Devotion: A Portrait of Loretta by Franklyn Rodgers @ Autograph ABP

Autograph ABP is a charity that works internationally in photography and film, cultural identity, race, representation and human rights. ABP stands for the Association of Black Photographers.

Originally based in Brixton, ABP moved to a new, purpose-built gallery and offices at Rivington Place in Shoreditch in 2007. It is here that the ABP gallery is currently hosting two FREE exhibitions of photography by black photographers.

Devotion: A Portrait of Loretta by Franklyn Rodgers

For some years photographer Franklyn Rodgers has been taking large-scale portrait photos of the most important person in his life, his mother, Loretta. More recently he has branched out into taking portraits of Loretta’s circle of friends and family. To quote the man himself:

Devotion – A Portrait of Loretta represents the connectivity between faith, family and friends, echoed in the wider social experience assigned to them in their time and location. It is a meditation on strength, resilience, fortitude and the ability to endure. It is an idea through which the connectivity it brokers opens up the reconfiguring of survival, rooted firmly in the legacy of a cultural matriarch. To pay homage, both as Loretta’s son and as an artist, in recognition of a way of thinking that represents a coping mechanism to collectively overcome, forgive and conversely transform: a process of creation through a different lens. Evidenced over time in the cultural landscape that now defines our nation.

The photos are enormous and capture a staggering amount of detail.

Loretta Rodgers, 31 January 2006 by Franklyn Rodgers

Loretta Rodgers, 31 January 2006 by Franklyn Rodgers

Friendships

As the director of ABP, Dr Mark Sealy MBE, puts it:

Loretta and the devoted network of relationships that are presented in the exhibition could, if we so choose, unlock the face of our own humanity. ‘Identity is not only a departure from self; it is a return to self’ (French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas) This unlocking process, however, only becomes possible at the point in which we fully recognise the civil responsibility we have for both Loretta and her friends. The underlying theoretical question with which Rodgers’ photography works presents us fundamentally concerns our understanding of what it means to actually look into the human face.

Installation of Devotion by Franklyn Rodgers

Installation view of Devotion by Franklyn Rodgers

Confrontations

It is certainly true that the size of the portraits, and the way they are cropped very closely so as to be, literally, in your face, is almost forcing a response, coercing you to engage somehow, forcing us ‘to unlock the face of our own humanity’ maybe.

Mrs Iris Simms (2013) by Franklyn Rodgers

Mrs Iris Simms (2013) by Franklyn Rodgers

Care

Probably the portraits are a mirror and you project onto them your own concerns. Because I cared for both my parents as they died, and have been the main carer for my children, these enormous portraits trigger emotions of care and concern in me. These women look as if they have lived. They look as if they have suffered. I found myself uncomfortably moved by them. Unsettled by their unrelenting gaze.

Sealy again:

Through his photographs of his mother Rodgers invites us to enter the sacred realm of human recognition. In his hands the camera is repurposed as a device that aids the case for greater safekeeping and care across the human condition.

Installation of Devotion by Franklyn Rodgers

Installation view of Devotion by Franklyn Rodgers

Technical fluency

But maybe that’s just me, my life experiences, which I’m projecting onto them.

On the technical front, I am astonished at the pin-prick clarity of such enormous prints. Having recently seen the vast photographic prints by Andreas Gursky at the Hayward Gallery, and the massive photos by Alex Prager at the Photographers’ Gallery, I realise that we are living in an age when photos can now be blown-up and printed on an enormous scale without losing – in fact, enhancing – a tremendous, an almost intimidating, clarity of detail.

But whereas Prager’s and Gursky’s photos are almost entirely staged to capture large groups of people or (in Prager’s case) bizarre scenes, Rodgers’ photos obviously have a completely different feel. I wouldn’t call it ‘intimate’, they’re too big for that. But about as close up as you can get to a human face. And determined to capture every pore and blemish of the skin.

