Glasshouse Gallery (The)

‘In French, there is a phrase – petit mort, or ‘little death’ – that alludes to the orgasm. For me, photographing is like this. I am a pack of nerves while waiting for the moment, and this feeling grows and grows and grows and then it explodes, it is a physical joy, a dance, space and time reunited. …To see is everything.’

Henri Cartier-Bresson

The above quote was used in an invitation to submit work for an exhibition titled ‘Petites Morts’ I saw advertised on the Arts Council listings on the Internet. For me there is something very sexy about photography, partly because at the same time as creating the photograph, the moment dies. Ironically, in juxtaposition to the moment dying the image is captured, frozen in time to live on for posterity, preserved by a time capsule, the photograph itself.

The angle and moment in which the photograph was taken makes the image unique, unrepeatable and profoundly personal to the photographer. The audience of that photograph, can only ever view that moment as seen by the photographer at that time. This is just as revealing of the photographer, as of the photograph itself. It gives us insight into the photographer’s way of seeing, just as much as seeing what the photograph has to tell. So in some ways, it could be said that a photograph is limited because of its personal view, while words are infinitely more interpretable because the meanings of the words are hidden by the private thoughts of the individual mind, which are unspoken.

When I arrived at the private view and saw the collection of images for the first time, what impressed me the most was the variety of ways in which the title and quote had been interpreted. While, some photographs subtly alluded to the sexual suggestion of the title, others commented on the fact that death can seem little compared to a long life lived. The banality of a mundane everyday object, like a florescent light bulb about to become unhinged and go out, like the end of a life plunged into darkness, becomes precious.

Some work explored the visual effect that redundancy can have on an abandoned place. Just like a person, when it loses its function, its purpose dies, so it is transformed into a decaying and declining space, which consequently takes on a new life with an imagined identity. ‘Abandoned spaces are a window into human histories, they tell the tales of the past through the architecture and objects left behind.’

Another image shows a crowd of party workers standing before an incredibly realistic diorama depicting the horrors of the Korean War. Despite it being a day for celebration, there was an atmosphere of grieving, both for the losses inflicted upon them during the Korean War and for the loss of their beloved leader Kim Il Sung. In some ways these photographs affirm that in death a personality can seem larger than life.

The private view was buzzing with conversation from beginning to end, partly because all the photographers selected finally got the chance to meet, but also because the show had been very successfully curated.