Size is important as disappointing exhibit shows
I see the current Bermuda Professional Photographic Associations Biennial as an exhibit of missed opportunities. Overall, the show lacks impact but, because the work is that of professional photographers, the level of skills is reasonably high.
This is the second BPPA Biennial to make use of the Rick Faries Gallery at the Masterworks Museum and that is part of the problem. The space is too small for such an undertaking as the BPPAs Biennial and I understand that the BPPAs leadership has found it necessary to impose a size restriction on their members submissions. Therefore, most of the photographs in the show are modest in size. The restrictions and rules imposed on the BPPAs members, although not always strictly enforced, tend to restrict creativity and it shows
Of course size is not everything. Some photographs are, by their nature, better for being small, but for others, a large format can often improve their impact. There were several works in this show that would have benefited by an increase in size. I am thinking of Ian Murdochs Eye, or Graeme Outerbridges A Deeper Heart or My Gombey as examples of this. I sensed that these would have been more effective had they been larger, but even in their present state they are still impressive.
Until recently the technical limitations of photography restricted the size of photographs, but modern developments are such that this is no longer the case. That being so, why not make use of these technical possibilities? Personally I am not in favour of any kind of limitation that imposes restraints on creative potential.
Having seen and reviewed all four BPPA Biennials, I have noticed that since the move to the Rick Faries Gallery two year ago, the number of submissions and the number of exhibitors have decreased quite drastically. Could it be that the new requirements inhibit participation?
In my review of the 2010 BPPA Biennial, I criticised the dimness of the lighting in the gallery. With this current exhibition, the lighting has improved considerably, but could the poor lighting of the last biennial be a factor in the present slim participation by our local professional photographers?
With the exception of the 2010 BPPA biennial, when the Masterworks artist-in-residence was invited to be the juror, all the other biennials were chosen without the benefit of a jury and I am puzzled as to why. According to what I have been told, the participants self-juried. From my experience, this is too subjective a method to guarantee the best. Of course the choice of art by an objective jury, can be contentious and no one likes rejection, however, it is an effective way of raising artistic standards and I urge the BPPA to consider using overseas jurors.
Over the years I have had opportunity to see many so-called fine art photography exhibitions, such as those of internationally renowned photographers Thomas Struth, Bill Henson or Susan Derges and all their photographs are impressively large which, together with their other qualities, help to make arresting pictures. Surely some of our professional photographers could be doing something similar, but in talking to them, I get the idea that many are more commercially minded; the primary interest being sales or other practical matters, such as storage, particularly if the work is on the big side.
For the professional, the business of photography is important, but surely for the BPPA Biennial, such commercial matters could be put aside in favour of a more creative approach. In my 2006 BPPA Biennial review, I said that I wished for something less pretty, more gritty. To a degree that wish still holds, but who will take the challenge of expanding their vision and insights?
I harp on these issues only because I want our local artists to hold their own against their international counterparts and this, given their high technical skills, is a possibility but it will require a lot of hard work and some strong support from the public. Again, adjudication by overseas jurors would bring with them new ideas and processes that could assist our artists in reaching this goal.
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