Looking again, I realise that all the faces are completely expressionless. I think it was at the National Portrait Gallery’s 2017 exhibition that I noticed that not a single one of the 70 or so portraits on display showed a single person smiling, let alone laughing i.e. it’s a common trope or convention of 21st century portraiture, to remain completely expressionless..

Maybe smiling or laughing immediately limits a portrait, because the viewer knows what mood the sitter is in. Smiling or laughter defuse the tension between viewer and portrait.  Whereas depicting blank unsmiling portraits makes the face so much more powerful, inscrutable and mysterious.

What, you find yourself asking, is this array of senior citizens thinking? About their experiences of being black in Britain? About the nature of identity in a society mediated by images? About what’s for dinner? Who knows.

Time

As T.S. Eliot wrote a hundred years ago, ‘Time is time and runs away.’

Sealy again:

The act of photographing his mother’s face also marks Rodgers’s awareness of time moving uncontrollably fast. This sense of temporal dis-ease creates the conditions of having to act in the present and take responsibility for the now. Rodgers’ photographs of his mother and her circle of friends are therefore an invitation to look into their faces as part of a self-reflective journey to one’s own humanity, because, ultimately, it is only when we can recognise all the Lorettas of the world that we can then recognise ourselves.

Loretta Rodgers, Crown (2013) by Franklyn Rodgers

Loretta Rodgers, Crown (2013) by Franklyn Rodgers

It’s a room full of intense, brilliant and powerfully questioning portraits.


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Adapt to Survive: Notes from the Future @ Hayward Gallery

Hayward Gallery revision notes

Hayward Gallery is a part of the Southbank Centre. Opened by the Queen in July 1968, the gallery is one of the few remaining buildings of its style i.e. concrete Brutalism. It was designed by a group of young architects, including Dennis Crompton, Warren Chalk and Ron Herron, and is named after Sir Isaac Hayward, a former leader of the London County Council.

In 2015 the gallery shut down for a few years ago for a complete refurbishment. It re-opened in this, its fiftieth birthday year, with a massive retrospective of German photographer Andreas Gursky. It is now hosting a major retrospective exhibition of Korean artist Lee Bul (which I’ve also reviewed).

These blockbuster shows are held in the massive main galleries, five rooms on split levels reached by spiral staircases and ramps. But in the main foyer of the building is the doorway to Hayward’s other exhibition space, the much smaller HENI Project Space.

HENI Project Space

Whereas the main gallery hosts only two or three big shows a year, the HENI Project Space space is much more flexible and fast, typically presenting six to eight exhibitions a year. The space comprises a short corridor turning into one large room, lined with the building’s characteristic dark grey concrete.

Originally opened in 2007, the HENI Project Space – like its parent gallery – underwent a comprehensive refurbishment and re-opened in January 2018 in its new, bigger, ground floor location (on the right as you enter the Hayward’s main glass doors).

Importantly, whereas entry to the main exhibition generally costs around £14, entry to the project space is FREE (although be aware that the whole Hayward complex doesn’t open till 11am and is closed on Tuesdays).

Adapt to Survive

Adapt to Survive: Notes from the Future brings together one or two artworks each by a group of seven international artists on the common theme of imagining how our world might look and feel in the future.

Ann Lislegaard – Time Machine (2011)

A box about waist-high is made of four mirrors attached by hinges. Two have been unfolded to swing out across the floor. The other two remain closed to form two sides of the box and onto them is projected a ‘cartoon’ fox. The fox is speaking a monologue which is continually interrupted by computer glitches, echoes and buzzing interference. Something is wrong with its programme.

The fox is reciting part of H.G. Wells’s novel The Time Machine (1895) in which the scientist-narrator ponders on the nature of time. The broken narrative by a computer-generated animation reminds us of hundreds of similar glitchy programmes in modern science fiction film, a trope indicating that the future will be heavily technological but that that technology will be flawed.

Having worked on government websites and in government IT for the past eight years, I don’t need anyone to tell me just how flawed and accident-prone modern digital technology can be. This is a visually striking and quite humorous reminder.

