls for attention.
As I mentioned in my lost post, the bookshop had a copy of For a language to come, and I had a look through it. Of the work of the three Provoke photographers, these images are by far the darkest, the angriest and I’m sure I remember reading somewhere that Nakihara volunteered to become a freedom fighter against the Americans, such was his reaction to living under American occupation after the war. This emotion certainly comes through! There were also a number of other Japanese photobooks in the shop, together with probably the best collection of other photography books I’ve seen - I could’ve spent hours there - a full day for the exhibition and library would not have been unreasonable. The prices were perhaps a touch expensive, but then again it’s a Parisian gallery bookshop selling some hard to find books, so that’s to be expected. Amazon certainly don’t have copies of them all!
Before my recent trip to Paris, I did a quick spot of research on what was showing at the moment, and I came back with Richard Prince, Claude Cahun and Charlotte Perrand on a short list I came up with. One the Sunday I was having a bit of a wander and on the spur of the moment headed off down an old arcade and at the end there was a (closed) shop selling old black and white prints, but in the window there was a poster for Itinérances (roaming/wandering), an exposition by Moriyama Daido and William Klein, et al. All thoughts of Prince, Cahun and Perrand left my mind as I sought out directions to the Polka Gallery. I found it, but as it was Sunday, it was closed.
Needless to say, I was back on the Tuesday (Monday was closed too, but I was at Le Bourget anyway), waiting outside the gallery before it opened! Rather than rush straight to Moriyama and Klein, I gave Massimo Siragusa the once over as he was in the first room. To be honest, I don’t know what to think of his work. The photographs were all of Paris, and quite typical scenes in Paris at that. They’re also all quite unusual in the way they look: almost overexposed but with a full range of tones (at least there are blacks present). Maybe washed out would be a better way of putting it? I’m not sure how it’s done, and I’m not sure whether I like it. And the trees looked a little funny. There’s detail there, but it’s often quite a flat detail, and some of the darker colours are a little noisy, which is noticeable at the sizes they were printed to (one example was 40x87cm). Perhaps it was all done by sliding the histogram centre point to the left, lightening the image but retaining the extremes? Something else I noticed was the framing, and also the printing quality on one of the images (here), there was inkjet “speckling” present. Now, I’m not sure if this is the right term, but you could see the dots made by the printer in the clouds - my R800 does this and I hate it for it, I won’t use it for printing “real” photographs, only for stuff for the notebook. With the framing, this wasn’t a “technical” problem, just something I noticed - the frames were white, with the photograph “floating” in the centre space without a matte. Dust settles and is really noticeable in the rebated space. Mmmm. Anyway, the images were interesting, but as I say, not sure if I liked them, something nagged at the back of my mind about them...
Off to the Moriyama next, and the downstairs room at the gallery held about 20-25 prints of Moriyama’s work, some printed slightly bigger than A4 and framed in black with an off white matte, some a little larger then some much larger works, up to 1.5mx1m framed in black but full bleed - no matte. I was surprised to see them this large, especially as they’re all taken in 35mm, but I suppose his signature style doesn’t need the finest level of detail; the contrasty grain worked well at these proportions. The selection of images on show was interesting, ranging from the extremely well known such as the dog (Aomori, 1971) to the more obscure, although maybe they’re all in the book The world through my eyes.
There was one photograph in particular that I really liked: Nagano, 1972. The dark bands to the top and bottom were really effective at framing the blur of trees. Why do I like it? To be honest now that I look at the jpg on the Polka website, it’s not so obvious, but standing in front of the print, it put a huge smile on my face. I guess it’s the grain and “texture” that you get looking in close (it was 60x90cm) that is really lost when looking on the screen. This ties in with various discussions that have been going on recently about working your images to suit the intended presentation method. With these images by Moriyama, without doubt the intended method is the printed form - let’s ignore the fact it’s a film print from 1972. This works as a print, full-stop. I had been having thoughts of rebellion against the large printing aesthetic that is happening in the “art” photography world, thinking that perhaps it would be good to do some small scale prints, but seeing this exhibition has given me a hankering for printing large again. It’s just a shame I can’t really afford it at the moment!
