Strange and familiar
Join OCA tutor Derek Trillo on the 8 April in Manchester.
For this exhibition Martin Parr has curated collections of images taken in the UK by internationally recognised photographers, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Rineke Dijkstra, Garry Winogrand, Robert Frank, Bruce Davidson, Rineke Dijkstra, Candida Höfer and Bruce Gilden. Each shows a different take on British culture, due to the photographers’ different interests, styles and skills. It is arguable whether it is possible to form a representative body of work that describes any country, even though many of us attempt to do so: comparing many different versions together will give an opportunity to reflect on which of these produce a representation that has endured.
The (ambiguous) title could refer to the ability to select everyday scenes and present them in a way that makes us question why we wouldn’t normally notice them — hidden in plain sight. Or it could represent what is familiar to us, yet strange to outsiders. This is a role reversal of our usual position, which is to leave the familiar behind and find interest in the ‘other’, the novelty of the differences we discover, the exoticism of the unfamiliar.
The unfamiliar is then distanced a second time by photographing it, as Sontag wrote ‘…essentially the camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own’(Sontag 1977, 57*).
We can discuss the reasons why artists seek the unfamiliar, when the same interest might be found closer to home. A personal experience of this might be the initial assignment for Expressing Your Vision (Square Mile), which so often proves a challenge, when prior knowledge of the subject matter (your local area) should make it easier.
This exhibition was very popular when shown last year at The Barbican in London. OCA Tutor Rob Bloomfield led an oversubscribed study visit: https://weareoca.com/photography/strange-and-familiar/
and wrote a blog post on his conclusions here.
*Sontag, S. (1977). On Photography. London, Penguin.
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Image: Bruce Gilden, Factory in the Midlands, 2014 (detail)
© Bruce Gilden / Magnum Photos
Originally published at WeAreOCA.