Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Fishermen and Kings Exhibition

Fishermen & Kings: The Photography of Olive Edis, Castle Museum, Norwich. October 2016.

As a photographer I am always interested in discovering new (to me) photographers and this exhibition was sold to me particularly by the fact that Olive Edis was the first official female war photographer.

She was however more of a portrait photographer and this is one area that I really struggle with (unlike my sister who is incredible at taking pictures of people) so I wasn't sure what I'd make of most of the exhibition.

I needn't have worried, Edis had such skill when it came to taking pictures of people - whether they were fishermen or kings - and in every image there is something that catches your eye and means you spend ages looking closely each picture. It really all is in the eyes with Edis, I wonder if she was telling saucy jokes to her sitters to get that twinkle!

The exhibition has been themed cleverly and while I was looking forward to the War section I was most intrigued by Edis' images of influential women involved in the Suffrage movement (and after) I came away with a whole list of people to look up and learn more about.

The section of war photos was as moving as you'd expect, and again her skill as a photographer shines through - you can instantly see which photos were taken before the sitter had seen action at the front and those taken when the men had seen action just from a glance at their faces. I also liked the choice of locations she visited, just a very slightly different perspective than other photos from the era that I've seen before.

Interspersed with the photos are panels explaining Edis' techniques and some of her cameras and inventions for looking at her colour images but one of the nicest touches was the small alcove in which all of Edis' images are projected on to the wall. How wonderful to be able to just sit and see all of the images in a large format. (For those who can't get to the exhibition Norfolk Museums have put the images online for everyone to see).

I went to this exhibition with my dad, the man who taught me how to take photos, and we were both blown away - much to our surprise.  We've both been to other photographic exhibitions by photographers we knew much better and come away a disappointed but this one by an 'unknown' exceeded all our expectations. From the layout, the labels, the images chosen it felt wonderfully curated and I know that I will be going back at least once more before it closes.

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