Monday, 26 November 2012

Patrick Thurston at Williams Art Gallery

A photography exhibition

I stumbled into Hot Numbers on a misty November morning, in need of a cappuccino and cake, and what did I find?

Patrick Thurston's wonderful photography.

Even better, the photographer himself was there and I had a delightful chat with him about his art.

This was a retrospective of the past 50 years of Patrick's career at the newly refurbished Williams Art Gallery on Gwydir Street.  Amazingly, this was the first time that Patrick has had his photos hung in a gallery.  Where had they been seen before?  Well, in newspapers and colour supplements.  For years, Patrick Thurston took photos for what used to be called the Weekend Telegraph.

Why I took no photos of the photos

Photographers are very concerned about their copyright as their works have not traditionally been protected by the same laws that govern painting or literature.  I'm especially mindful of this issue.  This is why I have no glossy pictures for you today.  Instead I decided to use the tiny pictures in the exhibition leaflet to give you at least an idea.


The pictures below do not reflect the rich textures and sharp lines of the actual photographs. They are but ghostly memories.

I urge you to check out Patrick's webpage for a glimpse of the real thing!!

My three favourites
London Rooftops.

No sky is visible.  The chimneys form an abstract pattern of red and brown.  This photo reminds me of the murals under the Newmarket Street roundabout.

Tramcar, Rome.  1964.

Only the tram is visible, the rest is a blur.  This makes the tram look like a creature, zooming at incredible speed into the unknown.  Very mysterious.

Patrick Thurston Self-portrait.

The combination of self-conscious self-portrait and ornate mirror frames is Baroque and postmodern all at once.  (Well, postmodernity owes a lot to the Baroque period of art...)  The play of shapes and the layers of history are very evocative.  Reflections within reflections.  Also, this is an analogy of mirror and photography.

What I learned

We are all (amateur) photographers these days so what can we learn from a professional?

1)  Close-ups work.  For example, the close-up of a rusty chain link.  Textures and   shapes come to the fore.


2)  Detail not overcrowding.  For example, the tram where everything else is blurred out.  No need to include lots of background 'noise'.

3)  On the hop.  For example, the man patiently sweeping the church.  Animate a scene.


I asked Patrick about digital vs analog photography.  He still has three analog cameras and six lenses:  more gets too heavy to lug about.  The tram was taken with a lightweight Leica in Rome in the 1960s.

This is the classic Leica 1963.  Not sure that this is the exact one Patrick Thurston had but I thought I'd include it here, anyway.  


Interview feature in the Cambridge News.

And again, don't forget Patrick Thurston's own webpage!

Our newspapers are full of photographs but people send letters and emails to the editor only about the articles.  Why not comment on a photo?

By the way, Hot Numbers is now a combined café and art gallery -- how cool is that?  (Current exhibition at the gallery:  Justin Hawkes.  I saw it today -- more soon!)


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