March 31 2006 (More on Chris Chapman's work )
Cultural Documents of FMD
Holden Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University - until 31st April
42 Lodge Mill Lane, Turn Village,
Lancashire BL0 0RW, UK
Tel & FAX: 00 44 (0)1706 827 961
This is the response of five photographers and an artist to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001 in Britain. That sounds downbeat, and in many ways it is, but this is in fact an unusual and important exhibition - unusual in that it's rare, unless you're in a country at war, to see such a wide range of photographers and photographic artists respond to a single issue, and important in that this show is a national focus for photographers who have a broader interest in rural affairs. The show is timely too; the Littoral conference coinciding with it is also examining the impending Avian Flu outbreak, projected to have an impact as bad as or worse than FMD.
The work is of a high quality, if somewhat squeezed into this gallery. The majority of the photographers work in a recognisable documentary or journalistic idiom, and there's a chance to see more of the colour panoramas of Nick May, runner up in Redeye's 2003 competition, alongside Alex Moore's contemporary reportage, and Chris Chapman's monochromes. We're also shown the video work of Daro Montag who ironically has spoken publicly of the inadequacies of photography in giving us any deep knowledge of a phenomenon - judge for yourself whether his work has more success.
John Darwell's photographs have his hallmark dual concern with the inner and outer world - we see a cloud of smoke coming down a road; we know perfectly well what it is from the context, but for a moment perhaps it fools us visually and emotionally. And finally there are Clive Landen's extraordinary monumental and darkly beautiful photographs, confusing us that so much death can also have such beauty; but perhaps by making them beautiful he is constructing a fitting memorial to the millions of animals slaughtered in this tragedy. You're unlikely to see any more powerful photography in Manchester for a long time.
Paul Herrmann, Red-Eye Photography Network NW