“I’m usually looking for things that surprise me, things that have a deeper significance, a sense of humour, I suppose. I’m always open to what happens in life, because it tends to be more interesting than anything you can imagine.”
“In many ways Another Europe questions whether Europe is other at all,” says Hamish Park. “While this is not an explicitly political exhibition, I do hope that it will go some way to reminding the audience that we share deep cultural roots which go beyond geographic borders or treaty arrangements, and that what we share is as significant as what makes us distinct.”
Park has just curated an exhibition called Another Europe which goes on show soon around Kings Cross, London, mounted on specially-designed concrete benches. Featuring one photograph from each of the 28 European Union member states, shot by a photographer from the country, it’s been organised by the Australian Cultural Forum London to celebrate both the European Year of Cultural Heritage, and Austria’s presidency of the EU council. It’s also interesting timing for this exhibition in the UK, as the country negotiates Brexit.
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The diverse and prosperous nature of London’s creative industries has long been a draw for EU citizens moving to the capital. But with Brexit looming, is this set to change?
“Maybe we are part of the problem – neither one of us would consider living outside of the M25”
“Jerry has always been aware of a strong animosity towards himself and other immigrants”
“No one in the UK has ever pulled a face when I tell them where I am from and I’ve never experienced homophobic abuse. I doubt that would be the case if I was in Bulgaria”
“When Brexit happened, I took it personally. I come from an immigrant family and had been exposed to racism and stereotyping throughout my childhood. After the Brexit vote, I felt that same feeling I had felt as a kid”
In 1981 Paul Graham published A1 – The Great North Road, a book of photographs taken along Britain’s longest road. Connecting London with Edinburgh, the road passes through North London, Peterborough, Doncaster, Leeds, York, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne; Graham chose to photograph it in colour, at a time when black-and-white dominated, and his work made a big impression on Peter Dench. “Since viewing Graham’s book, I knew it was a journey I would make one day,” says the British photographer. “36 years after he made it, Brexit seemed a good time and reason. Plus I only live one mile from the A1; it’s a convenient tendril to the nation, a road that connects as much as it divides, through a nation on the verge. It is towards Britain that I consistently point my lens – it’s my home and my passion, and the people are the ones I want to understand most. Brexit is the next significant chapter, and I was inspired to get out as soon as possible to explore the mood of the nation.”
Merrie Albion: Landscape Studies of a Small Island is a concise compendium of Britain over the past few years and is an excellent visual survey of the run-up to Brexit. The photographs examine rich and complex variations of Britain that are now even more poignant after last year’s vote. Images of election campaigning in clean and tidy suburbia, protests, the aftermath of riots in London, diamond jubilee celebrations, rock concerts, a family enjoying Brighton beach, computer screens of the trading floor of Lloyds – the list goes on. Roberts has managed to capture all the major events in juxtaposition with minor situations that are large with meaning, from the dead of the Iraq war being saluted by Army veterans through Wootton Bassett to an depiction of impoverished mothers and children at a youth club in Blackburn. Contained within each photograph are mini dramas, cheap-looking high streets with pound shops set against Victorian architecture. Roberts shows a Britain at odds with itself. Rather than a harmonious society, we sense fragmentation and awkwardness and a yearning for a glorious past that never existed.