THE HOME EXHIBITION
The HOME Exhibition reveals how the processes of globalization have affected English urban industrial life in the past and presently how rural life is being altered.
This exhibition has been shown at The Study Gallery in Poole, Greenham Arts Centre, at the Frome Festival and in 2012 at the Bridport Art Centre in Bridport Dorset as a part of the Bridport Festival. As in Frome, it has given rise to a follow up community movement .
Contacts that the Home in Bridport group have made within the community are being used to encourage participants to begin self-documentation projects. The Home group helps participants to form these into a stills film using local musicians to create a soundscape or other kinds of presentations. It is the aim of the project to excite and stimulate even greater, long term participation. To discuss more about the HOME EXHIBITION please contact Robert Golden.
HOME EXHIBITION opening talk
given in the Bridport Art Centre, 18 August 2012 by Robert Golden
As a photographer and documentarist, I am really happy out of the spotlight and behind the camera. But to help situate this exhibition I should first situate myself.
I was born in Detroit, the kind of place one wishes to quickly exit.
I started photographing when I was 12.
I was mentored through looking ans reading books of/by great photographers.
During university I became involved in the anti-Vietnam war campaign and the Civil Rights Movement.
I finished University, moved to New York 3 days later,
got my first freelance job two days later and have not stopped working since.
I moved to England in 1970 and as you see, I’m still here.
I think the important thing in my biography is the mentoring. It was through seeing the work and reading the texts of photographer’s like Alfred Steiglitz, Edward Steichen, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Paul Strand and Eugene Smith that I found an intellectual and creative home, a place that was otherwise lacking in my life – coming as I have – from a background that cared little for cultural things.
But let me tell you a little about the background to HOME.
This is an exhibition filled with many stories from two slices of time in our recent past.
The first period, from 1970 to 1980 – is when most of the photographs in the exhibition were shot. Then I worked primarily as a photojournalist for the New York and London Times, the Weekend Telegraph, the Radio Times, and Nova amongst other publications.
Remember this was a very politicized period.
I became unhappy about the use of my images and with the politics and culture of the editors. In the end I found myself alienated from their view of what was important and what they thought was the truth of the stories. They allowed no importance to the meaning, context and indeed to the experience of the person who witnessed and made the images.
One by one I gave up working for these publications but then with co-author Sarah Cox, we created a children’s book concept and produced ten books in what we called the PEOPLE WORKING SERIES published by an imprint of Penguin.
They are stories about what it was like to work in a car plant, on the docks, in a coal mine. They were about why trades unions are vital and how some had become “kiss-me” unions sideling up to the management.
They were about apprenticing, long hours, strikes … in short they were about the lives of working people rather than about how to make a car or to off-load a ship.
And meanwhile, as I worked in that decade I witnessed: how the wind down of the Vietnam war, rising oil prices and Britain’s antiquated machinery combined with a steady stream of jobs and money being exported to cheaper labour markets caused rising unemployment.
This was heartlessly pursued without care or concern for the lives of the workers and their families … I saw poverty at close hand, depression, a growing sense of futility and along with this, an actual and existential sense of threat … that customs, traditions, neighbourhoods, families, skills and trades were being forever lost … in other words, I saw the destruction of all those things that constitute what people thought of as HOME.
So in those 10 years, with the journalistic work, the People Working series, another book on unemployment and several other self-generated assignments I wound up documenting the demise of the British Industrial Working class.
Afterwards, between 1999 and 2004, I made 26 documentaries about food and culture around the world. When I shot the second series, exclusively in Europe – including one in Dorset – I became discomfited by a memory I could not immediately place.
Only eventually did I realize that I was seeing the same sense of loss in the eyes of farmers, food producers, fishermen and chefs that I had seen those 20 years earlier in the eyes of the industrial workers and their families –
As I thought about this, researched and spoke with people, I understood that the same processes that had destroyed British working class culture were at work again but this time destroying the economic and cultural fabric of European rural life.
I became aware that I had by chance photographed and filmed these two moments of globalism, book ends in a turbulent world.
John Berger, the novelist and art critic said that it is imperative for art to make visible the invisible. I agree with him and I think that globalism as unemployment, is a slow, insidious force which is like a wind arising from a distant and unknown place, a force which is all but invisible but which has a direct effect upon people’s lives. This exhibition is an attempt to make that force visible.
In order to reveal this second moment of globalism, I have edited out of the 13 hours of finished films a 28 minute piece which I hope indicates the things that are being fought for and maintained as well as the losses and sense of loss being experienced by people across Europe.
The third part of this exhibition is an audio recording of a long poem I wrote called WINDOWS KISS THE SHADOWS OF THE PASSING THIRTY MILLION. “Thirty million” because at any one time in greater Europe, there are that number of unemployed, homeless, vagrant people.
The poem asks through metaphor: why, in this moment of our history, should our collective decision be to turn our backs on the misery of so many in favour of more and more wealth for ourselves? Why do we ignore our extraordinary cultural history and spiritual development in favour of consuming juke food, junk culture and branded things? Why have we exchanged our European intellectual heritage, our moral ideals and our supposed ethics for an unending consumerism, which rips apart our eco system, spreads poisons across the land and steals the material wealth due to our grandchildren?
And there is something else written into the subtext of this exhibition that I hope will touch people … some of the images were commissioned but the majority came from The People Working Series and then from other self-motivated projects.
And as for the 26 films, I tried to sell the idea for two years and could find no company ready to invest. None the less, I did it myself. I mention this, not to reveal what a financial fool I am but to point out that we can find ways of doing our own work, that is – individuals, groups and communities have the ability to mediate our own lives … we do not need to be validated, judged, stripped bare or demeaned by the media corporations or institutions of the state. The fact that this exhibition has stimulated people in this community (Bridport, Dorset) and at least in two other communities – the travellers near Poole, Dorset and many people in Frome, Somerset to document their own lives are proofs of this.
