I Like It - Not !

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A couple of weeks ago I visited the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool. This a dedicated photography gallery located on waterfront just opposite to the third of the Three Graces – the Port Of Liverpool building on the Pier Head.

The main exhibit was “The Wild and Wise” by Charles Freger.


This contained a variety of images. Some were portraits of topless Privates in the French Foreign Legion, they were placed above contrasting portraits of uniformed officers from the same regiment. Then there were photographs of ‘Wild Men’ – men dressed up in traditional shaman type costumes. And Finally pictures of Maori schoolboys doing the Hakka.

The write up for the display says the Freger ‘interrogates the authenticity of the photographic image, especially when framed within history and folklore.’

To me the Legionnaires could have been any skin-headed youth, and maybe that was the point. They could have been from any nation, any culture and speak any language. But take any single portrait and each image was ordinary and said nothing about the individual’s personality.

The Wild Men photographs again to me were ordinary. They said nothing about the culture or context of the Wild Men nor juxtaposed them in a contrasting out of context setting. But they just looked as though they could have been taken by anyone.

The schoolboys doing the Hakka at least showed some personality, creativity and imagination. Each image was unique and said something about the people in the photograph.

Upstairs was a exhibit by Eva Stram. Titled Drape.


It took vintage images from centrefolds and pin-up images and digitally hid the bodies of the girls behind curtains so that only their legs and feet showed. This kind of worked for me as a concept as you had to judge the person in the photograph only from their legs and their surroundings. It showed a bit of thought and imagination. What didn’t work for me was once again, the psycho-babble write-up : Eva wanted the viewer to become aware of their own ‘voyeuristic desire and erotic impulses’ and 'by questioning the paradigms and hierarchical values of studio photography’ a new meaning could be given to the photographs.

How To Review Art Work

Now from what I’ve learned about photography so far is that story of each image should be capable of being summarised in a single sentence. A portrait photograph should say something about the person. I’m not sure Ferger’s Legionaire photographs did that. Any individual image taken out of context would have said nothing about that person. In fact collectively they said nothing either. If he tried to show the stripping down of the individual character of each recruit in order to turn them into soldiers I could have agreed. Especially of he showed each lad on the day they arrived as raw recruits and contrasted them with the stripped down individual.

Another thing I’ve learned is that when reviewing a photograph is to never say “I Like It !” – this says nothing about the photograph. Instead say “It works because …” or even “It doesn’t work because …”. In that way it de-personalises the review and in place of reflecting personal taste it makes you think more about what the photographer is trying to say.

So have a look at few of the photographs via the links and consider the following :

The theme for the two exhibits base was “Who Do You Think You Are”? The two artists work was said to reflect identity by looking how it is ‘constructed, embraced and performed for the benefit of the viewer’ and and how we ‘define ourselves in relation to the other’? and finally showing the ‘friction or tension between self and its representation’.
And then say to yourself “it works because … “ ?

My Photo For This Blog

This is a one I took during that trip to Liverpool. It is to show the tenacity of plants to grow almost anywhere when left to their own devises, this time on an abandoned factory building. And don't forget to LIKE my Sentient Photo Facebook page. ;-)

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