I recently attended a photography exhibition at The Empty Quarter, Fine Art Photography Gallery in Dubai.
The exhibition contained photographs from seven international photographers to explore the topic of human personality, hence the title of the exhibition, Identity.
On arrival at the gallery I decided to take an initial first ‘lap’ to get an overall view of the exhibition and then revisit the work that particularly caught my attention.
I was interested by the selection of work on display by Tor Seidel, a German photographer. His photographs were mainly of models whose faces were hidden from view, either by facing away from the camera or by wearing a hood or mask. The image that I spent most time studying was titled Kasper, 2008.
The photograph depicts a solo hooded figure standing in a room. The figure is wearing black and, although facing away from the camera, has turned their head slightly to reveal a red mask beneath the hood. The room in which the figure stands is large and almost devoid of any furniture. The floor is bare. The size of the room, the large lead windows and the archways suggest, to me, that the room the figure stands within is part of a grand house. However the peeling paint on the walls and lack of furnishings imply a sense of neglect and disrepair.
The overall sense of the photograph is dark, almost eerie, although the light flooding in through the windows tell us that it is daytime.
As the figure’s body is completely covered, this in effect masks their identity. We would have to guess as to what they looked like, or what they were thinking or feeling. Also, why is the figure there, in the room?
I also wondered about the significance of the small table, on which (I think) a telephone stands. Could the telephone indicate that the figure is waiting for a message?
Overall I found this photograph very intriguing and I enjoyed posing questions about what might have happened or be about to happen.
I also enjoyed the work of Julia Fullerton-Batten, who exhibited photographs from her Mothers and Daughters series which, using real mother and daughter pairings, explore the complex relationships between mothers and their daughters.
The image titled Never Let Go, 2012, which can be viewed on Fullerton-Batten’s website, caught both my eye and the eye of my viewing companion. The setting for the photograph is a living room, noted by the sofa, cushions, rug, light fittings etc. The window blinds are drawn tightly, although from the light creeping in underneath the blinds it appears to be daytime. I could assume that this is the main room of a family home although the lack of knickknacks or family photographs does make it appear, to me, to be cold and rather sterile.
The mother and daughter pairing are positioned in the centre of the photograph. The daughter, who appears to be in her late teens, is sitting on her knees on the floor in front of her mother. The mother stands behind, brushing her daughter’s hair. Neither looks to be interested in the task. The daughter’s expression is serious, or perhaps bored, as she looks up to the left. The mother stares ahead, perhaps lost in her thoughts. The daughter’s pose does not look comfortable and could be interpreted as being submissive to her mother’s wishes.
The daughter is dressed very conservatively in a full length, high-necked blouse and knee-length skirt. The mother’s outfit is more glamorous, a purple dress. The clothing made me consider if the mother possibly selected her daughter’s outfits? Perhaps to ensure she appears modest? Is that why the blinds are drawn? Or perhaps in an effort to keep her as a ‘little girl’, also denoted by the hair brushing routine.
There appears to be no communication between the two subjects or any joy being derived from the hair brushing routine. I found the overall sense of the image to be unsettling, as while the relationship between the two does not appear as overtly hostile it also did not appear warm.
I also found it interesting to note the different approaches that the other participating photographers had to the topic Identity.
Al-Moutasim Al-Maskery, an Omani photographer, also explored the idea of gender in his photographs. His black and white portraits show portraits of young Omani people (boys, girls?), dressed in clothing and headdress typical in Omani male youth.
Isabel Tallos, exhibited photographs from her Low Cost, 2010 and Uninhabited Spaces 2008 series’. The images consider how the human body can adapt when forced into closed space scenarios.
Jack Dabaghian developed the concept of ‘Identity’ via a series of photographs on ethnic identity and globalization.
Shiva Haji Ebrahim Araghi, combined fashion photography and traditional Iranian culture in her series Shedding a Skin. She did this to show how woman contribute to the evolution of any culture.
The exhibition runs October 16 – November 30, 2012