In central London, with an afternoon to myself after a hair appointment (I felt like a new woman!), I decided I fancied wandering round an exhibition, and what better showcase for a photography lover such as I, than The Photographers Gallery.
Just off Oxford Street, on Ramillies Street, The Photographers Gallery was founded in 1971 as the first public gallery for photography in the UK. Visiting on a weekday just after lunchtime it was busy in the cafe on the ground floor as I entered, but the gallery itself was really quiet, with only ever no more than four other people on each level with me. Bliss.
The exhibitions cover three floors, and there’s a studio on the fourth public floor which allows a bit more of a hands on approach – when I visited it offered visitors the chance to dress up like the avant-garde American era and take photos. Wandering through on my own, I might have skipped through this bit.
The first exhibition currently on is linked to this live studio. Entitled ‘4 Saints in 3 Acts – A Snapshot of the American Avant-garde’, it’s the first exhibition worldwide focused on the American modernist opera which was first to hit Broadway, Four Saints in Three Acts. Four Saints in Three Acts was a key moment in trans-Atlantic American avant-garde movement, defying many traditional aspects of opera. Photography, from several top photographers, played a key part in the development of the play and this exhibition brings all of the photography together, from behind-the-scenes, to profiles and on stage.
I didn’t know of this opera before (call me uncultured or out of the loop if you like), but I still found it really interesting. Stopping to read the context, wander the hall and absorb the artwork, I felt relaxed and cultured.
The next two floors were home to the Instant Stories: Wim Wender’s Polaroids exhibition.
In the words of The Photographers Gallery…
“This exhibition offers a rare opportunity to see the personal and previously unseen Polaroid work of Oscar-nominated filmmaker, Wim Wenders (b.1945, Germany) and provides a singular insight into the artist’s thought processes, preoccupations and aesthetic inspirations.”
The polaroids were taken both on and off film location and included all manner of subjects, which take you on a journey. Just like the first exhibition, there are a few stations of background information, which are great to read so you fully submerge yourself in what you’re observing – I was engrossed in the story as I wandered the rooms, and watched the short clips from a couple of Wender’s films which were playing too, the scenes focused around the polaroid.
The polaroid shots were amazing and truly inspiring – from landscapes, to indoor shots, random objects, visits to New York and sunsets, I took my time taking in every picture.
By the end of the exhibition I was inspired and dying to get a polaroid! Can you believe that I never saw the point before?
The shop downstairs does actually sell many different models of polaroid as well as all the film needed (I was VERY tempted), as well as photography books, motivational literature and prints.
The cafe was still pretty busy as I left – passing through, I noticed that they sell coffees, tea and a few different cakes and pastries, as well as sandwiches, perfect for a little refreshment stop after viewing the exhibitions.
At £4 for a pass to both exhibitions, it’s really not too much for a cultural and inspiring hour or two, and if you go before 12pm, it’s free to enter! Both of these exhibitions are only on until the 11th February, and it’s a great idea for an morning/afternoon out whilst trying to save the pennies this January.
What’s your favourite exhibition right now?