Friday, 30 July 2010

England, My England

Kings Place is the calm cultural haven in which you find Chris Steele-Perkins photography, just one floor down in the very bright and airy belly of the building, but with its grandeur I can’t help but feel the exhibitions correlation has been a little lost.

I choose to turn right and so follow the photographs in an anti-clockwise sequence, and sequence is precisely what I seem to be missing. Firstly a beautiful, if not a little frightening in its realism and grit, a black and white photo of Newcastle football fans, and I must say I’m instantly captivated by Perkins’ work, however the next portrait I go on to look at is part of a series, detailing the ill and their carers. Each photograph is more touching than the last in its simplicity and truth, and I have almost forgotten the aggressive passion I saw moments earlier from the football fans. Each composition evocative in its own way, however, I’m then faced with photographs from Perkins’ personal life, immediately followed by a disturbing image of the National Front movement. Perkins is without a doubt a gifted photographer, and each photograph tells its individual story, I just wasn’t sure about the way the images hung together.

The work ranges in age from the 1960’s to the present day and having always been somewhat nostalgic myself, I must say anything he photographed between the 60’s-80’s I found mesmerising and wish there was more. The range of people, from young to old, wealthy to poor, is another aspect which fascinates me about Perkins work. How was he there when he was?

As I said each photograph tells a story, and the people within them are empowered and beautiful in their own right. The exhibition showcases both his work in black and white and colour, and I always feel more drawn in by those pictures without colour because the artist achieves more depth and character to a picture. Again the pieces used to create this exhibition are worlds apart, a smooth line of thought did not go into its creation, as I wonder round the sprawling gallery floor I jump from era to era and back again, and find some photos appear to have gotten lost on a further floor down, again showing the same random stage presence as their friends upstairs…first a scene of worship in a church, then a game keeper in a field with his 7 dogs…

Now I worry I may have sounded a little negative, each photograph I found myself peering at as if I was terrified I’d never see its beauty again, but when it comes to an exhibition I would like a little chronological order, perhaps a little consistency, and maybe even a little more focus, but what I did see was a taster of Perkins work, which I haven’t ever seen before. This exhibition gave me something that left me wanting more, a knowledge of his work that is open ended enough for exploration.

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