Black Ships | Small Worlds

Art Life , Exhibitions Mar 30, 2015 No Comments

em>From Andrew Frost

The remarkable ability of photography to offer an apparently objective view of the world rests largely on understanding the aesthetic choices of the photographer. While some still claim an inherent objectivity in the mechanics of photography itself, be it old school chemical and print or the ephemeral ubiquity of digital, the staging of an image goes a long way to understanding whether the photographer intends an essential ‘truthiness’ to the image.

Black Ships

Jane Brown‘s Black Ships sits firmly in the tradition of the travelogue photo essay, a remarkable series of images taken in Japan that capture the often surreal beauty of the countryside and culture. But for one image, this a collection that depicts Japan as a landscape emptied of people – countryside, cities and gardens offer only glimpses of people in the distance, on posters or as statues. And in that single image we see school students with their backs to camera, all dressed in black in the monochrome landscape. The key image of the show is a shot of a model demonstrating the position of the nuclear explosion above Hiroshima – and suddenly the absence of people in the other pictures becomes ominous, even the moist benign image such as a gazebo in lights is shadowed by a ‘boac’ reading.

Alongside Brown’s exhibition is Patrick Pound‘s Small world – new works with old photographs the latest iteration of the artist’s found photography project. Pounds apparently vast archive of such images offers the viewer some startling if accidental compositions and subjects – monkeys, children, aircraft, praying hands – each image arranged in relationship to another. Where such images are overflowing with the possible intentions of the original photographers, in Pound’s work the juxtapositions forces a new consideration of such relationships within the images while the gentle wit of the artist’s conceptual approach demonstrates once more that the meaning of a photograph is in the viewer’s eye.

Until May 2
Stills Gallery, Paddington
Pic: Jane Brown, Hiroshima, 2015. From Black Ships. Hand printed, toned, fibre-based silver gelatine print, 17x21cm.

Andrew Frost

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