Island Stories: Fifty Years of Photography in Britain – V & A Museum

23rd April 2013

After the fifteen minute taster prior to the ‘Print Room Visit’ I followed this up with a wander around on my own after the visit upstairs.

It’s difficult for me to pin down how I felt about the exhibition overall as there was so much difference in the images presented from the various artists, but some of the individual images left an impression on me and I think the most striking of them were two by Maurice Bloomfield, who made his reputation as a leading photographer of British Industry from the 1950’s – 1970’s.  I likened his images to some of those by Thomas Struth although I consider Broomfields far more striking  and pleasing.

Somerset wire company, wire manufacture (Photograph)                  Taper Roller Bearings (Photograph)

There are some that were extremely striking but I was unable to obtain any images to present but Elsbeth Juda, a German from Darmstadt, had a series of images from ‘The Ambassador’ magazine for which she was the in-house photographer.  Juda was always looking for images that were incongruous and said “When it was really absurd, it always tempted me.” and this can be seen in the images displayed of a model draped in cloth as it comes off the loom, or her being wrapped in the cloth as it goes into the screen-printer, or her hanging from an overhead crane hook with two boiler-suited workers in attendance.

Peter Fraser has a couple of interesting images of the interior components of equipment used for the study of matter and ice crystals on a nut and bolt.

Untitled (Photograph)                   Untitled (Photograph)

Untitled (Photograph)

Images such as these show what beauty there is in what could be considered either mundane or high-tech equipment which normally don’t see the light of day nor are they normally looked upon as having artistic merit in their normal location.

Nigel Shafran has the following three chronologically ordered images, apparently of the same model, made using long exposures and naturally subdued lighting to attempt to remain in tune with the process over a period.

Dobcross, Oldham, 25 December 1992 (Photograph)   London W10, February 1994 (Photograph)  Photograph

I found these images to be very perplexing and studied them for quite some time as it’s not immediately obvious what the artist is trying to imply.  In the end I got the feeling that from the first to last image there is a definite drop in the subjects interest in anything that is happening to her or around her and gradually she sinks into a lethargic greyness.

For whatever reason I seemed to be attracted to the more melancholy works on display and these by Raymond Moore are no exception.  The first image of ‘Strange Fencing at ‘Blaenau Ffestiniog’, the second ‘Alderney’  the third ‘Reading’  the last ‘Pembrokeshire’.

Photograph               Photograph      Photograph               Pembrokeshire (Photograph)

Whilst this exhibition was interesting and brought some new artists, to me, to my notice, it certainly isn’t something I’d have made a special trip to London to see, it wasn’t anything particularly spectacular.


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