I am not an arty type. When I hit art it is usually by accident.
That's how I found myself at the Collective Juncture exhibition in Wexford town in 2013. The exhibits there were from the graduating class in Contemporary Art from the Carlow/Wexford IT campus. When I arrived they were awaiting the adjudicators to have their work assessed for their final degree exams. Following this the exhibition would continue open to the public for a month.
I thought it a wonderful idea. But did I know what was meant by contemporary art? Well, I assumed it meant art emanating from living artists. But no. I was told it was also art which touched on the experience of the artist and actually meant something to them or made a difference to them. Having seen the wonderful exhibition I now know what they meant.
So, what has all this arty stuff got to do with Emerging Photographers? I think, a lot. My encounter with this current exhibition brought me right back to my Wexford experience.
Here we have an exhibition by three recently graduated young photographers and they would all fall within the definition of contemporary art discussed above. It was all very encouraging.
This was not just decorative stuff, good and all as the photos were. It was a case of three powerful messages which were very relevant to modern living and which figured high in the personal, social and political consciousness of each of the photographers.
This is the first year of this exhibition which is hosted by the Alliance Française Dublin. On exhibition is the work of Edit Elias, Deirdre Fallon and Sophia Harding.
Each of these three newly graduated Irish photographers were selected by a member of the Alliance Française Photo Committee, which includes: Margaret Brown (professional photographer), Anthony Haughey (artist, researcher and lecturer at Dublin Institute of Technology) and Tanya Kiang (Director and curator at the Gallery of Photography).
l-r: Tanya Kiang, Deirdre Fallon, Edit Elias, Anthony Haughey,
Philippe Milloux (Director of the Alliance),
Sophia Harding & Margaret Brown.
The exhibition was launched on 19 January 2017 and during it's run, until 6 March 2017, the public are invited to vote for their favourite photographer. This vote, together with the choice of the AF Photo Committee, will determine which of the three selected photographers wins a trip to the renowned Arles Photography Festival.
So let's see what's on offer. I'll give my own reactions below. It is well to remember though that what is on display here is roughly only half of the original graduation exhibition of each exhibitor. I'm saying this as a look at the full set of photos deepens your appreciation of the set and in some cases gives further individual commentary on each of the photos. You can see the full sets on the exhibitors' own websites. Their names, in the headings to the individual sections below, are linked to their websites.
Edit is introduced by Anthony Haughey. She is a Dublin based photographer from Hungary and has just received her BA Honours degree in photography from DIT.
Her project Congo Mémoire explores the history of the Congo (Democratic Republic of) in collaboration with members of the Congolese community in Ireland. It consists of two elements: (i) a book of contemporary and family photos and manuscript diary/commentary tracing those members' experience, and (ii) a series of photos powerfully illustrating the exploitative nature of the relationship of outside powers with the area over the years.
I was pleased to see she had not forgotten to include the pioneering exposures of Roger Casement.
Each of the powerful pictures consisted of a hand or hands holding a representation of a different aspect of exploitation.
Without looking at the commentary I identified a diamond, a bullet, a coffee leaf and an oil pipe switch. Turns out I got only one out of four right. I had the diamond. But the "bullet" was actually a capacitor, from a computer, which relied on a precious metal, Coltan, which has unique properties vital to modern electronic devices. At least I identified the leaf, but it was not a coffee leaf, just a fallen one, which I take to represent the general exploitation of the area's natural resources and the suffering of its people through through interminable resource wars. And finally the oil pipe switch. Well that was a red rubber broken off the top of a pencil. I had not known that the rubber produced out of blood and suffering had been known as red rubber.
Edit's text is a no holds barred commentary on the suffering that goes into the products we use heedlessly in our daily lives.
Sophia is introduced by Margaret Brown. She has her BA Honours degree in photography from the Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dún Laoghaire. She is currently living in Bundoran.
Her project Now You See Me explores how we view others. Are they all that they seem? Is what we see all that they are? Do we stereotype people on the basis of limited impressions? Do we avoid engaging and simply see them as "other" and so keep them at a safe distance.
Sophia has taken the same mother and child and shown them in a variety of contexts.We see powerlessness in the form of addiction and neglect in a domestic setting and also in those forced to flee such a setting and become refugees at the mercy and whim others. Do we engage or stand back and let the camera facilitate us classing them as "other".
Deirdre is introduced by Tanya Kiang. She initially studied photography in Waterford, where it was accompanied by criminology, but her degree is from Griffith College, where she won the Canon award for her final year exhibition.
Her project The Watchmen draws on Bentham's Panopticon.
The basic idea is that we behave differently when we think we are being watched. So how is our behaviour in the modern world affected by omnipresent surveillance including our own self-awareness as we operate in cyber space.
In The Watchmen the subject's peripheral location is swapped with that of the Panopticon's watchman, and you are invited to consider the implications
Philippe ends his term as Director this coming August and I think the Alliance will miss him. He is a very hands on Director and takes great pride in his own work and that of the Alliance generally. I have found him great to deal with in the short time I have known him.
Under some pressure from me, Philippe overcame his natural modesty for a moment and admitted that the idea for this exhibition/competition was his. He reminded me that it is part of the Alliance's mission to give young artists a chance to become known and seen on the cultural scene of the cities where French institutions are located. He put the idea to fellow experts and good friends from the photo panel and they loved it. In the style of a good leader he praised the hard work of Christine and her Assistant who were charged with making it happen.
He's thrilled that it went so well and the Alliance intend to run it annually and so build up a network of photographers from among the participants. This will be a part of Philippe's legacy to the Dublin Alliance.
I don't know where he's going next but Bon Voyage Philippe.
I couldn't resist this one of Tanya with the cultural and business background.
Margaret snapped me in the course of the evening. I haven't seen it yet but I snapped her back anyway.
A final shot as I observed Deirdre and Anthony in conversation from the roadway beneath.
And just to prove that I wasn't the last to leave.