God Forgotten Face
3 May - 3 June 2012
TJ Boulting is delighted to present the first solo show in the gallery of British photographer Robin Maddock. Having published two books with Trolley Books, the publishing arm of the gallery, ‘Our Kids Are Going To Hell’ in 2009 and most recently ‘God Forgotten Face’ at the end of last year, the latter of which will form the starting point of the show.
‘God Forgotten Face’ presents his body of work looking at the British port of Plymouth, 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.”
Robin Maddock is a British photographer who currently lives between the UK and California. After an MA in photography in London he worked for a variety of magazines and newspapers. In 2008 he curated ‘London Stories’ with seven leading London-based documentary photographers. His first book ‘Our Kids Are Going to Hell’ was published by Trolley in 2009 and was shortlisted as one of the best photobooks by PhotoEspana. In 2010 Robin was nominated for the Deutsche Börse Award. His second book ‘God Forgotten Face’ was published by Trolley Books at the end of 2011 and was selected by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger for Photoeye’s best books of that year. Parr also recently selected Maddock as one of the ‘rising stars’ of photography for the Smithsonian Institute.