Other prints seemed to take the high contrast style even further, perhaps because there’s less grain. Osaka, 1997 for example almost feels like it is only black and white: there’s very little grey in there. Blown up to 1x1.5m, this makes for a very impressive print. What the subject actually is feels almost secondary, it’s the contrast that makes this photograph really “sing” - I can imagine the city noises, the dampness of the air, etc. For me, this is coming from that contrast, or at least it is amplified by the contrast. I try to visualise the photograph in colour, and this effect diminishes.
Klein was a disappointment. His photographs of the London crowds at Will and Kate’s wedding just didn’t float my boat. Maybe it was the subject matter, as I’m not what you would call a staunch supporter of the royals (although I do find Struth’s recent portrait of Lizzie and Phil quite interesting in approach). Or maybe it was because I looked at his work after Moriyama’s that it didn’t gel with me. It didn’t have the best exposure in the gallery either - they images were presented as montages. Maybe it’s because he’s an (almost French) American trying his hand at what comes across as almost being British contemporary photography. As I said, for whatever reason, it just didn’t gel with me. Certainly not up there with his New York work.
Prune Nourry’s work is a mixture between sculpture and photography/videography - she sculpts and then she records people reacting with her sculpture, which deal with the subject of fertility and a falling ratio of women in India. The sculptures which blend the forms of the cow and women certainly attracted interest on the streets, and the photographs show the faces of those seeing them. This video gives an interesting insight into what the people of India make of the statues, rather than just how I read her photographs...
After looking through the show, I decided to pick up a copy of the Polka magazine, partially because it contained photo’s from the show, but also because it would be good french practice ( ! ) Anyway, flicking through the magazine I saw an advert for Tokyo-e, an exhibition at Le Bal featuring another of the Provoke legends, Takanashi Yutaka, together with Kitajima Keizo (who studied/worked with Moriyama) and Watabe Yukichi. I’ll post some notes on this visit later, but all that was missing was something by Nakihara Takuma, the third of the Provoke trilogy, and sure enough, in the bookshop at Le Bal, there was For a language to come. It was a touch pricey at €90, but I took a few minutes to flick through the pages.
It felt like a very complete few days.
Most images were printed to a reasonable size - to A3 I guess (others were smaller or larger, this is just a general observation), and framed (with or without mattes) in black frames, although there were one or two students framing in white. I saw one that was fitted in a light box, some that weren’t framed at all and another student used old frames, although this made sense in the context of her show (Journeys to her father - the frames included those that held old family photos). A couple of photographers printed onto what I guess would be aluminium (no notes - tut tut!). There were also a slack handful of book submissions. Some photographers exhibited 2 prints, others over a hundred. And everywhere there were postcards and business cards!
Ruth Collins had a quite eclectic approach to the presentation of autophobia, with a total of 7 images, 1 of which was a lightbox, some in black frames and others without frames (aluminium backing?). It worked though, or at least it worked for me with my updated approach to presentation (no longer just black frames with white mattes for me). I also quite liked the images, which appealed to my old surrealist sensibilities...
One that didn’t work (for me, obviously) was the cornucopia of “snaps” from Sarah El-taki. The blurb that came with the exhibition talks of the Facebook users and how they create an “ideal identity” with profile pictures, the images in the exhibit were from her own profile and “represent the identity I have created for myself online though images and performance.” Now, to be fair, the hundreds of photographs (6x4-ish, maybe a touch bigger) will have done what she intended, but for me there was no desire to look at the photographs in any detail, or indeed at all of the photographs. There was some discussion on the OCA forum some time ago that hinted that the Facebook generation is perhaps devaluing photographs - see one, take in, look to the next. That is exactly what I felt here. So, in some respects it will have worked as I expected, I’m just not sure that it was what she intended. Perhaps I’m just too old to “get” it... Or maybe I’m just not comparing like with like. We can’t like everything, that would just be weird.
