Shot in Soho – The Photographers Gallery
I have alway had a fondness for Soho ever since my late teens and early twenties when I was affiliated with the the Metal/hard rock scene. Going to a gig in London wasn’t complete without a visit to Carnaby Street first. Soho has an almost village like feel to it and a sleazy glamour that has continued to lure the curious traveller and bohemian characters for many years. It is historically associated with diverse and vibrant arts, fashion and music industries. More recently it has become a popular location for the LGBTQ scene. Of course it is hard to ignore it’s association with underground crime syndicates and the sex industry.
This exhibition curated by Julian Rodriguez and Karen McQuaid showcases rare and unseen work by seven photographers that have made memorable photographs in this unique part of London. William Klein, Anders Peterson, Corrina Day, Kelvin Brodie, John Goldblatt, Clancy Gebler Davies and Daragh Soden have all made bodies of work that are very different in their approach. The photographs on display highlight the chaos, eccentricity, unpredictability and quirkiness that exists there. The curators chose to ignore the more obvious and well known bodies of work made in Soho and instead opted to show photographic works that are less well known.
This quite small exhibition takes up one floor of the Photographers Gallery. As you enter the gallery you are greeted by a large colour print by William Klein. Almost comedic in appearance, it shows men covering their faces as they exit a sauna and massage parlour at number 69. Apart from this large print on display at the entrance the rest of the prints on display are relatively small but impeccably presented. The show is interesting even if it seems a little bit predictable. John Goldblatt’s series ‘The Undressing Room’ 1968 and Kelvin Brodie’s series of street portraits also made in 1968 for The Sunday Times Magazine look back through tinted glasses and reminisce about a part of London which is rapidly changing and in danger of being swallowed up but rapid development and gentrification of the area.
Surprisingly I found myself enjoying Goldblatt’s series of work the most. It is a fascinating insite into the mundane surroundings of beautiful strippers and performers as they get changed and wait between performances. They appear to be completely at ease in the presence of the photographer. This has allowed him to document some remarkably candid and revealing images of the girls who at times appeared to be bored and killing time. He does a great job of showing the personality of the girls who are very obviously at ease with their own nudity.
How will this study visit affect my practice:
Viewing this exhibition has made me think carefully about print quality and presentation. The prints by all photographers were exceptional. Corinne Day’s prints were framed in white without borders while others were presented in a more traditional way with a white border and black frame. Looking for Love (2018) by Daragh Soden is presented in a more unusual and contemporary way, he simply pinned the prints to the wall. I’m not sure if I like that approach I feel like it is trying too hard to be different and does not best present the work in a professional way.
Also how does the colour of the background wall where the prints are hung effect the presentation. Clancy Gebler Davies’ ‘The Colony Room Club’ 1998-2001 stood out because of the green wall it was mounted on. I liked the blast of colour, it added a contemporary twist to a body of work that looked like quite traditional black and white photojournalistic prints. This is something I could include in my own exhibition by either painting a wall (unlikely) or by using some type of display boards or panels.