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“Face” by Bruce Gilden

Strange and Familiar ...

20th December, 2016 by Katie

Last weekend, after recommendation from a friend I swung by the newly opened ‘Strange and Familiar’ Exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery, moving to Manchester after a successful run at the Barbican in London.
Alongside design, I think powerful and original photography is wonderful. The exhibition in short is a reflection of Britain through the lenses of international photographers. ‘Strange and Familiar’ was curated by the Barbican and British photographer Martin Parr who’s work is fabulously bold, satirical and very much his own depiction of British culture.
Parr stated that the name behind the exhibition is because it’s a take on British culture from an outside perspective, so British people will find it both strange and familiar at the same time.

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“The Street and Modern Life” by Hans Eijkelboom

The exhibition also included a specially commissioned section of Manchester based photographs by Romanian photographer Alex Beldea.
The bold collection that particularly caught me was by American photographer Bruce Gilden, titled ‘Face’. The portraits are completely unforgiving yet captivating. It’s a controversial display and at a huge scale you can’t help but look the subjects in the eye. All of the photos are taken with the individual’s permission and they aim to evoke an uncomfortable feeling in the viewer who is observing every skin blemish and facial feature. However, Gilden wanted to press the audience to look beyond that and read the character of the face which confidently fills the frame, looking the viewer square on to make them decipher the subject’s story from a single portrait.

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“Glasgow” by Raymond Depardon

There were other great displays such as French photographer Raymond Depardon’s ‘Glasgow’, which gives a bleak interpretation of people going about their day in the Glasgow slums, all set under a clouded grey sky. Dutch photographer Hans Eijkelboom created a perhaps more familiar piece, ‘The Street & Modern Life’, in which iconic clothing items/patterns and accessories are modelled by passers-by on busy high streets, projected in a continuous showreel format showing a variety of people wearing the same type of item.
Different age groups will probably find different collections throughout the exhibition particularly strange or familiar – that is the beautiful ambiguity of the experience.

‘Strange and Familiar’ is free and definitely worth a visit. It’s running until the 29 May 2017, so there’s still plenty of time to pop in and see it!

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