Getting Involved with Local Exhibitions and a Short Review
A Short Review of the Photography within Leicester Museum’s Exhibition: The World We Live In: Art & The Urban Environment
One of the great ways of getting involved with local events is through museums and exhibitions. Exhibitions that are held in big institutions like The British Museum, or the V&A are fantastic but can end up being pricey especially as a student. Even if the admission is free, the cost of travel is enough to put anyone off. The benefits of visiting local museums and galleries mean that you’re not only supporting your hometown, but these local buildings will hold information that is specific to your local city or hometown as well, making the experience much more personal.
Following a year of not travelling to any exhibitions, this exhibition that’s local to my hometown was a familiar but sinister reminder of life between Post-War Britain and Thatcher’s Britain. The exhibition is made up of various mediums that range from paintings, to photography, to textiles, to film. As it is an Arts Council Collection exhibition, it is free and relatively small so easy to get around but still has enough artwork to provoke questions in your mind after you’ve left. For the purpose of sticking to a word count I’ll be speaking specifically about the photography within the exhibition.
Compiled and positioned onto white walls, these 28 mounted and framed black and white photographs/prints are taken by photographers born from mostly the ’30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s (with a couple of exceptions). The majority of the photographs are taken mainly between the ’60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, depicting unemployment, growing populations, immigration, and the noise of city life in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Huddersfield, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, and Liverpool. The changing architecture of Post-War Britain demonstrates people in cities interacting with urbanisation and changing practices happening within their areas, with no money and no hope. Many of the photos within the collection reflect the photographers’ documentation of society, and predominantly working-class lives of society. There is an honesty from these photos that show a true representation of the grit and hard work that comes from the monotonous tasks of everyday life – hand-washing clothes, air-drying washing outside in the street, and high numbers of people crammed into small houses sharing their possessions.
The major themes of the photography which take hold of the viewer, is the focus and correlations between youth, unemployment, and poverty in this period of the Twentieth Century. The images of children spraying water on each other and jumping from windows onto old mattresses for entertainment shows a clear return to basic resources. There is the nostalgic image of families mingling together and children playing on the streets which is becoming a less and less familiar scene to a contemporary audience. A sinister undertone also haunts Murtha’s photos (both photos shown above) in the way children would find various ways of entertaining themselves. The child jumping from a great height onto the mattresses, children climbing on unstable walls, and the menacing puppet-doll that stares directly into the viewer is reminiscent of the danger that comes with these activities.
What resonates from the collection are images that can now be seen as practices of the past, but on the other hand they are also reminders of the fact that these images are from a place that is still very much relevant today. It is a confrontation of the knowledge that these images were taken in one of the world’s most richest countries – as it still is today – but is still rife with poverty, homelessness, and hunger.