Post image for Artful Encounters exhibition, Exeter

Artful Encounters exhibition, Exeter

May 6, 2010

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From the 4th to the 17th of May the Artful Encounters exhibition can be seen at the Exeter Picturehouse Bar.

This touring exhibition was created just before the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter closed for a major refurbishment. I was one of four unconnected photographers who had been exploring the visual delights of the museum and sharing our images online. We were brought together to create a collection reflecting our affection, fascination and quirky view of RAMM.

I’d spent many an absorbing hour exploring in RAMM, so I needed no second invitation to roam the corridors. I’ve always thought that the more I visit a museum, the more surprises I find. The smaller exhibits, or the ones tucked in darker corners, are the ones that can bring the most reward. And the longer I spent looking, the more I appreciated the intentions of those who originally arranged and lit the exhibits. Their choices affect the perceptions of whoever views the exhibit, and challenges me to find a different perspective.

Here are a few of my images selected for the exhibit:

I spotted this just as the curator was locking up the cabinet after I had been photographing another exhibit. One of those moments when I was chuckling into the back of my camera. I titled this The Party Bore, because every party has someone you really need to avoid. The queasy green light adds to the bad party feel.

Bones, feathers, starfish exoskeletons… there are many opportunities to indulge my love of ‘natural abstracts’ in the museum. This starfish was in a glass case with very subdued light which made the use of a tripod essential. My problem at 5 foot 4 is that I’m too short to get my eye over the viewfinder easily. I need extendable legs.

This is the fossil of a heart-shaped sea urchin, found in a Bronze Age burial at the poetically named Farway Down. It’s a striking thought that long before we settled on the convention of heart shapes representing love, someone chose to bury this with their dead.

I first photographed this through the glass back in January 2006, and it really sparked my imagination. It’s like the thrice-found object; discovered first by people who would not have had the slightest inkling of what a fossil is, then again by archaeologists, then again by me. That’s the joy of museums: they make me feel like I am discovering things for myself.

I wanted to somehow reflect the idea that this was given, or buried, as a token of something. That something we’ll never know, because although archaeology can surmise intent from the evidence, the actual intent remains private. At any rate, the person who placed it in the grave with the deceased did so with reason. So I thought showing it in hands would be simple, direct and human.

Of course, objects shouldn’t be touched for reasons of preservation. So I placed it on an upturned shot glass and asked the Curator of Local History & Antiquities to provide the hands. I love the effect it gave of floating slightly. The wedding ring provides a more modern echo to the concept of connection between individuals.

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