This is an 'Art-Mageddon'

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In Ayesha Alibhai’s collection of photographs taken in eight different parts of India, focus is pulled away from the expected subjects. There isn’t really a hint of bright sari fabrics or wise looking men riding elephants to be seen (India has always had an uncanny ability to step up and provided Western photographers with the images they’d imagined before they got on the plane). Instead Alibhai’s work is a detailed study of where the new crashes headfirst into the old. One photograph shows a train carriage full of women; heads down and holding on tight to the overhead handles in a way that will be all too familiar to any Londoner. The clearest point of the image is one of those handles, a lifeline of familiarity in an otherwise turbulent sea of challenged stereotypes. Alibhai’s set Mein Hindi Nahi Bolti has a real documentary feel to it. It’s as much the work of a scientist making sense of their observations as it is of an artist exploring a theme. The power of the photographer to uncover and tell a story like this is frequently on display throughout the Show, but nowhere more intensely than in the work of Caro Boulton.

Ayesha Alibhai: ‘Mein Hindi Nahi Balti’ Experiences of India

Looking for Uncle Allan by Boulton is presented as a lone bound copy of an artist’s book. It uses archival documents, new photographs and text to tell the story of the photographer’s great uncle. The eponymous Allan was lost to the family, following a feud with his mother until Boulton happened to notice his photograph was in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. What follows is a mission to learn more about a man who was equal parts relative and stranger. Boulton’s use of a strong but open narrative, a story with a definite beginning and end but very little that’s defined in between, lets him play a lot with notions of what photographs are for. One key image shows a plate negative being held up to a light. The background is blurry which makes the clear lines of the monochrome negative seem almost holographic. Looking at it, you find yourself asking what you’re looking at. Is it a picture of a man, a photograph of a photograph or just an object captured on film. Being so far removed from the subject matter yet so unmistakably connected to it allows this image to say more about the dangers of treating photographs as visual facts than any number of angry blogs against photoshopping could.

Caro Boulton: ‘Looking For Uncle Allan’ Uncle Allan had a significant quarrel with his mother who never spoke to him thereafter

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