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Tuesday, 22 May 2007
Shadow of the photographer


That should be plural - shadows - I count eight of them.

I’ve been reading about the current exhibition of photography at Tate Britain called How we are.  There’s a 10-piece preview at The Guardian, who also have a review, as do New Statesman.  The Tate has asked members of the public to contribute to the exhibution by posting their photographs in a Flickr pool.

Imagine curating a display of photographs collected from the homes of millions of ordinary Britons. In order for your show to be remotely representative, it would have to include many shots of special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries, and lots of people smiling, on holiday, with family, partners and pets.

Such an exhibition would not be representative of day-to-day life in our country. As Kevin Jackson notes in the catalogue accompanying Tate Britain’s absorbing show “How We Are: photographing Britain”: “A photographic exhibition is a quotation from quotations.” However, it would reveal something about our aspirations and how we see ourselves. We don’t smile and have fun every day, but what most people want out of life centres on family, friends and good times, and our photo albums reassure us that we have at least in part succeeded.

The Tate’s exhibition, however, reflects a very different side of the nation. It represents the way in which professional photographers, often with artistic aspirations, have captured our country since the 1840s. Like a family album, however, it tells us less about how the subjects really are and have been, and more about what people behind the lens are looking to see. The camera never lies; it always tells a truth about the photographer.

Read on.

Posted by bigblue on 22/05/2007 at 06:59 AM
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