Monday, 18 June 2012

Sorry for the delay... Last one of the year!

Where to start with the final 'le pub' of the year – after all, I missed the penultimate one and my rhythm has been knocked, I am out of kilter.  I could work through the evening chronologically, but I started typing this on a plane to Italy (off on an exchange to Florence, if you are interested) and I didn't take any notes...  I am reliant on memory, which I must confess is a little fuzzy.  So, I shall do the best I can with my limited resources; please forgive any omissions.

Harry Rose – and isn't that a name that could have come straight from Ulysses - is a boy usually full of bravado and offering images of semi-nakedness that make this reviewer blush.  However, this sharing introduced us to elements from a 10 volume work entitled 'Recovery' in which he bared his metaphorical soul and let us glimpse through the work into the personal process of mourning.  

Nipping out from the hospice for a brief minute at a time, to make images which did not speak of morphine drips, hospital smells and the ache of watching someone you love die, Rose's project was at once very personal and yet went beyond his own experience.  The bright blue of southern county skies, the regular architecture of suburban homes and shadows and plastic iguanas scuttling across the frame made for a set of pictures about silence, absence and at the same time, hope.  In each image was a stillness, a moment of reflection and a point through which the viewer could escape to ponder issues about life itself.

Single teacher-ties shot against a crumpled bed-sheet (the last one his father slept on at home) were poignant markers to a career which should have ended with retirement and not a hospice.  The choice of backdrop could have been mawkish, but the lack of artlessness in the images, the deliberately straight strategy using natural light made for an effective naivety.

The last series presented was for a university holiday project and had something to do with islands (I did warn you, no notes and cider affected memory...) this series as it stood at the time of showing did nothing for me.  It lacked the soul and the depth of the work on his family.  It was however, simply a taster and I hope that Rose finds a way of bringing some life into the project and in doing so, make it work.  When dealing with the personal, the boy has obvious talent: more of this please.

To see Rose's work yourself, go to the Recovery section on his website.

Now – who else?  I remember the lyrical beauty of Rosa Harvest's work about 'Finnish Disease Heritage', you can read all about it and the project by clicking here

The edit comprised one portrait – of the scientist who discovered the genetic pattern of disorders back in the 1960s – and a mix of interior scientific spaces juxtaposed with the cold and harsh Finnish exterior landscape.  The slightly de-saturated palette of blues, greys and whites made for some beautiful images that made me think about sterility.  Everything inside the research institute seemed so perfect, no finger print smudges to spoil the chrome, no footprints on tiles to suggest a bustle and reality.  The images look almost too pristine, a magazine feature advertising the perfect clinic...  The Finnish landscape, as captured in Rosa's frame, is snowbound, feathered by ice.  A pile of snow blocks a path into the trees, ice holds a lake captive.  The land is empty of people.  Where are the sufferers of FDH?  How do they suffer?

These questions will no doubt be answered in the next stage of Harvest's project: it is her intention to develop the work further and I am really looking forward to seeing the results of future trips.

p.s. Harry Rose and Rosa Harvest.  Nice names.

Next to pop back into my mind is Ania Jack's 'Heavy Metal Family'.  The portraits are of heavy metal music fans who come together once a year at the Bloodstock festival, and who 'meet' regularly via an on-line fan forum.   The set is an affectionate portrayal of Jack's alternative family.  One of Jack's intentions was to challenge the stereotypes that surround this group and she was/is very successful.  Subjects gaze away from the camera, eyes and faces are soft.  No-one is seems particularly scary.  Even when looking straight at us, the gaze is diffused through hair or by distance.  Jack varies the shooting strategy and emphasises the individuality of each subject.  There is a tenderness in the picture-making, you can tell that there is a mutual respect between photographer and subject.

This was the last le pub when we got to hear Alexander Norton talking about his work.  As usual, most people loved his slightly idiosyncratic presentation style.  My friend Tom, who graduated last year from Gloucester thought that it was the most interesting and unique photography thingy he had seen in a long time.  Tom loved Norton and the way that he spoke about his images.  Don't get the wrong idea, it wasn't a bromance sort of love, but an appreciation that someone was actually talking about work in a 'character-full' way.  The images and accompanying commentary told the story of Norton's trip to Sweden to visit a girl that he liked.  Through the small and quirky polaroids,  Norton gave a hint of the confusion and distress that are features of unrequited love (sorry, have I spoiled the ending for you?)  Following the presentation, there ensued a lively discussion about whether or not the work stands without the commentary.  Although he had some staunch defenders, the general consensus seemed to be that it is the combination of words and images that works; the challenge now for the graduating photographer is to find a way to make this happen in the real world, and in a way that does not rely on him always being there to present the work...


p.s.  I almost 'forgot' to mention Eugenijus' 'River's bisectors'...  This work was made in response to last semester's 'Strategy' brief and is a landscape project in which Giena explores the River Usk and its environs.  Each shot is made in response to a mathematical formulae which sees the photographer marking the bisectors of each of the curves in the river.

I'd heard Giena talk about this work A LOT.  In fact, one seminar he spent an hour and a half trying to explain it to us all...  Luckily, he had fine tuned the chat and communicated the premise of the work with clarity and brevity this time.

To appreciate 'River's bisectors' properly, you really need to get your hands on the book.  The design and construction is fabulous.