Thursday, 13 June 2013

Look/13 - Walker Art Gallery

Over at the Walker Art Gallery we had a look at Double Take. This work comprised of images from the Keith Medley Archive. Keith Medley was a commercial press photographer that also undertook studio portraits and produced images for passport photos in an era before the instant photobooth. The passport images (taken between 1965-68) were made on 5x4 glass plate negatives (a technique that is surely quite anachronistic by 1965.) The plates each had two exposures showing the differences in posture and expression of the sitter in the time frame between the two shots. The images then would have been selected and cropped for the final passport photo.

The artists Mark Durden and Ken Grant have re-purposed these images, showing the double exposures in their entirety. The edges of the frame can now be inspected to examine the effect of the photographic process and the sitter can be compared between their two likenesses. As well as minute differences in expression some of the subjects have been caught unaware between the first and second exposure. These images can be much more revealing than the formal, public, face that is usually presented to the camera. Some of the images have had a strike mark put through them to signify that they are unusable. It is the strike mark or killed images that end up revealing the more interesting portraits.

Also in the gallery we looked at the Rankin exhibition, Alive: In the Face of Death. The images consisted of slick, shiny and colourful sets of images of people that are about to die and of others connected with the death industry. They have been given a sort of fashion shoot makeover and looked very vibrant. There was also a sequence of celebrity death masks in black and white that showed all the lines and pores of the face - not all the celebrities appear to have died so it was a bit confusing. Butterfly masks provided another vivid splash of colour. There is more to these images than I am describing but I was becoming a bit tired by this point and wasn't as engaged as I should have been. Also, anything connected to celebrity is always a huge turn off for me. To be honest they were far too slick and glossy looking for my taste.

We then had a quick look at the work of Martin Parr and Tom Wood in,  Every Man and Woman is a Star. I was interested to see Parr's older black and white work before the New Brighton type of images that we have become used to seeing. The older images are much more in the style of someone like Robert Frank. I wasn't familiar with Tom Wood and I will need to do some more research.

The work on display in the three galleries that we visited for the Liverpool Photography Festival was stimulating and I found something in each of them that I can take away with me and hopefully incorporate in to my own photographic practice.

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