Point and shoot the digitised past

Peter Finch on a new photograph exhibition at the Millennium Centre

How many things are now the new rock and roll? Politics? After last week maybe not. But photography? That could be. The new people’s art. In reach of anyone with a mobile phone or enough cash to buy a compact camera. The whole world now seems to be uploading itself onto Flickr, Facebook and Twitter. Everything we do gets recorded and an enormous amount of that material is, for reasons mostly beyond us, then logged, indexed, displayed and kept.

The names of the photographers, in order as they appear here, are as follows:
Nadia Barnsley (top)
Sian Blackmore
Cath Gerrard
Sue Davies

Bill Gates predicted this in his 1990 book The Road Ahead. There he postulated a future in which every individual human action from birth to death would be digitised, analysed and stored. The cloud would be thick with the past. We are not quite yet at that stage but Gate’s future is almost in sight.

Photography is actually a pretty democratic medium. Literally anyone can join in. But it does take a little education and a slice of flair to produce reasonable results. If you point and shoot you get what you get. Those who bother to study the art have discovered that there’s a lot more to snapping than pressing the button.

Cardiff’s Ffotogallery run excellent courses at Chapter. These not only teach photographic technique but wind that well into a consideration of art history. Just what moment was Cartier Bresson waiting for? And how do you find your own?

Under the guidance of the energetic landscape photographer Andrew Swidenbank a group of thirteen former students have formed themselves into what’s now known as the 09 Group. Their work, including Nadia Barnsley’s Limeworks (above), is on show on the walls of the now rather over photographed Wales Millennium Centre. Pass by any day and you’ll see someone having their pic taken with Gwyneth Lewis’s iconic poem as a back drop. Not the 09 Group however. They have more considered concerns.

The show demonstrates just how varied the artform can be. Shots range from Cath Gerard’s intriguing faux tourist postcards that have to be viewed through attached magnifying glasses, to Sue Davies giant tower, shadowed with trees (alongside), and accompanied by poetry from Tref:

One casts shadows

The other provides shade

Church tower – tree

Tree – church tower

Rhyme or reason

Personal decision


Swidenbank told me that the show avoids politics by allowing the participants to select their own work. Everyone in the 09 Group has had their technique hardened by Ffotogallery’s tuition and all use professional equipment. Daragh Murphy’s £300 sports people stand like gleaming sentinels. Nadia Barnsley’s reflected landscapes and fuzzy horses catch your eye and hold it as you try to work out what’s copy and what’s real. Sian Blackmoor’s Glamorgan Coast seascapes are full of spray and light.

Two hundred people came to the opening, which shows how popular digital images now are.  There’s no entry charge and the show runs until 4 June 2010.

Peter Finch is a member of the 09 Group and Chief Executive of Academi

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