Rachael Radford is the photographer who used the odd collection of frames from her childhood, together with other photographs that remained unframed. At least one of these photographs (of the photographer and her father, now deceased) was used a number of times throughout the display. The presentation all seemed a little random, but then this suited the show, it felt like it tied in with the “family memories” theme. The installation included a chair and table from the family home, and in some ways this reminded me of the description Martin Parr gave of his own degree show (described at the RPS event I attended some time ago). There was also a book, which included many words as well as photographs, together with bits of old notes, etc. All in all, a very personal journey, and maybe I felt a little uncomfortable taking part in it, but it worked.
Emma Paternoster’s project Behind closed doors brought in aspects covered in UVC, of the writings of Lacan (What is a picture? - my notes here) and how people project themselves for others to see - Emma’s concept is that we can only be ourselves when we are alone. Something worth exploring, but unless the woman in the photographs is the photographer, then the person is not alone. Even if it is the photographer, she would be aware that the images are being taken, so therefore will be acting for the camera. Perhaps the photographs could have been surreptitiously captured? I’m not so sure though, but maybe that’s just the cynic in me.
There were others in room 16, and yes, there were good images there, but I was running out of time and wanted to look at the mezzanine floor too...
Upstairs, there were photographs displayed in the corridors and also in another room, although this room was predominantly books. One particular book interested me - Sarah Smith has retaken old photographs of the Litherland area (I’ve no idea where this is!!!), displaying the original archive photograph together with the new photograph (see here). This also reminded me of the pdf that Clive had sent me of his work with old and new photographs of the same subject 25(ish) years apart. It’s also pretty much what I had wanted to do with the Boring Postcards idea, and the more I think about this, the more inclined I am to go ahead and do this as a personal project for my own satisfaction... Yeah, I liked this work, although it was only available in book form for some reason - space maybe? Another possibility is that the archive prints aren’t hers, having been borrowed - there’s details of this on her blog from when she exhibited a small selection of the pairings...
Out on the corridors there were some accomplished images, although I have found now that whilst I took names, my notes weren’t enough for me to remember what the names were associated with. Maybe when I come back from Paris I’ll research these names. One though did stick with me, and that was a set of photographs by Rebecca Tsui Wah Yu. She has photographed someone somersaulting across a road, a set of four photographs showing the movement. It wasn’t so much the images themselves that interested me, rather the presentation style - the square images were at the bottom of very tall white frames so that there was a lot of blank space above the images. Yes, it made the images feel bottom heavy in the frames, but this worked well (for me...) because of the movement within the images. I thought this was effective.
As I say, I was running out of time for parking, so I really didn’t give the exhibition full justice, but I did take names, so I will look at them again. On the whole though, well worth the visit.
The duo have moved into the Soho community, and with the help of the people who live there as models, they have created eleven photographs that illustrate the themes (such as “when needed, we look out for each other” or “we like that no-one bats an eyelid”) and also bring the community together. Some of the people featured in the photographs didn’t know each other beforehand, let alone been inside each others homes. A real sense of art in the community, and for the community. I like this.
The images themselves look like they could be composite images, or at least there is a sense of this in the small scale versions in the book. It’s not explicit about this in the brief notes that are included in the book, but I have taken that they’re posed rather than composite. They’re also quite ‘matter-of-fact’, not quite deadpan, and certainly not in the way that, say, the Düsseldorf School might do. I guess it’s that they’re prosaic, rather than poetic (to coin the phrase from a recent YOP post). Documentary in the style of Billingham I guess, even though they aren’t documentary. I know what I mean... I guess it’s a sort of soap opera vibe, reminding me of a series that I did some time ago that the tutor described as more “Coronation Street” than “Untitled Film Stills”! I guess photo’s in Soho will be more “Eastenders” though...
Another thing that strikes me about the images is that they can seem a little underexposed, but actually no, they are correctly exposed but just reflecting the natural light in the living spaces being photographed. With some photography, you get so used to all the extra light that is pumped into the scene, and the resultant “cleanliness” that sometimes appears, that when something comes along that reflect reality, it can appear dull, lifeless and, yes, underexposed. This use of natural lighting reinforces the documentary feel of the images, and also the slightly ‘gritty’ nature that might be present in the lives of these people. How much of that comes from the photo, and how much from my interpretation, I’m not so sure.
It’s a short series, and I like it, both in terms of concept and photographs.