A SHOW OF PASSION AND PURPOSE
It’s just a few weeks since I returned from our second group photographic exhibition ‘Disclosure’, which took place October at the Horsebridge Arts Centre, Whitstable.
Initially brought together through the Open Studio ‘Passion and Purpose’ workshop, our group first got to know each other in the spring of 2016. I have to say that my memories of the week are a little hazy, reduced to a small number of images that drift in and out of focus. Margaret is certainly there, quietly and painstakingly experimenting with camera movement, softening the lines of the sea and sky. Viv is there too; I can still see him balanced on the rocks of Mellon Udrigle beach, intent on producing dark, shadowy impressions of the shoreline. However, more durably imprinted on my memory are the round table discussions and critical encouragement for nascent projects and themes begun.
As usual, everyone brought something: Colin, his passion for street photography which had found voice in an overland odyssey that traced the lines of the London underground; Jim, his quiet, understated, black and white images of a winding river. It was here that I first encountered Rudolf’s images of an Italian town in flood. Kevin, a lesson in vision, patience and persistence, showed the first images of, and described his ambition to chronicle a group of young people as they grew into adults. And then there was Ann, who revealed her hauntingly beautiful and deeply personal photographs of abandoned farms on the Yorkshire Moors.
I guess we were a pretty typical Open Studio group, bound together by our obsession for photography and the desire to learn from each other. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something more sparked between us and we kept in touch after the workshop disbanded, first online as part of a private facebook group, and then more ambitiously, mounting a group exhibition, ‘Journeys’ in February 2017. Sadly, I was travelling and missed that particular show but was delighted when the group decided to get together again this autumn and display their most recent work.
Entitled ‘Disclosure’, a reference to Susan Sontag’s assertion that photographs reveal more than the literal and are part of a larger dialogue between the artist and the viewer, the exhibition gave us plenty of opportunity to test that out and engage with the viewing public. Over a cool and sometimes blustery half-term fortnight, 1500 people passed through the doors, some simply scurrying through to get out of the rain, others thoughtfully taking their time, carefully considering each artist and passing on their observations.
As both a viewer and participant, what struck me was the sheer diversity of our offerings and how far each of us had moved since ‘Passion and Purpose’. Moreover, in doing so, each one of us had maintained a consistent and strong visual identity. For the first time, I saw the culmination of Rudolf’s ‘Flooded Streets,’ not just as a series of images, but as a coherent narrative brought together in a beautiful, tactile, hand-made book. Kevin’s portraits of Venice and Carnival captured the colour and exquisite costumes of this annual street theatre that delighted the public. Over the two years that had passed, Jim had been on his own personal journey with a subtle and gentle evolution of style and inspired by the snowy landscapes of Hokkaido, he showed a more simplified and restrained depiction of landscape. Margaret had also quietly progressed, moving from her first experiments through an ethereal depiction of birds in flight and onto a set of studies in which she explored the effect of the wind as it gently rustled the leaves of trees. As she explained, ‘I photograph about things, rather than of things’.
In perhaps, the most emotive series of the show, Ann’s themes of desertion and loss were once again on display; a subdued set of images that chronicled a mysterious stretch of shoreline, ending in a disturbing image of an abandoned life jacket. These prints evoked a deep sadness that was balanced by Colin and Viv’s sense of play. In an eclectic travel series, Colin captured movement: of penitents, flamenco dancers and sari wrapped women, whilst Viv, in a reductionist approach, systematically studied the interplay of shape and form in a carefully crafted and thoughtful set of images of Hosta and Yucca plants.
The response of the public was overwhelmingly positive. Not only did they share their enthusiasm and constructive criticism with any one of us who wanted to hear, but they responded strongly to the diversity of the exhibition, recording many comments in the visitor’s book.
Some of them even bought a picture or two…
Thanks go from all the group to Margaret Smith who organised ‘Disclosure’ as well as the 2017 exhibition at the Horsebridge Arts Centre: www.horsebridge-centre.org.uk. The gallery space is available for hire on a fortnightly basis.
Participating photographers were:
Kevin J Douglas www.flickr.com/photos/147298776@N08
Ann M Holmes www.annmholmes.co.uk
Colin Howard www.colinhoward.co.uk
Rudolf Hummel www.rudolfhummelphotography.com
Linda Lashford www.lindalashford.photoshelter.com
Margaret Smith www.margaretsmith.photoshelter.com
Jim Souper www.jimsouper.co.uk