Gallery Visit–Drawn by Light– Media Space at the Science Museum–10 Feb 2015

I had been unable to attend the OCA study visit to this exhibition. I decided to attend while on a visit to London. I have been a member of the RPS for many years and I had seen some of the prints displayed on members days at Bath, before the collection was transferred to the NMM in Bradford.

The exhibition was presented as a celebration of all that photography means to us today, the way it has developed and been used in the past, pointing to new ways of using it in the future. The nearly 200 years of development has been a story of constant change and innovation which continues at a faster pace than ever before. There is always something new in photography and with that, more often than not,  comes controversy.  The Science Museum’s exhibition web page is here:

http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum/Plan_your_visit/exhibitions/drawn_by_light

The prints were shown in three rooms, each with a theme: Continuity and change; A period of optimism and progress; Personal vision.

Because I am studying the section of the course about A colour vision I made notes about a few of the colour images that were relevant to documentary photography.

Probably the most striking colour image was the iconic “Afghan Girl” by Steve McCurry the follow up story of what happened next is here: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2002/04/afghan-girl/index-text It is a demonstration of how just two images and an idea form a powerful narrative.

I was pleased to see one of Tony Ray-Jones colour photographs from his time in the USA. I saw the Only in England exhibition last year and became aware of his subsequent  influence on British photographers. The image was of some street musicians in New Orleans and shows his skill in composition and use of colour back in the early nineteen sixties.

Another early series of photographs of interest was by John Hinde who volunteered as a photographer for the civil defence during WW2. His images are for information and show the work of the civil defence volunteers at the time, providing a valuable historic archive. Hinde was an important pioneer of colour photography in Britain.

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Of particular historical interest (the development of colour processes) were Mervyn O’Gorman’s colour photographs of his daughter Christina, made with the Autochrome process: which gave the exhibition its publicity image.

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http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/nmem/autochrome/Notable_Photo_detail.asp?PhotographersID=7&PhotosID=118

I enjoyed this exhibition. It has helped me to put colour documentary photography into a historical timeframe after spending several weeks reading and researching the subject.

Make Life Worth Living

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This is the second look that I have had at this exhibition of Nick Hedges photographs for Shelter from 1968-72. (I first saw them in October 2014) and I was impressed by their value as a document for social change. Not only has Hedges recorded the appalling conditions in which people were expected to live but his silent subjects reach out from the images and put a human element right where it is needed. There is no doubt as to the value of this documentary record in bringing about change.  Hedges also recorded some small details which were signs of those particular times.

  • A list of debtors displayed in a shop window
  • A sign on a pub door “No Gypsies No Travellers”

and some surreal signs;

  • “Radio Active Area – Keep Out” (a house in Toxteth)
  • “Gentlemen only Please” A funeral notice for a lady in a window in Cymmer Afan

Also included in the exhibition were images taken at a tea dance in the  Burnley Methodist Hall. Apparently Nick Hedges saw some elderly ladies dancing together through the window and went in to take photographs. He was warmly welcomed, given tea and cake and recorded a small event in social history at the same time.

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