Assessment of a Real-life Exhibition
I have personally been involved in 4 group photographic exhibitions between 2016 and 2019. I also have over 20 years of theatre-making and have been involved in the development and creation of new writing theatre festivals from reading scripts, working with different practitioners (writers, directors, dramaturgs, actors, designers) to creating and managing theatre festivals. From collaboration to creation.
I started with this statement in order to give a perspective on the processes involved, and potentially different stages from an idea to the final presentation.
In order to be specific, the outcome of a festival/production or exhibition is likely to be defined through the vision or ‘intent’.
Processes will be is different in how the vision comes about but the aim is likely to be the same: what you want to convey to an audience, what you want them to experience or take away.
As a theatre-maker working for the Royal Court in 1996 with the Young People’s Theatre in reading scripts and discussing them with the directors and project leaders, to developing an internet project involving 5 writers from around the world commuting in a specially created chat-room (1996 remember) to create a play with a director based in London. To then being an emerging photographer in 2016 as a part of a process lead workshop with the end result of a group exhibition of work created.
Each had a vision, which either was established or emerged through the practitioners involved and which may be subtly changed and responded to the work that was being created.
The Exhibition that I have identified with is the “London Nights” at the Museum of London (2018).
Curator Anna Sparham at the Museum of London explains “Over the years, our curatorial department has been fascinated by the city at night. It is after all a vast and dense theme with myriad possible directions to take an exhibition: sociologically, historically and artistically” (2018). She goes on further to explain “Photography after all depends upon light. Its presence or absence is an enticing challenge to the photographic medium”.
The exhibition brought together historical and contemporary photographs of nighttime in London.
An interesting observation from Sparham is that “As we open the exhibition, the capital seems newly curious about all things nocturnal: the GLA’s appointment of London’s first Night Czar, the introduction of the night tube, and battles to save night club venues. I hope that the photography in London Nights inspires visitors to look at the night afresh, and the themes raised within the exhibition lead people to question and probe their personal relationship with London at night” (2018).
I find this fascinating as it roots the exhibition firmly in the present and likely in the minds of those attending. She is already beginning to define how you will see the work and how its message to those attending will be conveyed.
I enjoy the night and early morning photography. A part of my practice is defined under the umbrella of street and observational photography. Of wandering and noticing the world around me, looking for and seeking out moments that jump out and excite me. That in some way offer a narrative to what I am feeling, or in some way define how I am feeling. Or how I will feel once I have then looked at the work I have created.
I find photography to be a continual conversation with myself.
Tora Baker in Creative Boom states that the exhibition was “Fusing portraiture, documentary, conceptual photography and film, the show reveals the capital at night with over 200 photographs by 60 image makers on display, ranging from the late 19th century to the present day, some never seen before.” (Baker 2018)
For Rob Hastings, it “gets across the sense that nighttime is when we can suspend the reality of everyday life.” (iNews 2018)
In the BJP, “explores the many faces of London at night and the different approaches practitioners have taken to capturing them” (British Photography Journal 2018)
But it is what Sophie Wright says in LensCulture that resonates with me most.
“Strange things happen when night falls over a city. In his book ‘Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London’, writer Matthew Beaumont describes the atmosphere of the night as uncanny. In the dark, the familiar takes on a new shape; our senses are heightened, the way we see is different. Both seductive and threatening, these conditions have attracted photographers to the night since the birth of their craft”. (LensCulture 2018)
I find myself, as I wander through the night and into the morning, catching the first light of the day, as I watch people ending their shift or starting one, that I am drawn to the beauty and poetic nature of quietness and solitude. It is in these moments, away from the drive of life that I feel I can see this city.
In conclusion, I would then turn to the review from Chris Waywell: “There’s a lot here, but few answers. London is seen from far away (Tim Peake shoots it from outer space) and close-up (Nick Turpin peers into night buses to shoot tired commuters), but London’s nocturnal alter ego is always remote and unfathomable. As it should be.” (Time Out 2018)
My nighttime photography focuses on exploring a different and unique perspective of what I see and experience, that offers few answers but is rooted within myself.
SPARHAM, Anna. 2018. Creating London Nights. Museum of London. 2018. [online]. Available at: https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/discover/creating-london-nights (accessed 22 March 2020).
BRITISH JOURNAL OF PHOTOGRAPHY. 2018. London Nights: The Exhibition. British Journal of Photography. 2018 [online]. Available at: https://www.bjp-online.com/2018/10/london-nights-the-exhibition/ (accessed 22 March 2020).
BAKER, Tora. 2018. London Nights: explore the nocturnal side of London in a new exhibition. Creative Boom. 2018. [online]. Available at: https://www.creativeboom.com/inspiration/london-nights-over-60-photographers-capture-the-city-after-dark/ (accessed 22 March 2020).
WRIGHT, Sophie. 2018. London Nights. LensCulture. 2018. [online]. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/museum-of-london-london-nights (accessed 22 March 2020).
HASTINGS, ROB. 2018. London Nights photography exhibition review: ‘Suspend the reality of everyday life’. iNews. 2018. [online]. Available at: https://inews.co.uk/culture/arts/museum-of-london-night-photography-exhibition-508879 (accessed 22 March 2020).