Gallery visit: Strange & Familiar

Yesterday I went to the Barbican to see the Strange & Familiar show before it closed. I am very stretched for time at the moment so this will be extremely brief.  I wanted just to note several photographers who were new to me and whose work I think is really worth remembering. It was of course great to see some of the usual names in real life rather than on a computer screen, such as Robert Frank, Bruce Davidson and Tina Barney.  It was annoying in the gift shop to find the only female photographer represented in books, other than the exhibition book, was Tina Barney whilst all the ‘big’ male names are of course there.

New names for me who I will look into more very soon.

Gian Butturini – I really loved the contrast and rich tones in his images, along with the way in which he saw England.

Candida Höfer – perhaps the square format and slightly abstract crops were accessible as she seems to have preceded Instagram by many years, but I was really impressed with these images.  They were in the same space as Winogrand’s work and Hofer was far more compelling for me.

Shinro Ohtake – a stream of consciousness captured in images as Ohtake explored England with his camera knowing no-one and recording his time here.

Sergio Larrain – I was immediately drawn to these beautiful surreal, etherial and original images.  There was a fantastically modern and imaginative approach to this photographer’s work.

Finally, the exhibition is a collection of work curated by Martin Parr, all by photographers who had come to England (although not from) and documented their particular view of this country. It was extremely interesting for me, having arrived here first for a holiday at 14 and then for good at 16. I often think now, if only I’d recorded all the strange sights, the culture shock I felt, coming to a new place where people spoke the same language in principal but were so incredibly different to what I had grown up with. I cannot begin to describe the feeling of alienation I felt when looking at adverts, chewing gum wrappers, Marks and Spencer’s Food Hall aisles, the Underground, the buses. I once got lost when I went for a walk when I was here on holiday and ended up at Euston Station.  I had to ask a stranger for the fare back to Baker Street where my granny lived, and he very kindly gave me what ever it was I needed. And when I flew home to SA after my holiday I took about 10 Bounty Bars with me (and ate most of them on the flight and felt very sick indeed). I wish I’d photographed all of that. Instead I have to make do with others who did photograph the strangeness of England.  So of course, I bought the exhibition book to add to my ever growing collection. It is a fantastic collection of photography though so well worth the £s. And when I have a  bit more time I will try to write about the photographers I’ve mentioned above.



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