Monday, 3 July 2017

Past work given a new life

Having to review a lifetime's work for my major retrospective exhibition, gave an opportunity to re-look at bodies of work made many years ago. This gives a chance to re-appraise this in the light of my own changing opinions and sufficient time having passed from making it to be detached and possibly more critical.
One view of Pete's major retrospective exhibition at the
 National Library of Wales, 2017
The beauty of contact sheets is that you can look over almost everything at a glance almost as if they are new work and sometimes discover little gems that have been missed previously. The downside of reviewing old work of course, can be that you re-appraise some of it and wonder why you printed 'that one', or 'those', in the first place. 
Another view of the exhibition

There are upsides to this process though. Re-looking at older work with fresh eyes can reveal themes and juxtapositions of images that may have been missed on first looking, editing or printing are revealed. Also, from a distance of many years, the new, historical context of work  alters the way in which you view it and suggests a new way to present it.

In my case the bodies of work in question were first seen as exhibitions and apart from very slim catalogues, no permanent printed collection of the work existed apart from the exhibition prints. While interest in some of this work has been maintained over the years, there has never, until now, been an opportunity to sit down and look hard at them and put together permanent collections in book form.

Editing and sequencing work for a book is very different from laying out an exhibition. You need to bear in mind scale, viewing distance, size of images and the differences between the space of a gallery and the relative intimacy of the book. It's a challenge and many hours are spent moving images about, re-ordering sequences and groups and playing with size, themes and juxtapositions. Stimulating and frustrating but ultimately, rewarding.
'City Stories - Photographs of Cardiff 1969-1977'
I chose to review two bodies of work from the past, 'Photographs of Cardiff 1969-1977' and the 'Great Little Tin Sheds of Wales' and publish them in book form. The necessity of looking closely at these revealed themes and individual images that were passed over for the original exhibitions. In so doing they have a very different 'feel' to the original exhibitions and the opportunity to now see these works newly sequenced, with images never printed before has given the work a new life in a more permanent form than the exhibition.
'Great Little Tin Sheds of Wales'
They were both published to coincide with the opening of the retrospective exhibition and are well-produced hard-back books that do justice to the photographs and have re-invigorated older bodies of work and given them a new life. 

Both books are available from the National Library of Wales shop and from the Pen'rallt gallery bookshop:

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