I’m not a big gallery hopper but since last summer I’ve started going to more and more so I thought I’d share the odd trip and hopefully inspire you to go and see photos hanging on real walls instead of facebook walls. All of the exhibitions here listed are FREE and down to earth; simply because I can’t afford to pay nor can I afford to spend the time peeling back layers of irony all that yucky mumbojumbo associated with art. I simply want to see good photography, that’s all. Here are three exhibitions I went to recently.
Bob Mazzer – Underground
Howard Griffin Gallery, E1 6HU Ends 13th July
Street photography is nothing new but this exhibition works because it’s almost archival since most of the photos were taken in the 70’s and 80’s and it’s focused on a distinct part of city life; the underground. You see just how much the people, the fashion, the culture and also, the London Underground change through the years. You simply wouldn’t get the same spirit and character in todays tube, not the ones I’ve been on anyway. I also like that the photography doesn’t make it’s way to the present day but stays fixed in the past. We’ve got enough modern street photography; I only need to go on Humans of New York to see the stories about the present day. This exhibition was so strong for me personally because it’s from an era that I was never part of and a nostalgia that I’ll never know and so it’s almost a work of fiction for me, allowing me to observe colourful characters occupying the same underground tunnel that I travelled to the gallery on. For the older crowd, I’m sure the nostalgia will provide the draw. It’s a very accessible exhibition dedicated to funny moments and interesting characters, sure to bring a smile. Click here for website.
Close and Far: Russian Photography Now
Calvert 22 Gallery, E2 7JP Ends 17th August
Russia is a place that has always raised eyebrows for me and this exhibition didn’t do anything to relax those engaged face muscles. This exhibition isn’t a political exercise which I really liked since most people are thinking of Russia in very political spheres right now with the Ukraine troubles. However, this one is all about the photography, showcasing a range of excellent photographers with wonderful styles with photos of people, architecture and even a fascinating section from the past. The quality of the photography is excellent and I loved gazing at the architecture and the people. The juxtaposition of the old Russian photography as commissioned by the Czar on a big photographic project to capture life in the early 1900’s and the expression of todays talent is lovely. Although I think the juxtaposition isn’t the purpose of the exhibition and it’s less of a ‘Russia through the ages’ and more of a celebration of very good photography from different eras in photography. It won’t make you smile like the Underground exhibition or think too politically, but you will most certainly enjoy the quality of the photography on offer.
* I will warn you that it got strange downstairs with two videos on display. The first involved lots of people acting strangely, doing rituals at the side of a road. The second was a strange landscape with a man in black clothes spending a lot of time facing rocks with his back to camera. I couldn’t cope with either video and made a swift escape. All I’ll say is, beware of the stairs. Click here for website.
Nick Danziger – Above the Line
British Council, SW1A 2BN Ends 25th July
I came away from the exhibition thinking that it seems pretty normal out there in North Korea, save for a few too many kitsch statues and photos of their leaders. And this is exactly the point of the exhibition, as it focuses on ordinary living instead of the politics, although it’s clear the politics are never far from daily life. Of course, it stands to question whether those ordinary people, seemingly happy with their surroundings, are a minority or a majority in North Korea. It’s certainly a place that should be probed and prodded some more with the photographic lens to open Western eyes to seeing smiling faces in a place that’s reported to be so awful in popular media. The photographic style was very down the line and journalistic so in terms of spectacle, it wasn’t anything special. However, if the agenda was simply to capture the life in North Korea realistically then it’s more about the subjects and content of the photos than the way they’re shot. Of the three exhibitions, it certainly moved me the least in terms of the photography although it probably did make me think more than the rest, specifically about life in faraway places and how limited our perceptions are through mainstream sources. It also made me want to go to North Korea to see it for myself whereas the other two neither made me want to go on the tube or to Russia. Click here for website.
And there you have it. Explore the Underground for a smile at colourful characters from yesteryear, visit Russia for excellent photographs and immerse yourself in North Korea for some deeper political and media considerations. Thanks to Timeout for their list of exhibitions in London which helped me find these three.