Everywhere I go, I meet young filmmakers who have ideas but feel trapped by the control of broadcasting corporations or the state
… I tell them they should just do … I believe they need to create their own intellectual, creative and emotional centres, places of discussion, production and revelation, a place, in an alien world, that they can call HOME.
Finally, for me: photographing and filming have provided a privileged view into other peoples lives and a constant inquiry into the nature of the world and into my own nature. It has been my vehicle to explore what it means to be a human being … and in some ways to create for myself a kind of intellectual and creative Home.
The On-going Community Project
- to bring to life everyday living experiences of people in and around Bridport
- to involve local people in participation in cultural work, especially those who have personal experiences to share
- to enable people who may lack confidence to contribute in ways in which they are comfortable
•Using the photographs, texts and films in the HOME exhibition as a starting point, helping people of all ages and interests to view and interpret the local distinctive qualities of their surroundings.
•To encourage people to understand how topography, flora and fauna create the landscape and the basis for economic activity.
•To encourage people to see how new, old and disused industrial, domestic, civic and agricultural structures explain past and present economic activity.
•To encourage people to see how the races, religions and classes which have gathered to the area and remain reflect the economic life of the area.
This creates an integrated view: ecosystem>human material culture creates an economy>on the foundations of economy a superstructure of belief systems is created. Through this process participants may come to understand the ways in which creating a personal visual point of view and vocabulary allows for an individual’s creative interpretation of the world as described above.
•Questions raised by the Savouring Europe films, a much reduced version of which is shown in the HOME exhibition, reveal how rural areas have been and are now being affected by globalization. This part of the exhibition may appeal to young farmer’s groups and the rural community in general.
Robert will provide to other local photographers, filmmakers, writers, and radio professionals an introduction using the above analysis for the prarticipants to work with the participants. One of the components of this would be about how individuals can translate emotions as love, anger etc. into their creative work.
This could develop into a local Mass Observation type group leading to an exhibition of the local community’s creative work. The Briport Arts Centre have committed themselves to showing an exhibition of this work during its 40th anniverary year in 2014.
Possible Groups for Documentation: WI/ older people’s forum/Chancery House; Carnival; Sports clubs – football, rugby, barracudas; Local industry – inc farmers/ fishermen/ Gundry; trade unionists; other volunteers…presently we have 80 people who have expressed interest; The Bridport History Forum
April 2012 – initial feedback on documentation & guidance
May/June – Refining the data, filming and identifying, organizing and beginning the local particiapnts self-documentation projects
July – finalising the Home exhibition, finalising the two films above.
August – launching the exhibition, showing the two films, launching the HOME IN BRIDPORT 18 month project.
Sept-December – fund raising, speaking with potential individuals, schools and other organisations who may participate and fund raising.
Jan 2013 – December creating the work.
Jan 2014 – May organising the work into an exhibiton
May 2014 – exhibition, films and theatre works to be presented at the Bridport Art Centre as part of their 40 year celebration.
HOME the book
consists of all the pictures in the exhibition plus additional texts. It is beautifully printed on semi-gloss paper in 4 colour monochrome. The book is available and can be ordered at THE BOOK STORE, and there is a REVIEW of it on line.
“Robert Golden is one of the most passionate photographers I know. He not only wants to take great photographs and make great films but he wants us to see want is really happening in the world, as he would say “under the rocks”. I have known him for over thirty years and he hasn’t given up yet.”
Eamon McCabe, the award winning photographer and picture editor
“It feels less like a formal exhibition than an anguished cri de coeur for something irrevocably lost”
Elisabeth Mahoney, Guardian.
“I have never presented an exhibition that touched so many people’s real experiences or those inherited from parents and grandparents.” Jem Maine, Curator, KUBE Gallery, (former Study Gallery of Modern Art, Poole Dorset).
Robert’s stills photographs have been exhibited at:
The Half Moon Gallery/ London (one person show)
The Serpentine Gallery/ London
The Photographer’s Gallery (one person show)/London
The Midland Group Gallery/ GB
The Side Gallery (one person show)/Newcastle, Jan 1979
The Hayward Gallery/ London
Victoria and Albert Museum/ London
Barbican Concourse(one person show)/ London
The First Georgian State Film and Theatre Festival (one person show)/Georgia
Battersea Art Centre (theatre works)/London
The White Space/ Dorset
The Cube, Poole, Dorset 2007
New Greenham Arts, Berkshire, UK 2008
Frome Festival, 2009
Bridport Art Centre 2012
and a semi-permanent exhibition of still life work at the Lighthouse in Poole Dorset
and numerous art centres and galleries around Britain.
The pictures above are from the book of the exhibition which was originally shown at the Barbican in London. It is a beautifully reproduced and designed book of still life photographs made by Robert. Although he was one of the most successful food photographers in Europe during the 1980’s he continually studied and experimented with the genre, searching for ways to reveal the essence of culture through the way its artefacts were depicted.
During this period he left his first love, photojournalism, and sought meaningful content through his meditative studio bound images. He said, ‘when I looked for a way to survive beyond documentary work, I wanted to move as far from the Leica as possible so I choose a 10 x 8 bellows camera; I went from available light to having no illumination until I turned on a tungsten studio lamp and I went from having the entire world in front of me to having nothing lest I placed it in front of the lens.’
His personal work affected his commercial work and often, because of the inventiveness of his personal work, he was invited to shoot editorial stories using his own ideas, some of which are represented in Simple Things.
The notes from his diaries are instructive for photographers and students who wish to understand how a skilled and thoughtful photographer thinks about his work.
The framed exhibition is available to be shown and the book is available at: THE BOOK STORE