I know Graham from his work as a video maker so I was intrigued to be invited to the preview of this show of his still photos at Seven Art Centre in Chapel Allerton, Leeds this week (Wed 8 December). The preview was a very relaxed affair in this obviously well-used cafe bar type community venue. Graham's discreetly framed works were grouped around the room and there was a little awkwardness involved in having to lean over chattering customers to look at them. He was also showing a series of location based shots digitally projected onto a wall which were easier to view.
The framed colour photos fell into two groups, both still lifes, but one set referencing a trip to New Orleans with musical instruments and cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, the other, natural objects like shells, stones and feathers either singly or in carefully placed associations.
Graham writes, one assumes, of these latter works, "...one work leads to another, a hanging stone is joined by two others, and then a feather,which hovers over a bone, then salt somehow enters the stage and so it goes on...I think issues of death are in the photos, about the ordinary becoming extraordinary".
The objects from this latter set float in profoundly inky black spaces apparently without support. I saw in these works a type of memento mori with the bones and sheep's skull and particularly the shot of a long piece of pale fabric knotted in the middle and hanging quietly like a shroud.
The Mardi Gras photos might at first glance be seen as quite the opposite being memories of celebration and joy, however Graham's projected photos contained many images of post Katrina dereliction in New Orleans. The beads, mask and abandoned trumpet took on a much more melancholic hue as a result, symbols of the Big Easy as it once was but may never be again.
Considering the small number of framed works, this exhibition made quite an impact with the contrast of the artistic still lifes with the photojournalistic projected images of seedy urban spaces both in the north of England and the US. Some editing of the latter to make the 'story' clearer might have helped. The shots of New Orlean's deserted ninth district provided a superb foil to the still life memento mori on their own.
Graham Hardy's website can be found at www.wix.com/grayboy/stillmovingimages
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