Image1 - Fedden, S. (2013) Violia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition - RAMM, Exeter.
Image2- Fedden, S. (2013) The Tannery - Paul Glendell - RAMM, Exeter
Exhibition review - RAMM, Exeter: Siobhan Fedden
The above images are of two exhibitions I saw at RAMM, Exeter on the 25th May 2013.
The Violia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition (VEWPYC) is an international photography competition run by the Natural History Museum, England and BBC Worldwide. The exhibition of 100 images, tours to many different venues around the world. It is on display in RAMM, Exeter from the 2nd February until the 2nd June.
The Tannery is also a photography exhibition. However it is by an individual artist, Paul Glendell. The exhibition documents the use of the traditional oak bark leather tanning process by J and FJ Baker and Sons LTD, who are the only firm left who still use this tanning method in Britain. This exhibition is on display from 20th March to 23rd June in RAMM, Exeter.
I chose to focus on both of these as a single exhibition review because it gives me the opportunity to compare how two exhibitions were curated in the same venue, in a overlapping time period.
I felt that due to its uniformity and curation, The Tannery was the stronger of the two exhibitions. I thought this because, in terms of photographic display, The Tannery and VEWPYC are printed very differently. The images in The Tannery are all black and white, and identically framed, where as the images in the VEWPYC are not framed and a mixture of colour and black and white images. The VEWPYC images are curated into each of the eleven category’s of the competition with each category having a different number of final images, whereas The Tannery images are curated to create a narrative of the process of leather tanning. The images from the VEWPYC were displayed in a way that causes the viewer to compare them because they are aware of the competitive nature of the show due to how the images are grouped. The problem with this is that the images are not given space to stand out as individual artworks, no matter how technically good they are. This is also due to the quantity of images on display, which displayed together in one room is incredibly overwhelming. The inclusion of freestanding walls and the narrative structure of the images displayed in The Tannery meant that this was not an issue, as the work was separated enough that it did not overwhelm the viewer.
To look at these exhibitions is also to look at the role of photography in museums and the art exhibition in the museum context. It is obvious as to why both exhibitions were chosen to be displayed at RAMM, The Tannery displays the current use of the oak bark leather tanning process to reflect on the history and tradition in leather tanning in Britain. It is clear that The Violia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition was chosen to be displayed at RAMM because it is about creating focal points by displaying particular images and saying, this is the best this year, these images sum up the environment and wildlife of Britain today. These images are to be looked back on to display the wildlife of Britain at a particular time. Both exhibitions become archival in this respect, not unlike the display of museum collections.