Installation view of Adapt to Survive at Hayward Gallery, featuring Time Machine by Ann Lislegaard © Ann Lislegaard. Photo by Thierry Bal

Installation view of Adapt to Survive at Hayward Gallery, featuring Time Machine by Ann Lislegaard © Ann Lislegaard. Photo by Thierry Bal

Julian Charrière – Metamorphism (2016)

Charrière imagines what the world might look like many millennia in the future, when the products that characterise our era have been buried under sediment and re-incorporated into the Earth’s strata. To make his futuristic ‘samples’ Charrière poured 20 tonnes of molten rock over a pile of broken consumer electronics, later applying a chemical wash to the cooled forms to simulate the effects of acid rain. Solid, disturbing.

Installation view of Adapt to Survive at Hayward Gallery, featuring Metamorphism by Julian Charrière © Julian Charrière. Photo by Thierry Bal

Installation view of Adapt to Survive at Hayward Gallery, featuring Metamorphism by Julian Charrière © Julian Charrière. Photo by Thierry Bal

Rainer Ganahl – I Hate Karl Marx (2010)

A TV set is on a plinth showing a film or programme. There are a couple of headphones available so you can listen to the video which turns out to depict a young German woman yelling at a bust of Karl Marx. Except that she’s yelling in Chinese. Because the film imagines a future in which China is the dominant political and economic power and has taken over Europe where all the countries are now communist and everyone speaks Chinese.

If this really were a repressive communist state I suspect a young woman shouting at a statue of Marx would be grabbed by the security police pretty quickly.

You can view the entire video on YouTube.

I like where she calls Marx ‘a fat, dumpling-throwing corrupt Chinese pig’, probably the first time he’s been called that. But quite quickly I started wishing that she’d run off-screen and return with a damp birch branch and start whacking the statue, like John Cleese whacks his Morris 1100 in Fawlty Towers. That would show him!

Unintentionally, perhaps, this piece is quite funny.

Marguerite Humeau – Harry II (2017)

Humeau has created a big and elaborate sculpture which takes inspiration from the ancient myth of the sphinx and then goes way beyond to put it in an eerily modern context.

The three savage-looking sphinxes’ heads now sit atop a weird kind of futuristic fencing, with some worrying organic but prickly bayonet devices down at ankle level. Up close the installation gives off a disconcerting hum like the low hum of electronic surveillance devices. Spooky.

Installation view of Adapt to Survive at Hayward Gallery, featuring Harry II by Marguerite Humeau (2017) © Marguerite Humeau. Photo by Thierry Bal

Installation view of Adapt to Survive at Hayward Gallery, featuring Harry II by Marguerite Humeau (2017) © Marguerite Humeau. Photo by Thierry Bal

Bedwyr Williams – Tyrrau Mawr (2016)

Hanging on the wall is a widescreen monitor showing what at first looks like a glossy photo or artist’s creation of a futuristic cityscape. Only if you watch carefully do you realise that the sun glinting off the skyscrapers is moving very slowly, and then that tiny street lights are flickering on as dusk falls.

This is Bedwyr Williams’s vision of an imaginary mega-city situated in rural North Wales. Put on the headphones and you can hear Williams himself reading out short fictional vignettes describing the lives of the inhabitants of this ideal new metropolis. I’m not giving anything away if I reveal that they are uniformly unhappy and listless. The future is bored and alienated (pretty much like the present, then). Dazzling.

Installation view of Adapt to Survive at Hayward Gallery, featuring Tyrrau Mawr by Bedwyr Williams (2017) © Bedwyr Williams. Photo by the author

Installation view of Adapt to Survive at Hayward Gallery, featuring Tyrrau Mawr by Bedwyr Williams (2016) © Bedwyr Williams. Photo by the author

Youmna Chlala – The Butterfly Already Exists in the Caterpillar (2018)

Artist and writer Youmna Chlala is working on a project titled The Museum of Future Memories. She imagines the city of the future as being a place in flux, a zone of rising sea levels, where seasons have ceased to exist and the remaining inhabitants have forged new ways to live.

