Further thoughts from Hereford
George Georgiou – Shadow of The Bear, 2009-10
“Georgiou” had featured at the entrance of the exhibition via Winship's series (they are life partners) and whilst she felt the need to mention his name, the reverse wasn’t offered. The festival catalogue noted “dozens” of photographs in three series of sequential images, separated by two large prints, which, overall create a link between two countries – Ukraine and Georgia – as they “..come to terms with the future and build a better future.”
So, something like seventy or so photographs. The technical observations I think are worth noting, very few camera positions – about six, maybe seven a wide angle and an aperture that is as closed in as possible, which taking it all into consideration probably means a tripod as well. These facets of the imagery allowed the compositional constructs that, to this viewer at any rate, were important to Georgiou.
The wide angle brought a similar importance to the surroundings as to the people in the shot - the surroundings being as sharply rendered as the people. The people were going about their daily business, shopping, going to work, socializing, courting – just the normal hum drum of life. The settings though gave them a placement – the shot with a banner of a football team, a local shop, a bus stop, an apartment block – all of these are particular references that are important otherwise why place them inside the focal limit. People leave the frame and people enter the frame, but the references remain constant. My initial impression was that this series is about identity – either struggling to hold on to it, or to (re)create one.
I was also interested on the print quality and presentation. I thought that the images were the poorest quality on display, I notice that another student has also commented on that… Anned “… I think its to do with the quality of the photographic finish, that some of the other works seemed so very polished/finished/technically done..” (Anned) found this set the most thought provoking.
I think a lot of work had been undertaken on this set. The colour toning was very consistent across the series and several seemed to be a little “oversharpened” which tended to suggest that he felt a need to keep all the image (and all the images) “sharp” – in “focus”, equally important. Seeing all the people in the photographs going about their life brought Parr’s exhibition to mind and I wrote the note “Martin Parr it isn’t”. I think Georgiou’s use of a single, probably “tripodded” position, allowed him to melt into the landscape and become more of an observer – not an accusation that Mr Parr would have had leveled at him too many times I think.
Manuel Vasquez – Traces
A very dramatic set of images. My notes verbatim from my notebook:
“comment of social aberration post apocalyptic events such as the Madrid bombing – how people/society patches and mends to accommodate the previous inconceivable ructions in their daily life.”
The festival catalogue notes “.. revealing the spectacle as spectacular, albeit a dystopian spectacular of the present.”
Two comments: The use of the word spectacular. This word has a very strong resonance in the terrorist vernacular. The provisional IRA appropriated the word to mean an event like the Brighton hotel bombing during the Conservative party conference, the Birmingham pub bombings, and it’s resonant peal was heard again and again during the aftermath of the 9/11 atrocity in New York. The use of it here, in this context, seems entirely appropriate.
The second point regarding dystopia is that we – in the targeted west, continue to accept the dystopia as the new utopia. Post 9/11 we accept the security checks at airports, the continued increased levels of surveillance that greet us at most public events and places.
What I found interesting about Vasqez’s work here was what it didn’t show. The people “in the light” – seemed to acquiesce, look comfortable in the limelight by the lampposts and the contrast was such that it concealed what was in between the lamps. What was lurking? Were these photographs telling us that we cannot illuminate everything, we cannot move our fears completely away. There is no utopia?
Robbie Cooper – Immersion
There has been a lot of comment that I don’t think I can add to. I agree that the people are immersed, I agree that they are isolated. I don’t agree that this is a “new” phenomena – unless in anthropological terms we define as new the history subsequent to the inclusion of the cathode ray tube into the corner (and now wall mounted) of the room. I think if the technology that Cooper uses were available in every decade since the end of the 1940’s he would have seen something similar. Total immersion in the flickering image. Be they watching porn, video games, or Downton Abbey. Watching a screen is a singular occupation for many people – even in sitting rooms and, sometimes in multiplex cinemas. It can be a communal event, but it draws the viewer in. Acorn, Sinclair and Amstrad in the eighties provided onanistic playthings for the ocular senses; which, whilst the graphical content has improved almost beyond recognition the isolationism hasn’t. What might have been interesting would be an image of the simultaneous viewing of a similar screen for comparative purposes.
Note, there were two images of young teenagers (13 or 14) watching/playing video games that were rated as 18 – which is a completely different study. Good framing and processing though.