A recent visit to the Photographers Gallery presents a spring collection by selected photographers including Erik Kessels, Trevor Paglen, Tobias Zielony and Laura El-Tantawy in which these photographers have been nominated for the 2016 Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation Prize. Upon my visit, I found these photographers presented very different methods of photographic installation in which the runners up use objects, projection, text and social participatory activities to influence their audience with insight into culture and process.
Photographer Erik Kessels featured as one of the participating artists in the show. FOR His installation piece ‘Unfinished Father’, Kessels presents a range of visual content that brings a reflective approach on his father’s unfinished car. The car itself (a Fiat Topolinos model) is featured in the centre of the display in which Kessels surrounds the car with images documenting the building process of refurbishing it. The car is presented as partly deconstructed as Kessels places various car parts around the main body. Kessels places his images as sequenced sets within glass box frames on the floor in which he has presented them in various sizes.
Kessels also features other sets of images as block pictures aligned on shelves on wither side of the room where one box image also features a short statement from the artist acknowledging the basic story behind the piece. As I walk around the installation, my viewing experience brings me to bend down to look closer at the images, look up onto the shelves and look through the featured car. This experience is diverse as it allows the viewer freedom to view images in a different way, thus bringing a different perspective. Kessels is very diverse in how he approaches the theme as he uses a variety of methods to represent a personal story and I find this attracts attention to how the viewer can be made to work harder to view the images i.e. bending down to view the imagery clearly.
Another section of the installation brings a different installment of images in which multimedia artist Laura El-Tanwany projects images onto large screens as a continuous loop within a dark space. The images featured on these screens refer to her book ‘In the Shadow of the Pyramids’ published in 2015. Egyptian photographer Laura Tanwany bases her work on her own cultural heritage in which she explores the environment and social happenings in Egyptian domain. Following her studies at the University of Georgia, Tanwany began her career in freelance photography where she adopts photojournalism and science as influences toward her practice.
The installation in support of her book also presents imagery as smaller instalments in which she presents smaller images in the display as light boxes where these images refer to her childhood memories in the country. El-Tanwany evokes an atmospheric tone to her image content and brings an additional sensory experience in which she features a voice recording within the space. This supports the imagery in terms of telling the story and giving us insight into it from her perspective. I find this installation brings another personal experience to light (quite literally) where the artist reveals their own life story.
British photographer Stephen Gill uses photographs itself as the canvas for his fine art photographic prints where he uses objects and natural resources as part of the image. Gill merges photogram techniques to create layered images in which this results in a mixed media presentation. The resources he uses as part of his still life relates to the content in the imagery whether it is in terms of colour, texture or form. His images bring a sensory display where the viewer almost has to look through the layers within the imagery to identity the subject matter. The series ‘Hackney Flowers’ presents an experimental collection of imagery that bring a collage appeal where Gill uses natural plant materials to fill the image content that relates to the content narrative. For example, one image displays a truck emptying its contents is replaced with the plant materials Gill uses.
I find Gill manipulates content narrative in an unusual way that changes our perspective of how things should appear against how we can imagine things to appear. I also find he brings a colourful vibe to his photographs that makes them visually attractive and three dimensional.
Trevor Paglen is a multimedia artist who brings perspective on how we perceive the world as it currently stands and how we visualise the world in the future. Paglen uses media raging from text to imagery in which he explores scientific and geographic subjects within his image content. Paglen explores still life and environmental surveillance that exists outside of the public domain where he investigates into projects involving technologies that we see from a distance.
The series ‘The Octopus’ presents large scale photographs which captures passing drone devices against a wide skyscape brings an intensity in visual space as the subject matter is infinitesimal, acknowledging the perspective of the large sky space. This series makes us look more closely at the image to spot the drone as Paglen does not make it obvious. The images present the skycap in a range of temperatures, bringing soft vibrance to the scene.
Paglen’s other works within the show include a tall screen which pans text vertically in alphabetical order which displays drone code names. This section of the display directly relates Paglen’s exploration of these devices in which he allows the viewer to learn more about the subject matter. Paglen features a mapped diagram featuring images in which he connects the content to locations in which these technological activities take place. By doing this, Paglen transports the viewer as he gives us personal access to the planning and monitoring process that takes place within these secured technological locations.
Other Installation Features
The Photographer’s Gallery features a section where the viewer is invited to view a piece of work on a wall more closely, write down what they see and then place it inside a box. During my visit, the changing display project by Touchstone titled ‘What Do You See?’ featured work by drawing artist and photographer Thomas Zummer. For the work titled ‘Study for a Portrait of Simon Ironing’ (2005), I wrote down my thoughts on how the drawing may refer to futuristic possibilities.
I found the experience very thought provoking and I find this type of installation an effective way of interacting with the audience directly. The installation makes the viewer think deeper into what something could mean generally or to them personally.
‘Untitled’ (drawing by light) 2010 is another engaging piece featured in the gallery by figurative multimedia artist Jiri Thyn. The display consists of a ping pong ball and wire attached to the wall and LED lights which shine a circular glow onto the objects that uses different coloured filters. The display creates a prism light effect that produces shadows and mixed colour hues that gives the subject matter an entrancing appearance. I find this display presents cleverly simplistic use of lighting and objects.
Photographer Tobias Zielony presents a collection of images focusing on the experiences of African refugees in Germany in which Zielony investigates activism and cultural developments. The image content is compelling and brings a real photojournalist influence within the show. I find the images are particularly engaging in terms of their size in which Zielony presents them on large panels. The images are presented in different sizes and are arranged as an open picture wall. I find this an effective way of displaying images in a collage format where there is no order and plenty of space between each picture.
How did this show influence me?
This show has influenced me in how I can use media and still life using a different perspective and how I can involve objects more as physical things featured in photographic work. I found Erik Kessels and Trevor Paglen executed this particularly well in which I gave my vote to Trevor Paglen towards the Deutsche Borse Prize. The show has given me further initiative to investigate other media such as lighting and what I could invite the audience to do as an activity in which I found the Touchstone feature a provocative installation. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.
Courtesy of The Photographers Gallery (2016) ‘Double Take: Drawing and Photography’ [Online] London, Available from: http://www.thephotographersgallery.org.uk (Accessed 21/04.2016)
ARR Tanwany. L (2016) ‘In the Shadow of the Pyramids’ [Online] Available from: http://www.intheshadowofthepyramids.com (Accessed 21/04/2016)
ARR Tanwany. L (2016) ‘Projects’ [Online] Available from: http://www.lauraeltantawy.com (Accessed 21/04/2016)
ARR Paglen. T (2016) ‘Work-Biography’ [Online] Available from: http://www.paglen.com (Accessed 21/04/2016)
ARR Hunt Kastner (2016) ‘Jiri Thyn-selected Works’ [Online] Available from: http://www.huntkastner.com (Accessed 21/04/2016)
ARR KOW (2016) ‘Selected works’ [Online] Available from: http://www.kow-berlin.info (Accessed 21/04/2016)