Sounds quite drastic and devastated but it in fact turns out that the inhabitants of this future world write neat and poetic graffiti on the concrete walls of their ruins, alongside colourful crayon-style imagery of wildlife. Pretty.

Installation view of Adapt to Survive at Hayward Gallery, featuring The Butterfly Already Exists in the Caterpillar by Youmna Chlala (2018) © Youmna Chlala. Photo by Thierry Bal

Installation view of Adapt to Survive at Hayward Gallery, featuring The Butterfly Already Exists in the Caterpillar by Youmna Chlala (2018) © Youmna Chlala. Photo by Thierry Bal

Andreas Angelidakis – The Walking Building (2004–6)

In the plate glass frontage of the gallery is a TV monitor showing a video portraying a fantasy imagining of a contemporary art museum of the future, a ‘shape-shifting structure that adapts to different environments and needs’. In the video, the museum comes alive, crawling like an animal through the streets of Athens.

The work is inspired by Archigram, an avant-garde architectural collective who championed radical, adaptable urban structures such as The Walking City (1964), and three of whose founding members were involved in the design of the Hayward Gallery. It’s quite fun in a sci-fi special effects kind of way.

Installation view of Adapt to Survive at Hayward Gallery, featuring The Walking Building (2004–6) by Andreas Angelidakis © Andreas Angelidakis. Photo by Thierry Bal

Installation view of Adapt to Survive at Hayward Gallery, featuring The Walking Building (2004–6) by Andreas Angelidakis © Andreas Angelidakis. Photo by Thierry Bal

Thoughts

I grew up reading science fiction in the 1960s and 70s.

After going through phases of reading traditional sci-fi by the likes of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein and Olaf Stapledon, I stumbled in the 1970s across the novels and short stories of the English writer J.G.Ballard who gave the entire genre of science fiction a completely new and profoundly disillusioned twist.

Ballard deliberately abandoned the style of sci-fi known as ‘space opera’ – all rocket ships and laser guns – in favour of concentrating on the alienated, estranged lives of people living more or less in the present, but a present distorted by the unnerving reality of concrete high rise buildings, motorway flyovers, multiple vehicle pile-ups on motorways

He titled his stories about the psychological damage being done by the inhuman environments of the present ‘myths of the near future’.

In a similar spirit of disillusion he threw cold water on the boyish fantasies of all those sci-fi writers and film-makers who think mankind will one day colonise other planets and travel to the stars. It’s really simple. No, we won’t. Not only do we not have the money or the technology or the power sources to do any of that, but at a deeper level, people don’t want to. That whole tribe of sci-fi visionaries don’t seem to have noticed that we are having a lot of trouble just surviving on this planet.

Ballard made the controversial assertion that the Space Age ended in about 1973, when the ratings for I Love Lucy were higher than for that year’s Apollo moon landing. Most people weren’t bothered anymore. Seen it. Done it. Got the t-shirt. Of course the Americans went on to build the space shuttle and the international space station and the Indians and Chinese are now sending rockets into space. But do you care? Do I care? Does the population of war-torn Syria care?

Science continues to be done on the international space station and probes are regularly fired off into the solar system and beyond, but humanity will clearly never leave this planet.

Ballard’s fiction paints a vision of physical entropy and emotional accidie which nothing can shift. It is full of empty swimming pools and abandoned motels. And of mannequin-like people talking at cross-purposes. He died before mobile phones intensified the alienation and distance from each other which he had been predicting for so long.

And then he swept the rug from under his own oeuvre by revealing that all those decades of science fiction stories were in fact workings-though in fictional form of his terrible childhood experience of being imprisoned by the Japanese during World War Two, which he revealed in the entirely factual autobiography Empire of the Sun, published in 1984, so powerful it was made into a movie by Steven Spielberg. He wrote more books but – having made a public confession – none of them used the form or language of science fiction, and they were never so good. Like a magician who shows how his tricks are done, the magic had evaporated.

