The study visit got off to an intriguing and challenging start, the first exhibition being that of Cornford & Cross’ Afterimage described as “works produced as a result of the removal and destruction of their own photographs which were previously mounted onto aluminium substrates” or variously sized framed aluminium sheets to you and me. I wondered (and subsequently asked) if this was a cunning plan to get us assembled students into critique mode but was told that the venue was chosen as a convenient meeting place. In any event it did make you think and there were quite a few comments mostly negative about the exhibit. My own view was that this was more an artistic statement than photography, and one that at the very least got a response.
From then we went to see (in a somewhat crowded – it was a small room – space) a fortieth anniversary retrospective of C0-Optic’s Real Britain Postcards featuring work by Martin Parr, Fay Godwin and Gerry Badger among others. I liked the images and they provided an alternative view of seventies England in stark, but often witty (the boy blowing bubble gum with Enoch Powell in full flow being a prime example) black and white documentary style. Also documentary in style but far more graphic was Amore e Piombo (Love and Lead) which shows the paparazzi photography that emerged in the violent political climate of Italy in the seventies. I found the juxtaposition between the glamour photos and the shots of assassinations/kidnapping very compelling and liked how some of the photos were displayed horizontally almost like tombstones in a cemetery.
In the afternoon we went on to see a selection of exhibits on several floors at an old tower block. These included Inhabit by Alison Bettles, Fergus Heron and Alison Stolwood I enjoyed Alison Bettles Unruly Habits with a quirky take on still life.
Adrian Turner’s In Progress: 36 Views + Sub-urbia was interesting in that while I enjoyed Sub-urbia with its slightly surreal take on suburban gardens and cars. I was not so taken with 36 views as it didn’t work for me even though I liked the idea of doing a take on Thirty six views of Mount Fuji.
A major highlight in this collection of artists was, for me, I shall say goodbye with my strengthening love for you, forever and ever by Joanna Ward a foldout series of book with tiny photos representing (see the book video here:- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnmZf5WXYPw) an emotional series about her parents divorce.
We went to hear a talk by Chloe Dewe Mathews on both her Shot at Dawn series and also her work in progress. I think the Shot at Dawn series when viewed with the simple captions is a very moving and evocative piece somehow changing the shots which in themselves are fairly unspectacular into something with a real resonance.
In the evening we attended a outdoor screening by various artists (including OCA’s Sharon Boothroyd) of stills and videos. I liked the presentation of lit “blocks” (for want of a better word) of various still shots arranged in the square.
The next day started with a discussion of students work followed by a visit to Remapping the flaneur – a continuous sheet of thousands of photos. It is described as “the result of a collaboration between 97 photographers from 20 collectives based in 15 countries, and was designed provide an overview of the global collective movement, of contemporary photographic practices, and the complexity of urban life worldwide.” I found it a bit overpowering and, by definition, individual images were subjugated by the sheer volume of others
There were also numerous photo books on sale. Again the number of these meant that there was no time to really browse and I wonder how effective a marketing tool just sitting at a table is?
Our final visit was to a converted factory (I think), Circus Street Market, housing a variety of exhibitions. I liked the space here (probably helped by the lack of crowds) and it gave you time to consider the shots in detail. I liked the collaborative work of Kalpesh Lathigra, whos based in Brighton, and Thabiso Sekgala based in Laudium South Africa exploring their respective communities and identifying similarities and connections the collaboration added to me an extended narrative to photos. I also found the portraits of Soviet women veterans by Agnieszka Rayss to be a very effective work just from the point of view of recognising how much history was encapsulated in those portraits.
As with my earlier visit to Arles I found there was almost too much to take in, and I think I will try to spend a bit longer if it is arranged to go again in 2016. As it was there were some very memorable (and some not memorable!) pieces of work and I found the visit very worth while both from that point of view and also the interaction with other students – particularly in the discussion of our own work.