Review: Pioneering photographers take on pioneering works

Two exhibitions will run at the Mead Gallery in January
Two exhibitions will run at the Mead Gallery in January

Russian Photography Now and John Akomfrah, film installation. Warwick Arts Mead Gallery, until March 7.

This beautifully hung exhibition of Russian photography includes a substantial body of work from the 1900s.

It’s a stunning show by one of the pioneers of colour photography, Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky.

Gorsky’s pioneering attempt to document the ethnicity of Tsarist Russia throws up an occasional photograph that’s well ahead of its time.

An epic image of a hillside full of horses, for instance, that’s only marred by the limitations of his 1900s equipment.

The technical sophistication of the equipment available today is fully exploited in

the work of a group of contemporary Russians.

And with Alexander Gromsky’s wittily sophisticated imagery of couples picnicking in the unlikeliest of places being far and away the best. He also shows an ambitious set of battle re-enactments that are eerily impressive.

In the other half of the gallery, John Akomfrah’s installation, The Unfinished Conversation, is more of a multi-media spectacle but its structure weakens its message.

There are some impressive passages, the birth of a child to a Mahalia Jackson track.

Glorious. And there’s content galore about the life of the work’s subject, the pioneer of cultural studies, Stuart McPhal Hall. But the raggedness of the visual narrative dulls its impact.

Rating 7/10

By Peter McCarthy