Seen but Not Heard

24 April, 2009

Earlier this year I was asked to curate this year’s Hereford Photo Festival, and after much consideration I decided to tackle an issue which has concerned me for sometime; namely the increasing restrictions, both legal and moral, that society is placing upon photographers. Here is my introduction to the work I have selected.

“Few questions are more contentious in modern day Britain than those involving children” wrote Simon Bainbridge, editor of the BJP, in June 2005.

As new technologies make taking photographs easier, so too the social constraints that limit what we can take pictures of are expanding. The freedom photographers such as Roger Mayne, Henri Cartier Bresson or Dorothea Lange had to document children, playing on the streets, at home or school has gone.

Boys on a Lorry, Cowcaddens, Glasgow 1958 by Roger Mayne

Boys on a Lorry, Cowcaddens, Glasgow 1958 by Roger Mayne

Now photographers, both amateur and professional, have to negotiate the minefield of obtaining permissions, run the risk of being branded a pervert and counter our increasing prudishness of what is thought to be an appropriate image of a child.

Pledging allegience to the United States flag by Dorothea Lange

Pledging allegience to the United States flag in 1942 by Dorothea Lange

Rue Mouffetard, 1954 by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Rue Mouffetard, 1954 by Henri Cartier-Bresson

For this year’s Hereford Photo Festival, I have selected the work of nine photographers, all of whom engage with this charged subject matter, each finding their own way to overcome an increasingly fearful sensibility that operates in our society.

Examples of the work of the photographers featuring in the Hereford festival 2009:

The Birthday Party by Vee Speers

Vee Speers - The Birthday Party

Don’t call me Urban by Simon Wheatley

Simon Wheatley - Don’t call me Urban

Harlemville by Clare Richardson

Clare Richardson - Harlemville

Hals über Kopf by Wiebke Leister

Wiebke Leister - Hals über Kopf

Interface by Michelle Sank

Michelle Sank - Interface

Playground by Ali Richards

Ali Richards - Playground

Julia Fullerton Batten – Teenage Stories

Julia Fullerton Batten – Teenage Stories

Jan Von Holleben – Dreams of Flying

Jan Von Holleben – Dreams of Flying

Edmund Clark – Baby Fathers

Edmund Clark – Baby Fathers

In making my decision about what to show I deliberately decided not to include anything that might cause controversy or be under threat of removal. My reason for this is simple. There have been many blank walls and empty galleries where work commissioned for exhibition has been taken down as a result of a complaint by a member of the public or an over anxious council worker. These removals are often covered in the media and we are made aware of the issues, but not the images.

For this show I want the work to be seen and for the discussion to broaden out into an understanding what our culture will allow to be seen. If we can permit ourselves to look at images of children, hanging on the walls of an art gallery, then perhaps we will also begin to discuss whether or not the act of taking a picture of a child is as dangerous as society seems to think it is.

3 Responses to “Seen but Not Heard”

  1. Chris Says:

    Can you say where and when this work is being shown?

  2. tina waller Says:

    Hi,
    I was impressed by Photofest and would like to get in touch with two of the photographers concerning using images in a dissertation. Please could you forward me e-mail addresses for Clare Richardson and Simon wheatley. I would be very grateful. Thanks.


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