In a modest room, 202 photographs specially selected by a panel of judges from thousands of entries are hung on temporary boards that line the walls. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t know these had been handpicked by experts, because the collection is a disappointment from several perspectives. Perhaps the entries this year were particularly poor, for other than a few standout photographs, this year’s selection was mediocre at best.
There was certainly at least some talent housed in this terribly-curated room. Some photographs were exquisite, with an astounding level of technical ability, but this cannot be said for the majority of prints. There was some beautiful animal photography, taken with precision and skill; these prints of polar bears, storks, seals and water buffalo were crisp and dramatic. There were a few very more experimental pieces that really stood out from the rest: Wasteland by Susan Brown, which was a haunting print of a shopping trolley sinking into textured nothingness; and Satisfaction is… by Alan Brown - a perfectly white wall with a paint roller rested jauntily to the very left of the frame.
A startling number of prints were simply over-edited. They lost all subtlety, appearing like bad adverts on the internet. Only a few had properly mastered digital editing, the rest using it as a thin veil for poor photographic technique. On top of these artistic failures, unimaginative curation made it difficult to appreciate each photograph in turn. They were crammed into the space without the due care that even the less impressive ones deserved. Organised by genre and hung with absolutely no consideration to theme or colour, this exhibition reeked of bored institutional methods.
As the exhibition snaked around the room, there were more and more instances of what looked like the horrible effect of Instagram; horrendously soft-focus prints of figures that were painfully lacking in originality. Even more cringeworthy pieces came in the form of terrible titles accompanying mediocre photographs: Devil’s Child - a colour print of a young girl in ‘macabre’ makeup and wedding veil; or the clichéd Fallen From Grace - a photograph of a homeless man sitting below church niches containing saintly statues - are prime examples of this tendency toward the hackneyed style that this exhibition endorsed.
Not one for avid fans of the wonderful art of photography.