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Britain From the Air Exhibition

I visited the Britain from Above exhibition in Leeds (10.4.15). Amongst others, Jason Hawkes’ work is heavily featured. He is one of the world’s most respected aerial photographers (http://www.bbc.co.uk/britainfromabove/about/jasonhawkes.shtml – accessed 11.4.15). The context for the exhibition itself is described on the BBC’s news website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31837357 – accessed 11.4.15) – the exhibition was created jointly by the Royal Geographical Society and street gallery pioneers Wecommunic8, featuring more than 100 pieces of work.

Unusually, it is open 24 hours and the work displayed on large boards in Victoria Gardens, outside the City Art Gallery, alongside a 16-metre Ordnance Survey map, showing the exact location of each piece. I previously experienced the use of outdoor space for photography in Warsaw (see Dominik Skurzak post).

The images are connected in place, Britain, and in viewpoint, from above. While all are ‘from above’, some are more directly above than others, so there is some variation in the perspective. Greater perspective was used in images of buildings and cities, I guess to give a sense of scale, rather than a pattern from directly above. We can see Jason Hawkes at work in his BBC interview (http://www.jasonhawkes.com/Behind-the-lens/BBC-Interview/1 – accessed 11.4.15), where he describes how he focuses on patterns that reveal themselves from the air, with perhaps the inclusion of a man-made object to give some sense of scale, and the ‘gyroscopic’ mount he uses to steady the camera while flying.

The works are heavily contextualised, with detailed information provided about the places of the photographs from a geographical perspective. This information can be as interesting as the photographs themselves, so the exhibition feels as much about geography as art.

by Jason Hawkes: source BBC News

 http://wecommunic8.com (accessed 11.4.15), who are behind the open air gallery discuss the merits of this form of exhibition, explaining, “Street galleries create an immediate attraction through stunning large-scale imagery situated in high footfall open-air public spaces. Free to view in all weathers, day and night, they represent a direct channel of communication with the public and the opportunity to engage with local communities, schools and businesses.” The website also provides profile information on other aerial photographers featured in the exhibition. While visiting the exhibition, it was clear that the format was attracting a significant level of passing-trade, and people seemed to be enjoying the accessibility of art on the street.

In retrospect, I wish that I’d asked a few people about the reason for their visits and what they thought of the work; whether they were more interested in the geographical context (like my children) or the photographs themselves. I should have also photographed the space of the exhibition, as well as taking time to enjoy the work itself!

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