Old Diorama Arts Centre

This review by Anna Lamche of Fishing for Clouds – an exhibition of photography and words by Anna Lerner – appeared in print and online in the Camden New Journal (15 June 2023).

The subject of a new exhibition, Anna Lerner’s photographs and words turn the mundane into something fresh, says Anna Lamche

SOME images bring us peace. They slow us down, ask us to look again.

Such is the effect of a set of four photographs that greet the viewer in Anna Lerner’s first solo exhibition at the Old Diorama Arts Centre.

The quadriptych forms a time-lapse that demands slow looking: a serene blue sky is cut into planes by the soft white line of a contrail. A transparent sun is slowly obscured by a falling band of cloud. Like astronauts watching nightfall on a foreign planet, we see the familiar fading of the light anew. Titled The Sky Goes Down Over the Sun, this series points to Anna’s capacity to flip the world on its head. As she writes in a poem accompanying the exhibition: “Elements are reconfigured/ the world is reimagined/ possibilities manifest.”

Anna’s photographs reward close attention. There is depth in the ghostly reflections that play across the surfaces of buildings, windows, glass panels. The pictures hum with physics of their own: Her world is at the same time still and in motion.

For this exhibition, called Fishing for Clouds, Lerner has selected seven pieces of work from her back catalogue that play with reflections and images of the sky. As the title Fishing for Clouds suggests, clouds in their all their different forms – thick, hazy, vaporous – are a central preoccupation here, symbolic not of “distraction and worry” but pointing instead to “dreams and possibilities”.

Here the artist shows us how she looks at her surroundings.

Each image is sure of itself. As John Berger writes, a “photograph… isolates, preserves and presents a moment taken from a continuum”.

Anna has an eye for what she calls “the intangible, the ephemeral, / the ever changing”. We feel her “presence and patience” behind every picture. “In a moment, or series of moments,/ everything comes together,” she writes.

Although the images that make up Fishing for Clouds are taken using a digital camera, Anna trained on film. “I used to enjoy the dark room, and I don’t enjoy so much sitting in front of a computer… I focus more on what happens at the time,” she said.

“Mainly what you see is what I’ve seen. It’s not post-production, it’s not bringing together different pictures, it’s not multiple exposure,” Anna told Review. “From quite mundane things, there’s so much that you can see.”

For Anna, photography is a means of staying “buoyant”.

“I’ve got quite a busy mind – there’s always stuff going on. Some people meditate, and I do try to do something along those lines, but I feel like the photography helps me get back into the immediate,” she said. “In a way I’m very present, and in another way I’m in my own world also.”

Against this backdrop, the exhibition can be understood as being “about my practice,” she said. “To me, I was thinking it’s also about flipping anxiety on its head.”

Anna grew up in Camden and takes many of her photographs in Somers Town, Kentish Town and King’s Cross. “I walk a lot. All these areas and places are local to me,” she said.

Many of Anna’s images are taken while she walks around the borough, but she doesn’t consider herself a street photographer. “I don’t set things up. But it’s maybe being alert to everything that’s around me,” she said.

Last year, she displayed a series of her photographs in the window of the Brook Euston, in Chalton Street. “To me, it was important that I was taking so many pictures, and I wanted to put them in the area that I’d been making them, and show them there,” she said.

People often recognise the places Anna has photographed, and one imagines her pictures allow viewers to see familiar streets with fresh eyes.

She is a master of transforming the “mundane” into something new – a rare and unusual gift. This is an exciting first exhibition for a photographer who celebrates the “art in the everyday”.

Fishing For Clouds: an exhibition of photography and words by Anna Lerner. Until July 9 at Old Diorama Arts Centre, 201 Drummond Street, Regent’s Place, NW1 3FE.