The Manchester School of Art photography graduate exhibition was in Shoreditch. At The Gallery on Redchurch Street the show called Manchester to London, titled this relocation; a possible signpost to ideas of contextualisation but perhaps also sounding out a trade route for recent graduates. But, not wanting to consume myself with this area of debate too much, I took the train to Bethnal Green.
This planned walk from the empty echo of railway arches and half-hidden mechanics’ yards affords a gradual build towards the epicentre of mutually assured cool that is Shoreditch. The Brick Lane crossing delivers its moment of hyperawareness: pink hair; flowing trench coats; sunglasses in the shade, and piece-fully I am able maintain the balance of my own thought against each vie for attention. Framing such a visit in this way helps to fend off pot-holes in thinking. To alight in Shoreditch to see a regional graduate show would undoubtedly have left me thinking in London-centric terms. Composition is an interdisciplinary tool.
Obvious on arrival is the curatorial consideration of such varied disciplines as you might expect from a photography bachelors. The haute couture sits well with the documentary, the abstract with the narrative and fortunately for the graduates, this and the quality of the hung work constitute the moment of impression. The clear lack of editorial input demonstrated in the accompanying literature does not affect this moment but as a memento, an assistant to impression after the event, it is instrumental to later considerations.
Within this guide a number of graduates express their interest in the work done before the image: Luke Sampson practically explores the role of the model as actor; Matthew Williams incorporates the studio environment as stimulus for his coupled subjects; and both Sara Philbin and Stephanie Parnell look to their immediate family ties in an attempt to articulate and document meaning. Likewise, Isabel Taylor works a fruitful photographer-sitter relationship with her cross-dressing brother to produce a stand-out end result in Victor Victoria.
Also demonstrating a fearlessly natural talent for looking, Chloé Fettes seriesDon’t Worry speaks more of methodology than product or presentation. Illusive behind a William Eggleston quote in the aforementioned printed guide, she points to the fact of her images, the fact of looking. As such, the mass of her work manifests as a desire to absorb everything there is to be looked at; a clear will to knowledge.
On leaving, still I wonder about the benefits of such a show in London. Exposure is undeniably a useful tool — and it is no bad thing to bring your wares to market — but if that is the case, rather than the suggestion of contextualisation, the package must be whole. Consideration must be given to the mechanisms of both the first and the lasting impression, equally composed and edited to meet the high standard of the works exhibited.