Monday, 7 May 2012

Saatchi Gallery. Out of Focus

Out of Focus is the first major photography show at the Saatchi Gallery for over 10 years. It is important because not only does it highlight the diversity of approaches to the medium but it also attempts to redress an inbalance in the perception of photography in the digital age. This show is an opportunity to stop and draw breath, to assess photography in its artistic form away from the plethora of imagery which threatens to overwhelms us in our everyday lives.
It may not actually provide us with a clear answer but it does attempt to say that there is another way to explore the world through the eyes of a photographer. In the digital age anything is possible and almost anyone can achieve it with a camera and the use of a computer. This group of photographers are rejecting that, turning it upside down, ripping up the photos, stretching them and splashing them with chemicals, paint or grubby fingerprints.
Curiously the first room containing Katy Grannans portraits does not introduce this notion. Large scale Californian portraits of a variety of edgy characters are shot straight and given some digital enhancement. They are big and bold but hardly groundbreaking for a show proclaiming innovation. 

Marriage 2006 by John Stezaker

John Stezakers sliced and juxtaposed portraits subvert a photographic practice and delve deeper into the human character. The merging of faces demands our examination of peoples physiology and questions concerning the psychology of recognition. They become twisted lookalikes, the couple who strangely seem to look similar or the actor who reminds you of someone you know. These images challenge the process of seeing, registering and processing visual information delivered to us in the form of a human face.
As the show continues the amount of space dedicated to each artist decreases. It feels less of a strongly curated show more of a collection that we are privileged to peek at.
There will be something for everyone as there is such a wide and diverse amount of work here. Highlights for me included;
David Benjamin Sherrys dramatic landscapes infused with single colour casts. It feels like an acid road trip infused with a romantic light.

Hyperborealis 2011 by David Benjamin Sherry
 Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarins exploration of archived material from Belfast where the labeling during selection and cataloguing reveals a poignancy to scenes of confrontation and violence. Also by them a series of old negatives from the Warsaw Ghetto (helped by archivist Laura Lejsu) of a young Jewish girl and her friends who posed ina family studio in the nude, an act of private defiance against the horrors closing in on them outside. Poorly fixed they are dark and bathed in a red light. Difficult to view they are poignant and quite moving.

Culture 3 Sheet 72 Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin 2010

Ryan McGinleys photographs of a group of friends shown naked in landscape in a suspended Utopia caught in a break from some Baccanalia feast.

Tree 3 Ryan McGinley 2003

 All images courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London