Visit to the Ffotogallery, Penarth, near Cardiff, Wales

Turner House, home to the Ffotogallery

The Ffotogallery is in Penarth, a small town to the west of Cardiff and a short walk from the train station though it seems we all came via road.The easiest way to visit is of course online … http://www.ffotogallery.org/

We had a friendly welcome, being given tea or coffee and greeted by Helen who explained to us what the gallery does. It is an impressive place for the quality of the work it shows, the bookcase full of books it has published and the programme of events it organises. For instance, there is a forthcoming exhibition of Daniel Meadow’s work with an artist’s talk.

Helen welcomes us to the exhibition space

The current exhibition we have come to see about the Falkand Islands is exceptionally good largely because of an audio-video piece; it is not just about a a particular conflict but war in general. Called Voices of the South Atlantic, the photographer Adriana Groisman, an American, has taken 8 years to complete the work which looks at both sides of the conflict. There are recordings not just of British survivors but also Argentinians talking about the sufferings they went through during the conflict. The audio-visual presentation is let down somewhat by poorly processed images that do not reveal the quality inherent in their printed versions, a few of which are hung around the gallery; Elgar sounding music accompany this audio-visual gives it a lift.

Here is the gallery’s blurb about the exhibition …

“Timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Falklands/Malvinas war, Voices of the South Atlantic examines issues of war and its consequences. Rooted in the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas conflict, it includes the voices of people who fought on both sides, as well as civilians who were directly affected. Colour photographs of landscapes of the islands and black and white seascapes of the South Atlantic, act as visual metaphors that allude to feelings of menace, courage and fear, at the same time showing physical traces of war. Through juxtaposing photographs of scarred landscapes with testimonies from British and Argentine veterans and Falkland Islanders, a dialogue is established between the time needed for the terrain to heal and the period the men themselves need to recover.”

Helen shows us a large print hanging upstairs

The prints are large; a British officer’s head and shoulders are at one end of the gallery while facing him at the other end is a similar portrait of an Argentinian. It is this presentation of both sides of the conflict that made this work resound for me particularly at a time when public opinion is being polarised by the current Argentinian Prime Minister making representations at the United Nations about the ownership of The Falklands being rightfully Argentinian while the British are saying that the Falkland Islands have a right to determine their own rule.

Eddy shows his images on a laptop as others offer comments

After seeing the exhibition, we get down to looking at each other’s photographs with Jesse offering comments from an Open College of the Arts perspective. Eddy starts showing photographs that are from an assignment that he is struggling with in which he is meant to be recording an event. Jesse’s comments are kind and I say something positive about the use of flash which Eddy has bounced off the ceiling.

In our general discussion, Robert Adams is mentioned. The beauty of photography is in the truth it conveys.

Eddie outside the Deli

We go out to get some lunch from a nearby Deli where I grab a greasy Samosa which is however, pleasantly spicy. The afternoon starts with me showing some prints of the Taj Mahal from a project that has come out of my studies at the Open College of the Arts. This is the first time I have shown the work to another group of photographers or even assembled the photographs as a group and a body of work. Jesse asks me a few questions and offers a little advice which I question a little perhaps because I am not good at taking criticism yet also because I want to discuss the work and not come to any definite idea about it at this stage. As Jesse suggests, I need to add context via historical or at least some kind of pertinent information. He is surprised that I have not done any classic, recognisable shots of the Taj Mahal; in fact, I have but they are not shown here since they were submitted digitally rather than in print form. Apart from doing some more reading about the Taj Mahal, I have decided to start a blog for the project.

discussion continues

After my 30 minutes or so of relative fame, we see work by another student who I have not met before but has done some very nice flower photos as well as work by Stephanie who has made a series of images of her mother walking with a dog as Stephanie follows behind, framing her mother’s legs, handbag and dog in blurry images. We look at the work and try to decide which effects work best.

There is a need to engage with subject matter, issues that arise as well as ideas; photography is not just a matter of technique although this can not be avoided. One needs to communicate, consider one’s potential audience rather than merely do what one thinks as this might be self-indulgent even narcissistic. The question of why we photograph comes up. Are we megalomaniacs? Personally, I want to do as good a job as possible, to make photographs that are not dead rather say something of the moment.

At the end of the day, talk turns to Open College of the Arts study matters. The day seems to have been a success.

View down from the upper gallery to the entrance area and lower gallery

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