DIT Photography 2012 Exhibition Review
Gallery Of Photography
Walkthrough video by Lauren Pritchard
The most difficult aspect of evaluating this show was attempting to distance myself from the personal relationships I have with the artists involved. Then on second consideration, I realised that the reason I undertook featuring the graduate class of 2012 is because of those exact relationships.
When we started college in September 2008, this course required that every student spend the entirety of first year exclusively using 35mm black and white film. This limitation wasn’t fully understood at the time and it was only in the years after that the students understood that it was this hardnosed focus on core fundamentals that allowed them to evolve into other areas and other mediums with unpredicted comfort. Some days, in the winter when you had a deadline coming up, you’d line up outside college at 8am to make sure you got an enlarger and stay in there until close, twelve hours later, not having seen daylight at all. It seemed rough and the dropout rate was high. 11 of the original 31 students listed on Day One of the course would not make it to the end of the first year. It was tough but looking back, it was probably the most enjoyable year I’ve ever spent in formal education.
I deferred college the following year due to an anxiety condition and joined a new group of students for second year. I would never be in the same class as my first year friends again but in such a small college that almost doesn’t matter. You spend so much time in close quarters here that it’s almost impossible to not see everyone’s work as it develops. To see the evolution of everyone’s black and white prints in first year to the work presented in this show, is truly a privilege.
I think this progression of the process is most evident in the work of Joseph Carr. His work, displayed as a large grid on the first floor of the Gallery of Photography, consists of urban landscape shots taken with a hand-built toy camera on 35mm black and white film and display the master print skills I had coveted when I was a classmate of his in first year. I admired him then and I admire him today. He strayed from this approach over the his time spent in DIT but always seemed to create work deep rooted in the hands-on manual approach to photography that we were taught from the outset.
The next closest would be Brian Cregan’s study of the Cordyline tree (cordyline australis) and its demise in Ireland’s urban setting. Again, Brian shot, developed and printed this project by hand but in terms of aesthetics it’s a very different series altogether. The process itself may be the strongest influence of the look of each shot. Brian used a tripod and 8x10 camera and I think even if you don’t include the quality of the image, you can see the effect that the process had on the original vision of the image. While Carr’s work seems fleeting, an attempt to capture and interaction with the urban environment, Cregan’s is a lot more deliberate, a slower process, a conversation with a dying or dead plant. It’s very successful and I think the idea of printing simple contacts of the 8x10 negatives by hand works well with the tree samples included in his area of display. The physicality of the object is not lost here.
Alva Keogh’s series “N.S.A.” is a mixed media piece combining paint, photography and a technique of cutting the top layer off sections of paper which gives the work an almost sculptural quality. The two pieces exhibited here come in at a B0 paper size, which measures approximately 40 inches by 56 inches. Hung like a tapestries on offset large nails on the wall, their size seems even larger and their impact is immediate. The vibrancy of the paint against the black and white images and the large top layer sections that have been removed with a scalpel let this work stand as an art piece rather than being simply categorised as photography.
The physical object has such importance among this class that Lyndsey Putt even installed a working photocopier in her designated room with laminated photos for visitors to photocopy and take home. It’s this originality and attention to detail that sets apart student work and real work. This was accompanied by a wrap-around cut and paste old school zine style collage of photos from her series which discusses the special issues and difficulties women face standing at the front at hardcore and punk shows. With the rise of things like Brighton’s The Photocopy Club and a general resurgence in zine culture among the photography world, it’s really exciting to see artists embracing this DIY style of display.
Another participant engaging in spatial issues is Katie O’Neill whose series, “Public Bodies”, details the nature of living in an urban environment and the way a person can interact with their surroundings. By fitting people into unusual shapes and places, the work initially looks a little off but I think that almost becomes a strength. The difficulty when assessing a lot of student work is that the brevity of the process needs to be taken into account and therefore it’s hard to make work that’s more interesting with time in such a limited timeframe. I think several of the artists included here have accomplished that.
Caroline McNally’s overall body of work presented in this exhibition tackles the topic of waste management. Her images depict landfill sites as otherworldly landscapes using colour palettes similar to those used in sci-fi movies for scenes showing foreign planets. The serene pastel colours aren’t exactly what you’d associate with former dumping areas, but they work in a way that transforms the view of landscapes in the same way that Ryan McGinley’s early colour work had a similar impact by catching the viewer off guard with unnatural beautiful colour. What’s even more satisfying about McNally’s work is that the book she presented on a table beside her work, isn’t the same series shown in the pale wooden frames mounted on the wall. Her book deals with the same themes and issues but tackles it in an approach that couldn’t be more different. Inside the gorgeous yellow hardback cover lies an intense catalogue of objects in her house, sorted by how they would be recycled. Resembling more of a technician’s manual in design than a photobook, each page presents you with sometimes upward of a hundred objects, all neatly laid out in a grid on a white background. Flipping through each page you come across everything from her old Star Wars figures to her board-games right up to her silver kitchenware. The care and time that went into the process of developing such a body of images elevates the book as one of the most charming pieces you’re likely to come across this year.
