A Touch of Inspiration… pt 1

Our class recently ventured into London to visit a few galleries. I always look forward to these occasions. It’s great to see photography & art within those environs plus I really enjoy the ensuing discussions with my fellow students.

The other aspect was the opportunity to gain some inspiration for the People & The Environment project. I find that I always take away something when visiting a gallery which adds to my work.

Our first stop was The Photographers Gallery. Based just off Oxford Street this gallery the largest public gallery in London dedicated to photography. This was my first visit to the gallery & I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s worth to note that there is a small charge to see the exhibits, but if you get there before 12 noon it’s free.

The first exhibit our group encountered was called ‘Joanne’, focussing on Joanne Salley . Salley was winner of the 1998 Miss Northern Ireland beauty pageant & a teacher who, five years ago, was at the centre of a tabloid scandal after students had discovered then circulated topless photographs of her. This resulted in Salley’s reputation being tarnished & losing her job.

The exhibition featured a short film made by one of her previous students, Simon Fujiwara. The film explores the issues Salley faced in the wake of the scandal and aims to present a more complex picture of her. There were also a selection of images of Salley on large lightboxes.


I have to admit I did find the short film a bit ‘grating’. Yes, I understood Salley’s ‘journey’ in reclaiming her image & taking control. The photos featured were technically perfect. But there was no real ‘substance’ behind them. Especially what lay in store in the other installation titled ‘Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s’…

This collection comprises over 200 major works by 48 international artists produced throughout the 1970s & reflects ‘a moment when protests related to emancipation, gender equality & civil rights became part of public discourse’.

In a time before selfies & the obsession with the perfect Instagram snap, it was refreshing to see this groundbreaking work. These aren’t works of beauty – they’re images which are provocative, questioning, protesting & (in some cases) downright disturbing.

These are images created by women who did actually take control of their visual identity. They perverted that perceived perfection of womanhood in their own particular way. They didn’t have team of stylists, make up artists or Photoshop experts. Just their imagination, skills & intelligence.


The one that did spark a touch of inspiration for the People & The Environment project was that of Helena Almeida

Almeida (b. 1934) was born in Lisbon, Portugal & now lives and works in London. The work featured above is called Estudo para Dois Espacos (Study for Two Spaces, 1977). This is a series of photographs of hands clasped around metal grilles & gates. According to the accompanying text it is ‘a response to Almeida’s own feelings of artistic isolation under Portugal’s dictatorship which cut off the country, both culturally and politically, from the rest of the world.

These particular images made me think as to how they could be possibly be interpreted in my own way. Will need a touch of thought & research, but something is nagging me to take this further.

Our group then made its way to the Michael Hoppen Gallery located just off the Kings Road in Chelsea. A commercial gallery, this is vey nice space to sit, think & look at some of the lovely photographs on display. There’s also a wonderful array of books to peruse. I have to be totally honest & say I was wiped out by the time we got there. Will have to return when body & brain are a little less tired.

Criteria Ref: P1 & P2.


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