Taking Part

  • Taking Part
  • Gemma-Rose Turnbull: 'Free Photo Portraits'

  • D. Wiafe: '4 pm in the Endz'

Group Show

Taking Part: Eva Sajovic, Gemma-Rose Turnbull, D. Wiafe, and Wright & Vandame

Photofusion / London / England

  • Taking Part /  Reviewed by George Kafka / 13.04.18

    Community is such a complex word. At once suggestive of both inclusion and exclusion; used by housing activists and property developers alike, it’s almost impossible to pin down and its meaning varies widely (even violently) from one individual to the next. 
    The idea of community in photography is similarly fraught with difficulty.  The idea of capturing the perpetually fluid notion of a group of people living in a particular environment (typically urban) often raises issues around voyeurism and, again, exclusion. Who represents the aesthetic idea of a place? What is left out? And how does the gaze of the photographer dilute the complexities of quotidian life into a frame?
    These are all issues at stake in Taking Part, the group show that ran at Brixton’s Photofusion Photography Centre during February and March 2018. The artists involved – Eva Sajovic, Gemma-Rose Turnbull, D. Wiafe and Wright & Vandame – exhibited work produced as part of a residency initiated by Photofusion in September 2016 to enable “work with communities across London”. 
    The results of the programme are striking both in the quality of the work and the contrasts between them. Participatory artistic work is notoriously difficult – engagement with the public can be hard to muster and results often patronising – but none of those strains are evident here. 
    In Gemma-Rose Turnbull’s project (produced with her collaborator Eliza Gregory), for example, the residents of Brixton were photographed at the Brixton Pound cafe, which happens to sit on the site of an old family portrait studio. Some participants were friends of the artist and others simply walked in off the street. Rather than simply shooting for the Photofusion exhibition, the photos were intended to be of use for the subjects: family portraits, headshots for a modelling portfolio, business images. In the exhibition, however, they are a simple snapshot of Brixton today. 
    A more complex set of events sets up the work of Eva Sajovic. An active participant in the movement to save the Elephant & Castle shopping centre, Sajovic’s Photofusion project centres around the production of a community newspaper. The images displayed include spreads from the newspaper itself, images of its production and screenshots of tweets promoting the paper and the cause it supports. 
    D.Wiafe’s work is truly collaborative in the sense that the images produced come from multiple authors to complicate clichés around British youth. Working through a series of workshops in a housing estate in Merton, Wiafe recruited young residents to document their surroundings with polaroids, SLRs and post-it notes which culminated in a video installation accompanying images in the gallery space.
    Wright & Vandame expored a similar technique with residents of Railton Road, a street near the Photofusion gallery. Taking the display of their work beyond the gallery itself, Wright & Vandame displayed their photos – often abstract or non-specific visions of the area – in local landmarks such as the Brixton Advice Centre or Connect & Do, a community space. 
    Through this residency project and the Taking Part exhibition, Photofusion have raised the profile of four vital emerging artists. Yet more than this, in their fascinating, contrasting projects the artists themselves suggest new approaches to producing collaborative work that interacts with the idea of community in ways that are at once visually stimulating and socially illuminating.
     – reviewed for Photomonitor by George Kafka

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