02 May 12 - 02 Jun 12
God Forgotten Face | Anonymity
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TJ Boulting is delighted to present two concurrent solo shows in the gallery of British photographer Robin Maddock and US photographer Jarret Schecter. The work of both Maddock and Schecter have been published by Trolley Books, the publishing arm of the gallery, whilst the most recent publication of each will form the starting point of each exhibition.
Robin Maddock presents his body of work looking at the British port of Plymouth, in conjunction with the publication ‘God Forgotten Face’ (Trolley Books, 2011). Now shown in large format, key images from the book are also interspersed with new images taken there in recent months, and introducing a slight shift to a lighter and more lyrical interpretation of the city. A young couple sit against the backdrop of the cliffs, more dramatic and reminiscent of a German Romanticist landscape, than of the seaside town still healing scars formed from the Blitz.
After two years spent living in the town, where he has had family all his life, Maddock achieves a familiar interaction with his subjects, visible through his portraits in night clubs and pubs, and in the witnessing of the various goings on down at the seafront or in the local rec. In the misty early morning a nun stops to call her dog, whilst later a police forecourt is bathed in light and transported to a sunny LA; Maddock’s insight into the city is at once affectionate and optimistic in outlook, but stamped with his own aesthetic and curiosity.
In the book Owen Hatherley writes with a similar affection ‘in praise of Blitzed cities,’ citing that the negative and concrete environs that come into most people’s minds when they think of Plymouth are in fact overlooking its ‘shabby, ad hoc vitality that most heritage cities would die for.’ As a town, Plymouth’s past has been one of ongoing economic and cultural isolation since the shrinking of the Navy. Now it reflects more a broader England in decline, whilst all the post-modern ironic contradictions of the evolving new economies are present; ‘Francis Drake’ is a shopping mall, and what was the ‘Royal Sovereign’ pub is now a ‘Firkin Doghouse’.
His childhood memories of the place are also challenged by more adult quotidian realities of Maddock’s time there, and his own preconceptions; the journey’s question shifting from, ‘What am I doing here?’ to the more telling, ‘What am I, here?’ The ‘God Forgotten Face’ of the title, originally derived from the 1945 Philip Larkin poem ‘Plymouth’, and the words ‘Last kingdom of a gold forgotten face...’, perhaps coming to represent his own personal account as a photographer finding himself changed in the face of the subject he had returned to find. As Martin Parr has said of this work, “Maddock’s views and snatches of life are both surreal and individual. He has the enviable ability to turn nothing much into something quite profound.”
Jarret Schecter presents a body of work based on the theme of his latest book ‘Anonymity’ (Trolley Books, 2011.) The images are taken all over the world and across all continents, from the snowy planes of Siberia on the Trans-Siberian Railroad to the arid deserts and refugee camps of eastern Africa, and the stark contrast of a burgeoning new metropolis in China to a crumbling street in Cuba. But these are not pure landscapes in this sense; in each scene there inhabits a person or a figure, sometimes hidden or disguised from the viewer, but cumulatively the series generates an overall presence of the unknown person.
They are not portraits or even street scenes, the person is always slightly remote, although engaging us within the image. This theme ‘anonymity’ seeks to address a universal recognition in the unknown figure, strangers in the street, people who we might have even met or feel an empathy with, and those who we will never know. One of the aims of this presentation is to bring attention to the NGO Schecter is Vice President of ‘The Denan Project’, whose mission is to bring aid to Denan and Ethiopia in East Africa, and to other impoverished regions around the world. The anonymous figures and people we meet in his photographs therefore become the faceless people who we might never meet but who we can engage with through these images, their anonymity becoming also paradoxically, a universal recognition. People who feel at once familiar but distant, offer us a glimpse of something to relate to or recognise, amidst an alienating feeling of an unfamiliar territory.
As Schecter writes: “Alone or in a crowd in either a modern or a primitive context, the word anonymity is associated with both freedom and anxiety. It is both loved and hated, with a symbiotic tension within the concept of recognition. Being so close and omnipresent we paradoxically are rarely directly self-conscious of our own anonymity. However, as a source of both art and anxiety, we are often conscious of seeing the anonymity of others, which eerily and somehow largely unwittingly, resembles our own. Uncannily, ‘anonymity’ is never alone, as it must be accompanied by actor and context. The following photographs are about the relationship between anonymity, actor and context, but perhaps even more, it is about the reciprocal relationship between perceiver and the perceived.”
The proceeds of Schecter’s print sales will go towards The Denan Project and their continued work with impoverished people around the world.