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Mass Photography

Mass Photography

I was in Blackpool this Wednesday and went along to the Grundy art gallery where for the time being they have devoted the entire gallery to a photographic exhibition.

The title comes from the Mass observation project back in the 30s and the main contributors to this exhibition are Humphrey Spender and Julian Trevelyan.

I have seen a lot of Spenders photographs in books and seeing a few on the wall here made me realise that I ought to make a trip to Bolton sometime soon and have a look at the “Work Town” archive.

The Spender photographs surprised me somewhat because he is normally reported as a modernist photographer but the images here mainly display a snapshot type aesthetic. I don’t know if this is due to the gallery’s selection or perhaps Spender’s main focus was on Bolton and although he followed the mill workers on holiday to Blackpool he did not take many images.

I was also surprised that there were so few photographs of children. The “Like you’ve Never Been Away” away exhibition at the Walker in Liverpool was notable for the number of photographs of children and reminded you very much of how much more relaxed we used to be about such issues and how difficult it is to take that kind of reportage photographs today.

As well as the 1930s stuff there are a few modern photographers exhibited. Martin Parr makes a single appearance but the best set in the exhibition to my mind is upstairs in the atrium where the Blackpool photographer Geoff Buono is represented. He was born in Blackpool and until relatively recently in charge of the BA course at Blackpool College.

In his student days the took a series of portraits from the viewpoint inside the ticket booth at the South Pier box office. These are printed quite large and square and make a nice set.

I don’t have the full list of photographers but also on show are works by Tony Ray-Jones Steve Marland, Vicky Ward and Mike O’Sulivan

All in all the exhibition is well worth a visit if you are in Blackpool for other reasons. It is open for a few more weeks and closes on 5 November.

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