Photography has the ability of opening one’s eye to see beauty in everyday or ordinary subjects, which raises a bigger question of how we look at things around us and how we interact with our environment. I recently went to view the latest work by photographer Guy Tillim, titled Jo’burg: Points Of View hosted by the Stevenson Gallery which runs from 22 May- 27 June 2014.
I believe it’s important to look at previous works of a photographer or any artist for that matter that might relate to their current work to make sense of the progression and to better understand the state the artist was in when creating the body of work.
In 2004, Guy Tillim produced a series titled Jo’burg , in which he looked at the private lives of the people that occupy the city’s buildings that were left to corrupt management. The series, in my view, showed how one would really view jo’burg as compared to his current work which aims to give us a different view of the city. He also produced a body of work titled Second nature part I and part II ( 2011-2012) shot in Polynesia and São Paulo that looks at the “notions of judgement and control around image-making” which also includes photographs shot in Libreville (2012) that connects to Second nature. His other notable work are included in the exhibition The Rise and Fall of apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of everyday life currently showing at Museum Africa in Johannesburg.
With that said, Tillim explores the paradox of “photographing nothing yet everything” using diptychs (a pair of photographs placed side by side to form one single artistic statement or comparison) of photographs that depict the urban landscape, both animating and freezing a momentary perception.
The view of course is one-sided, which is what a frame usually suggests, but in this work, Guy goes beyond the frame by creating images that are more like ‘windows than mirrors or pale reflections’, were the frame is ‘an invitation to explore rather than state a claim’.- Artist statement (Guy Tillim)
At first, as a young photographer from Jo’burg, when I saw the images, I thought they were boring and felt like it’s something that has been done before, I felt like they were too clean and calm, which is the opposite of how I view jo’burg, then I read the artist statement, and understood what he meant by the frame being an invitation to explore rather than state a claim, which then results to a viewer being faced with photographs that “they can look into rather than look at”- Matthew Partridge.
Nonetheless, these landscape of the city by a Johannesburg born photographer who now resides in Cape Town, leave us questioning what we see?, are we able to recognise spaces for what they physically are or do we identify them by the people that inhabit them? And who are we in this big puzzle of a city called Jo’burg.
Photography by Guy Tillim
To see more work and upcoming exhibitions, visit the Stevenson Gallery website.
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