Today I went to visit quite a unique exhibition. It was organised and run by a charity called The Photographic Angle (TPA) who’s aim is to promote education of the public in the Art and Science of photography by staging exhibitions and by working with professional, student and amateur photographers. Their exhibitions tour the UK and consist of work submitted by photographers from all over the world with each exhibition being centred on a specific theme. More information about TPA can be found here.
Being about to embark on Part 3 of the course (Putting yourself in the picture), I thought that an exhibition with portraiture at its core could not be missed. Rural Essex is not particularly well known for it’s galleries, and travel in to London can be expensive. Peterborough is an hours drive and TPA utilise empty corporate buildings for their temporary galleries, which made this exhibition easily accessible.
I arrived at Lynchwood House to be greeted by the Gallery Assistant who was instantly helpful. Having only recently discovered TPA, and being my first visit, she gave me a lot of background information about the aims of the charity, and how they go about their business. It really enthused me to know that organisations exist that are dedicated and committed to getting non-commercial, photographic Artwork out-there and into the public eye.
Lynchwood house is one of the larger premises that TPA use, and the exhibition was split over 3 floors. Because it is not a conventional gallery, and because TPA exhibitions travel and must keep their overheads down, the installation is also not conventional. Each photograph was printed on a 6’x6′ white canvas which was held by a free standing collapsible metal frame. The print quality was very good, with good tonal range and depth of colour, and the clarity and sharpness of the photographs was also very good. Each individual photograph was accompanied by an A4 information sheet which listed the name of the author, the title of the photograph and quite uniquely (at least I’ve not seen it before in a gallery), the EXIF data i.e. camera make/model, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, flash etc. What I liked about the size of the exhibition was the fact that the photographs were well spread out with each in its own space. This really allows visitors to enjoy and soak up each image without interruption, from other visitors or from other images within the periphery. The size of each photograph allows the viewer to see and pick up on details that may otherwise be missed, particularly in head-shots or closely cropped portraits. In the photo’s with full length portraits the subject would appear Life-size, which was visually pleasing. Occasionally the viewer will come across inspirational quotes from photographers, semi hidden in small spaces, whilst perusing the installation. I liked this as it was unexpected and it gave the eyes and brain a break from portraits.
Given the number of contributing artists, there was a real variation in the photographs on display. There was a range of photographic styles, technical expertise, creative approaches and even subjects, but always with the theme of Portraiture running through the exhibition. There were some very intimate and moving portraits which portrayed a real sense of emotion and which were quite moving. There were explorations of contemporary image making with the inclusion of Selfies. People in their environment gave us a sense of place and narrative as well as urged social change or reform. In other photo’s, stories of mental anguish were played out through the use of photography and some digital manipulation. The broad diversity of the artists and their subjects gave the exhibition an explorative and investigative feel. In each portrait, there is not only a sense of who the subject is, but we also learn something about who the photographer is. Culture, ethnicity, gender and individuality are all represented. The entire exhibition was very tasteful. What I mean by this is that there was no nudity, violence or Arbus’esque images of physical deformity. I’m not sure if this was a conscious decision by the curator in order to keep it family friendly, or if it’s just because no such images were submitted. For me, this was of no detriment to the exhibition, it is simply an observation based on contemporary photographic practice.
Because each photograph was a standalone artwork, it’s context could only be appropriated to the Gallery, knowing what the viewer does about the exhibition and TPA. I found that the one thing lacking from this exhibition was literature, which could have done so much more to add context to the photographs on display. As mentioned above, the info panels only had limited information, from which, some assumptions could be made. Often, the title’s worked in relay with the images, but many images lacked a title altogether. Whilst many of the images were powerful and spoke for themselves, there was no information about the photographers or their intent which could have added some context to the more ambiguous photographs.
I got the feeling that the images selected for the exhibition are done so based on the creativity and vision of the artist rather than the artists technical ability. I would say that 99% of the photographs are technically excellent, but there are a few where I feel that the artists creative vision exceeds his/her technical skills (much like myself), so it is great to see that despite the technical flaws, the underlaying meaning is coming through and being recognised. It was also interesting to note the range of cameras used to make the photographs. An unexpected proportion of the photographs were made using mobile phone, mirrorless and entry level DSLR cameras, which just proves that the best camera is the one you have with you.
Below are a selection of some of my favourite photographs from the exhibition with a short explanation as to why they caught my eye (click an image to view gallery) NB – the quality of these images is nowhere near representative of the actual prints:
Most importantly, I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition and I highly recommend it to anyone, photographer or otherwise. I did not feel that any of the work on display was elitist. All of the work was given equal prominence, and I felt that no one photograph was better than another, just different (although I have my favourites). 200 photo’s is a lot in one genre, but I can honestly say that each photograph was different and engaging. The exhibition left me feeling that my own work was neither better or worse than the work I’d seen on display, creatively, aesthetically or technically. It’s just different. I’m very tempted to submit some future work for exhibition, not only to see if it can make the grade and be selected, but to get it out there and seen by a wider audience.