Another favourite of the people I’ve talked to was Laura McCormack’s “Low Season”, another series of colourful landscapes but in a very different way to McNally’s. McNally’s was very much muted, manipulating the colours of the settings in post-processing but “Low Season” is rooted in the immediate. The process was mainly a result of using coloured gels in outdoor situations to generate new ways of lighting old beaten up seaside imagery. The various blues, greens and pinks all pop against the night and revitalises these monuments of a fading tourist industry located in McCormack’s home county of Limerick. The challenge in making a series is the requirement to plan the shooting intelligently. Lighting an outdoor location necessitates a huge amount of premeditation and I think it shows in the carefully laid out colour-sequencing shown here.
Ieva Baltaduonyte’s work is rooted in precise colour management but more in the sense of minimalism and meticulousness. A two channel video piece is the first thing most people see when visiting the exhibition as it’s perched right at the top of the staircase. I think the video is the least effective piece of work in her section and it doesn’t show any of the same styling as the photographs which are very distinct and identifiable as the artist’s own from the outset. Unlike McNally’s diverse exploration of one theme, it just comes across as disjointed in this circumstance. I think if it could be identified as a standalone piece, it would communicate itself better. Unfortunately, here it’s presented as a precursor to the images which follow it and as a result lacks the permanence and discipline which so thoroughly ground her other featured work.
Where her video work stumbles, her images impress. The overall quality of the photos is as good as anyone can expect and the amount of times I saw her print them in college, the sheer amount of duplicates that didn’t fit the exact colour profile she wanted, really stands as a testament to the ones she selected as her final showcase prints. The work, which conveniently fits in with this year’s PhotoIreland theme of “Migration” takes its name from the Lithuanian word meaning the same thing, “Migracijos”. The work is a combination of simple straight portraits with a grid of four relating objects underneath each one. There’s a heavy emphasis on white and cleanliness and this sanitised structured space allows the work to really bloom. The images are accompanied by vinyl text which I assume is a quote from the subject photographed. Overall, I think this is where Baltaduonyte’s strength lies; the ordered perfected still image. I think the “less is more” mantra works so well in the artist’s work and it’s frustrating to see her almost spoil it with the prelude video piece.
The next artist I’ll discuss is Lauren Pritchard and I have to warn you up front to take my words with a grain of salt. Sure I’m trying to be impartial and write a somewhat objective review of this exhibition but at the end of the day, Lauren is still my girlfriend. I’ve seen her work develop possibly closer than anyone except maybe the college lecturers and I think that both hinders and gives me an edge right now. On the plus side, I’ve seen what it started out as, what didn’t make the cut and was present for several of the shoots featured in her book and video displays. Unlike anyone else on the course, the make-up of her work was predominantly video. Located exactly above Baltaduonyte’s work, it’s almost the antithesis of everything in “Migracijos”. Instead of being greeted by a video, you’re met at the top of the staircase with a lightbox and a photobook. The lightbox contains a single still image taken during the same shoot as one of the featured videos in the thoroughly blacked out room beside it. Using a very similar image as an appetiser for the full work is a lot more effective than the reverse. Inside said room is a three channel video piece whose monitors provide the only source of light in the room. Each video piece is a slow motion portrait shot through a water reflection although at first this is not immediately obvious. The measured pace of each video adds to the complementary nature of the initial still image. It takes a minute or two of studying the work to understand what’s actually happening here and it’s that necessity for considered viewing that makes her multimedia series “I is Another” a hallmark of excellent work.
Lauren’s roommate, Sinead O’Neill developed a series of models based around the process of Fracking (hydraulic fracturing); the controversial technique of pumping chemicals into the ground to erode shale rock and extract fossil fuels. The models were built by hand and shot as miniature landscapes. The exhibited piece which fills the wall nicely is accompanied by a graphic design word board showing popular keywords associated with the issue. I think the courage to step outside of one’s comfort zone to work in other disciplines such as model-making and design gives O’Neill’s work a deserving sense of merit.
Thanks again to Alex (DigitalFaun) for this review of the gallery of photography section of our show and all the interviews he did with us. This meant a lot to the class.
If you missed the show a quick video of the section in the gallery of photography is above and here is the video of the section in the archive. We hope you enjoyed the show and our website and remember most of the work can still be sold and a lot of us are available for work