MUSINGS & MISCELLANY
As a fan of Luigi Ghirri’s work and writing, it was a true delight to see recently the original prints from his ‘Colazione sull ‘Erba’ series, here in London at the Thomas Dane Gallery.
The images, tiny in comparison to the current vogue for large exhibition prints, depict mainly windows, walls and fences featuring a variety of plant arrangements, just as one might find walking around any Italian suburb. As such, they could be described as depictions of the banal, but Ghirri’s delicately attentive compositions, wrapped in those particular warm tones and their intimate size, made rather precious objects of these unassuming prints. Underscoring the pleasure of the viewing experience were the unobtrusive framing and generous spacing on the walls of this modestly sized gallery.
Print sizes in relation to subject matter or genre, framing and the spacing and/or grouping of individual works are some of the key issues I need to pay close attention to when curating a show, which I am shortly to do for members of the London Independent Photography Central Group.
It is the second time this group of 18 photographers, who meet monthly in central London, have approached me to curate their annual show. I like the fact that it is a very mixed group, including photographers with professional and MA level expertise at one end of the spectrum and amateurs and newcomers to the medium at the other. The main challenge is to manage such diversity in a way that makes for an interesting and cohesive show and which aspires to a high overall standard.
Given that it is a self-selecting group, many of whom are pursuing their own individual projects, it is not easy to find a theme or title specific enough to be both interesting and thought provoking whilst general enough to accommodate such diverse interests. One way of getting the majority on board is through a democratic vote on the half dozen or so titles I have drawn up, which already take into account some of their concerns.
In the months preceding an exhibition, I try and engage with everyone on an individual basis. I see my role mainly as a facilitator, encouraging each photographer to think through a wider range of options than those they may have initially considered, and occasionally proposing alternatives, with the understanding that the final decision on the images rests with the photographer. However, when it comes to the hanging, whilst I am willing to engage in preliminary discussions with exhibitors, the agreement I have with the group is that all the decisions do ultimately rest with me.
The group has now voted for 'STRANGE FAMILIARS' to be the title of their next exhibition.
It is due to open during Easter week 2020 and will again take place at the lovely Espacio Gallery on Bethnal Green Road, a vibrant part of London’s creative East End.
Previous curated exhibition : 'Factual Enigma' for Central LIP
Scroll down to: 'Factual Enigma - Central LIP 23-28 April 2019'
It is interesting to look back at work one has done some years ago and the thoughts that have accompanied it. I have written very little about it, mainly due to the belief (contested, I know) that images speak for themselves. I have not changed my mind regarding this and continue to rebel against the pressure on all photographers, regardless of the genre they work in, to explain their images and/or to tell stories through them. For documentary work text and context are indeed crucial, but photography isn’t only there to provide a visual record of a person, place or event. On its own, an image has the potential of opening up experiences that reach beyond words or concepts.
Photographs are very different to paintings, they do however share the fact that they are images or pictures. Gerhard Richter, whose artistic output often uses, simulates or plays with the perception of the photographic image, once stated:
"A picture presents itself as the unmanageable, the illogical, the meaningless. It demonstrates the endless multiplicity of aspects; it takes away our certainty… It shows us the thing in all the manifold significance and infinite variety that preclude the emergence of any single meaning and view." Notes, 1964-65, Gerhard Richter: Text, Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961-2007, Thames & Hudson, London 2009
Like music or dance, photography has its own language. Using this visual language I am, with each image, somehow trying to build a particular bridge between the external world, myself and any fellow human being who cares to engage and look. Once there, the bridge can be crossed from both ends, it can be observed in part or as a whole, from below or above, crossed half-way or not at all. I cannot control the bridge, nor wish to, I do not own it. And the key for me is that each one of them depends entirely on the external physical world and my being receptive and tuned into it when wandering through streets and alleys, just as all the flaneurs with cameras have done before me.
Looking into Urban Parallels, my very first self-published book, I see on its frontispiece a quote by Dorothea Lange, which still resonates with me:
“To know ahead of time what you are looking for means that you are then only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting.”
And there is another quote:
“I look outside myself and the tree inside me grows” Rainer Maria Rilke