But in the thirty years up to Empire of the Sun, Ballard so comprehensively deconstructed and undermined science fiction’s settings, tropes and assumptions, that there didn’t seem anywhere left to go. Although science fiction has gone on to have a steadily increasing presence in movies and television, it mostly seems to me to deal in themes which I find disconcertingly old-fashioned. Much science fiction seems to me – paradoxically – to be achingly nostalgic.

Take the potentially endless series of Star Wars films which Disney are now going to churn out on an annual basis. Ray guns and space ships? These are themselves redolent of the classic space opera comics and movies George Lucas watched in the 1950s. But on another level all the fans who flock to see these blockbuster movies really just want to see the relationship between Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher recreated – and so are doomed to disappointment.

And so for me, coming from this perspective, it was symptomatic that the first work in this little collection supposedly about the future is in fact based on the story which invented the concept of time travel over 120 years ago. Like so much of science fiction, the animation of the stuttering fox didn’t seem at all new but felt to me old, old, old.

The notion that the big shiny cities of the future will in fact house unhappy, alienated populations (Williams), segregated by menacing razor fencing (Humeau), and that our civilisation will one day decline and fall to be reclaimed by nature (Chlala), the scorched ruins eventually becoming buried under sediment to survive only as fossils (Charrière) – these ideas aren’t just familiar, they are the almost-exhausted superclichés of the genre.

The notion that buildings, or even entire cities, will in the future be able to move to more optimum locations, is at least as old as Christopher Priest’s classic sci-fi novel Inverted World, from 1973, and is about to be blasted into everyone’s consciousness by the forthcoming ‘major motion picture’, Mortal Engines, based on Philip Reeve’s brilliant series of novels about moving cities in a post-apocalypse future, scheduled for release this Christmas.

So influenced by Ballard as I am, I tend to think that if there is any mileage in science fiction, it is in the now, just not in quite the same ‘now’ that most people are looking at. It is in glimpses and intuitions of how human nature is being changed by technology, that are hard to see and even harder to express.

Conclusion

I enjoyed this exhibition, and the opportunity to see samples of the kind of work being made by youngish contemporary artists. But I don’t think it told me anything at all about the actual future which we are all going to live through…


Related links

Reviews of other Hayward exhibitions

Science fiction reviews

Andreas Gursky @ the Hayward Gallery

I only pursue one goal: the encyclopedia of life. (Andreas Gursky)

Andreas Gursky was born in 1955 in Leipzig, in what was then East Germany, before he and his family escaped to West Germany, settling in Düsseldorf, where he grew up.

Gursky’s father was a commercial photographer and young Andreas spent hours in the treasure trove of his father’s studio, absorbing the power and persuasiveness of strong, clear images, and becoming highly literate from an early age in the technical complexities of photography.

The aesthetic standards of advertising photography were burned into my way of seeing at an early age.

I first became aware of Gursky’s work when I went to the big retrospective held at the Serpentine Gallery back in 1999.

He is best known for his enormous, panoramic, colour prints of scenes which convey the complexity of late-twentieth century life, often teeming with people or indicative of huge and complex technologies. At that point, in the late 1990s, his approach could be epitomised by his photographs of stock exchanges, especially the Chicago Board of Trade photo he took in 1999, which became widely known.

London’s Hayward Gallery has been closed for nearly three years. It is marking its re-opening with a major retrospective of Gursky’s work, which now covers forty years and features 68 stunning colour photographs, eight of which are being exhibited for the first time. The exhibition puts the famous panoramic photos into the broader context of his career, showing how his style evolved from simpler beginnings towards the aesthetic summed up by the the stock exchange shots, and has continued to evolve in the twenty years since then.

