“Life is weird. If only we could see it.” Martin Parr.
First impressions of The Hepworth at Wakefield was drab. A huge £35 million slab of grey concrete very much the true definition of Brutalism architecture. Designed by award-winning architect David Chipperfield, it has 10 galleries covering 5,000 square metres. Placed along the beautiful river Calder, which still showed signs of suffering from the terrible flooding from Boxing Day, a stark grotesque, it is easy to understand locals distaste.
We had come to see an exhibition by British photographer Martin Parr. Greeted and explained by a lovely guide – Sam – it was of great benefit to hear of their relationship and thoughts on the presentations of each section, how they collaborated to bring a huge selection together.
After the drab exterior, the colour of the exhibition was like the sun on a rainy day, saturation in the extreme , Parrs use of colour is a constant through all of his works and it slaps you in the face like a weird sense of humour. The high saturation brings a garishness to the everyday and makes passing without looking impossible, it forces one to stop and relook at items we have probably walked by without a thought.
A visitor finding the presentation too much to stay awake for.
“The Rhubarb Triangle & Other Stories is the largest Martin Parr exhibition in the UK since his Barbican retrospective in 2002, comprising more than 300 photographs that span the past 40 years. ” Taken directly from The Hepworth webpage. Images from other series include The Non-Conformists and The Last Resort, both of which bring the colour and satirical connotations we have come to expect from Parr. My favourite wall of the exhibition truly exhibits Parrs humour through ‘Autoportrait‘ His deadpan face peering through portraits of himself across global locations.
The Rhubarb Triangles is more a serious documentary based on the forced growth of rhubarb in West Yorkshire. Still toiled by hand and picked by candlelight the low light conditions are not ideal for photography and the movement within some of the images provides the clues to how this was accomplished.
Image by Martin Parr.
From this image we can tell a long exposure was used to demonstrate the motion of picking, the boys bent over to ensure long stalks on their crop. But we also see evidence of a brief flash, strong shadows on the face not matching those of the candlelight. Putting this evidence together it is fair to guess that a slow sync rear shutter technique was used. This means that the flash is set to fire at the end of an exposure allowing for motion up to that point being then finished with a clearer, more sharp final. The result has allowed for both motion and colour to be accentuated, necessary to keep the glorious colours of the rhubarb.
My only disappointment was the means of exhibiting some of Parrs prints. Held in the corners by magnets many of the prints were not level or completely flat on the wall and I was surprised by how this irritated me. We were told this was for the benefit of the environment and to keep wastage and costs to a minimum but I think the impact on presentation was under considered and let down the whole exhibition.