Sunday, 2 October 2016

Side Gallery exhibition - Childhoods

Today I discovered Side Gallery, a newly re-opened gallery in Newcastle.

"Side is dedicated to showing the best in humanist documentary photography: rich, powerful and challenging work engaged with people’s lives and landscapes, telling stories that often get marginalised, whether they are from the North East of England or anywhere else in the world."

Side Gallery was opened in 1977 by The Amber collective because there wasn’t a venue in Newcastle, at the time, which would show the documentary work it was producing. Over the past 2 years the gallery has been closed to allow for building works to take place. The gallery accessibility was greatly improved, both physically and digitally.

The current exhibition, CHILDHOODS brings together 12 photographers and film makers creating work between 1977 and the present and crossing four continents. The exhibition creates a complex portrait of children’s imaginative lives, the social contexts they deal with and their resilience; of ourselves.

PORTRAITS AND DREAMS, 1975 – 1982, Wendy Ewald
JUVENILE JAZZ BANDS, 1978 – 1979, Tish Murtha
STEP BY STEP, 1980 – 1987, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen
SEACOAL, 1982 – 1984, Chris Killip
THE TIME OF HER LIFE, 1984 – 2004, Lesley McIntyre
SHIFTING GROUND, 1997 – 2005, Dean Chapman
DOVANA FILMS, 2000 – 2016, Duco Tellegen
ALL DRESSED UP, 2004 – 2005, Karen Robinson
CLASSROOM PORTRAITS, 2004 – 2012, Julian Germain
WHERE CHILDREN SLEEP, 2008 – 2010, James Mollison
SYRIAN COLLATERAL, 2014 – 2016, Kai Wiedenhöfer
HOME MADE IN SMETHWICK, 2015 – 2016, Liz Hingley

I was particularly fascinated by the series of photographs called Where Children Sleep by James Mollison. He was commissioned to make work engaging with children's rights, which lead him to think about children's bedrooms and how they help children form who they are. Mollison was conscious that he wanted to document children from diverse backgrounds and so the photographs feature children from privileged and unprivileged circumstances. The photographs are deeply moving, made more so by the stories that go alongside them which really bring them to life.

There is a real power to this exhibition. It has the effect of getting people talking. The above series of photographs prompted a conversation between a small group of strangers. We discussed the changes to family values over the decades, differences in upbringing and the subsequent effects on society.

I would urge anyone to go to the exhibition. I would find it hard to believe if you were not moved by what you see.

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