Exhibition Review: ‘Short Stories: An Exhibition of Narrative Photography’ by Hatty Davidson
Forman’s Smokehouse Gallery’s current exhibition, ‘Short Stories’, is their first dedicated solely to fine art photography since the acclaimed ‘Between Two Truths’ show from 2010. Curated by Oliver Prout, also an exhibiting artist, the show examines the individual and the tales they have to tell. Given this, the collections of work on display range hugely in their response to the theme and the works are as individual as the artists who created them. The exhibition includes work from Stuart Weston, Camilla Broadbent, Helen Warner, Bee Keskin, Paul de Luna, Majella and introduces first time exhibiting artist, 13-year-old Eylul Keskin.
Photography has a history of being sidelined when it comes to the visual arts. Unlike painting or sculpture, for example, it does not partake in the simple artist/medium relationship; there is always the integral middleman – the camera. The removed nature of the medium has often not played in its favour, prompting questions over where the creativity can be found in the use of such an objective machine to create fine art.
However, November sees galleries all over London responding to this question, even perhaps marking it as irrelevant; a question of the past. International Photography festival Photomonth has taken over the galleries of East London where over 150 photographic exhibitions are on display in places such as the Whitechapel Gallery, Rich Mix and Spitalfields Market. Not only is photography the medium-of-the-month in the East, it has also stamped its mark on the internationally renowned institutions of central London. Long-established and traditional institutions have tended to steer clear of large-scale photographic exhibitions in the past but there has been a gradual acceptance that has reached the mainstream in recent years, perhaps cumulating in the National Gallery’s, ‘Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present’, the first major photography exhibition the gallery has held in its 188-year history (its attempt to make up for lost time and cover as much ground as possible, perhaps reflected in its title).
Forman’s Smokehouse Gallery can be found therefore, with its finger on the pulse. Not only does the exhibition promote the photographic medium in general terms, the individual artists and their works prove its credentials as a fully-fledged artistic outlet. The subject matter and technical choices range hugely from Paul de Luna’s nymph-like beauties, reminiscent of the Pre-Raphaelite women or Julia Margaret Cameron’s mythical re-creations which were created with minimal post-production alterations to Oliver Prout’s dramatic tale of the effects of a relationship on the individual which shows how digital adjustment and Photoshop are anything other than a barrier between the photographer and creativity. The still lives of Camilla Broadbent exemplify the unique ability of the photograph to capture minute detail like no other medium can while Helen Warner’s ‘Chasing Phantoms’ (2011) has a painterly effect which reminds the viewer of the close relationship that photography has with the other arts.
This exhibition addresses what were seen as the shortfalls of the photographic medium and turns them on their head. No longer is the camera a divide the separates the artist from his art, it is a tool for the photographer just as the paintbrush is for the painter. ‘Short Stories’ is an imaginative look at the tales that make up our lives and although the camera can only capture a split second in time, the works in this exhibition have the ability to reach far beyond that limited moment and deep into our consciousness.
The exhibition is open until the 2nd December, 2012.
Opening times: Thursday and Friday: 5pm – 9pm
Saturday and Sunday: 12pm – 5pm