Exposure (Format Festival) @ Deda

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Format photography festival has set itself the problem of having to come up with a theme for every iteration…of which there have now been seven. Given the vagaries of creative impulse, finance, availability and open submission it has to be a rather capacious holdall. This time around the title is Evidence. Well quite. Thats photography for you! At Deda the selection of the eight photographers from the open submission provides ample ‘evidence’ of both subject and interpretation. Images are culled from parts of the globe from abandoned cottages in Ireland to indigenous peoples struggling with climate change in Greenland, from fourteen year olds in Belgium, the Congo and Palestine. These last all the work of Benedicte Vanderreydt are amongst the most fascinating.  Not the images themselves that one might pass over erronously as in the vein of Larry Sultan or Bill Henson of those gauche young Americans but rather a fascinating trail through the tentacles of social media and how it throws a light on the ways in which the globe is shrinking digitally.  Giacomo Brunelli has developed a rather compelling, though highly romanticised, gloomy black and white shtick that most famously came into view in The Animals several years back.  After Animals 2 he’s now turned his attention onto Eternal London. They are attractive enough but I felt them a wee bit cliched what with the old ‘Paul Hill Man in the Snow with his back to us’ routine.  Back in the day this was not only striking and original – the clever contrast of the heavy black figure against the snow – but here it is played out against a grey sky and Big Ben…  and then played out rather repeatedly in contexts that don’t seem to speak much to the city’s nuances.  Ciril Jazbec‘s On Thin Ice came to Derby hot on the heels of the last Rencontres d’Arles and there is no denying either the quality of image making or the intensity of the images that speak directly to the dilemmas facing Unnartoq people.  These were cleverly constructed images and I’d have loved to see the whole series.  As a painter I am easily bored by photographic work that assembles vaguely poetic images and presents them in random combinations and there’s a little bit of that here…we all have a photo scrapbook nowadays that contains plenty of such pictures…so I’ll pass over those contributions and risk missing something truly profound maybe!  More coherently and properly constructed is the beautiful essay Cottages Of Quigley’s Point by – I assume – the young Irish artist Jill Quigley.  This uses the lightest of interventions – physical and/or digital? – to objectify the existing content and draw yet more attention to the questions that surround abandoned property in rural Ireland.  Its rare that a suite of images does exactly what it says on the packet (the artist’s own statement) but I felt he’d got this one spot on.  Overall there were plenty enough images here to grab one’s attention and hold it.  On this evidence there’s a deal of interesting and exciting work at this Festival – let’s hope it continues.

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