On my way down to London last week, I popped into the Sheffield Hallam University’s BA Film & Media Production photography exhibition at the Workstation. The exhibition was fairly small, about a dozen students’ work on show. Most of it was pretty uninspiring: the occasional good idea was generally ruined by poor photography or printing: low-contrast, out-of-focus, overexposed prints were the norm. As Johnny Nice from the Fast Show would say “Black! Black! It’s all black!”
One woman had a nice idea (though doubtless done before, as I’m sure most of this stuff had been), exploring the interplay between text and images. She had put up a series of portraits, obviously people stopped in the street, and alongside each were three lines of text. There was no explanation of the text, but by viewing a few examples it was possible to get a rough idea what she had been asking people: “what makes you depressed”, “what is your favourite colour” and (not so sure about this one) “where were you most happy”. Photos OK though nothing special, but the accompanying word-game got your brain working and made you concentrate on what you were looking at. The result you thought more deeply about the subjects of the portraits than you would have if the information was presented more conventionally, without the need for you to fill in the gaps.
But the best exhibit (the only one worthy of a BA, in my opinion) was from Ben Bromby. His starting point was a quote from Volkov Lannit:
… the history of the appearance of outstanding works of art is mainly a
history of break-throughs in perspective and habitual composition schemes … that is, a history of the disruption of the automatism of visual perception … the manifestation of visual impressions is achieved through the use of ‘new viewpoints’
From this starting point, he had made a series of stuck-together photos, similar to the pasted-up 360-degrees panorama shots you sometimes see, complete with slight jumps in perspective and mis-matched edges. Except that each set of pictures formed a long vertical strip, at the centre of which was the ground at the photographer’s feet, with the space above and below representing either side, for example in one shot he was standing on a bridge and the adjacent shots took in the surface of the bridge, the short walls at either side, and then the stream flowing under it. Another was taken in an alleyway, so that the centre was the ground’s horizontal surface but above and below it swung up into the steep verticals of the walls on either side. Quite disorientating and, best of all, well photographed and beautifully printed. Unfortunately the accompanying sign’s poor punctuation and typography (and the inclusion of “my emphasis” at the end of the un-emphasised quote which makes me wonder whether it was perhaps lifted directly from this essay, which is where I tracked down my copy) spoiled the effect a little, but still in terms of the photography and the underlying idea it was great.