Pyongyang VII 2007/2017 by Andreas Gursky © Andreas Gursky/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018. Courtesy Sprüth Magers

Pyongyang VII 2007/2017 by Andreas Gursky © Andreas Gursky/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018. Courtesy Sprüth Magers

This photograph of the opening ceremony to the Arirang, a massive annual gymnastics festival in North Korea, typifies many aspects of Gursky’s work.

  1. It is enormous, the height of a door and about one and a half doors wide
  2. It is taken from very high up, from a commanding vantage point far from the subject
  3. It is emblematic or symbolic of a certain kind of modern life e.g. display in a totalitarian regime
  4. It features people, lots of people
  5. Technically, it is all in focus – he doesn’t use focus to create a more blurred background and therefore give a sense of depth and perspective: everything is present

This last point leads to what I found the most insightful comment on his works, which is that – all the details are of equal importance. Usually, in any of the thousands of images we see all day long – newspaper photos, magazine photos, billboards and hoardings and adverts, posters, stills on TV or on any one of millions of websites and phone apps – usually a photographic image has a focus, a subject, it promotes and foregrounds something (most often, when you think about it, a person – a politician in a news outlet, a film or pop star, sometimes a product in an ad etc).

On the contrary, in a classic Gursky shot, all the details are treated equally. This is so contrary to the normal practice of ‘the image’ and so contrary to our trained habit of ‘looking for the subject’ that I find this by far the most striking and unsettling aspect of his work.

Amazon, 2016 by Andreas Gursky © Andreas Gursky/DACS, 2017. Courtesy: Sprüth Magers

Amazon, 2016 by Andreas Gursky © Andreas Gursky/DACS, 2017. Courtesy: Sprüth Magers

The result is that you tend to be overwhelmed not only by the size, but by the intensity of detail everywhere in his photos – for example, in this 2016 photo of an Amazon warehouse.

And this psychological response is appropriate to his subject matter because the classic Gursky is a panoramic view of scenes which are emblematic of the modern consumer economy – scenes like the Amazon warehouse, a hectic stock exchange, desolate plains covered in plastic in Spain where much of our fruit is grown, a huge shot showing the zigzag route of the Tour de France down a mountain which is littered with human spectators, their cars, media vans, an oppressively tacky Wal-Mart supermarket in America, or the huge panorama showing the complete departure board at Frankfurt airport completely dwarfing the handful of impotent little humans at its feet.

Frankfurt 2007 by Andreas Gursky

Frankfurt, 2007 by Andreas Gursky

That is the ‘classic’ Gursky look, if you like, and it is difficult not to be awed by the sheer scale, the fullness of detail and the classic square-on composition of the images, as well as amazed, dismayed, startled etc by the scale of some of the subject matter – like another photo of vast fish processing plant where workers are slaving away in orange overalls, or one of an enormous network of cattle pens on a ranch in Texas.

But what makes this exhibition more than impressive is the full context it gives to Gursky’s development and this means exhibiting quite a few photographs from early in his career, back in the 1980s where he hadn’t yet developed his signature approach. These are, for a start, smaller, and often of simple landscapes.

There’s a normal size black and white photo of a glacier, a photo of a handful of cyclists who’ve stopped on a Sunday outing to lean against the fence of an airport and watch planes taking off and landing, titled Düsseldorf airport, Sunday walkers (1988). This latter typifies his early habit of shooting people from quite a distance, so that they are dwarfed by natural or man-made scenery, and also from behind, so we don’t see their faces, but they become deindividualised mannekins.

One or two have what you could call a focus, what Roland Barthes called a punctum, a small detail which draws the eye towards it, like in this shot of a cable-car eerily disappearing into the mountain fog of the Dolomite mountains.

Dolomites cable car 1987 by Andreas Gursky

Dolomites, cable car 1987 by Andreas Gursky

Then there is the ‘mature style’ of the monster panoramas of the late 80s and through the 90s, but the exhibition then continues on to more recent work in which Gursky has experimented and branched out. This became clear (to me, anyway) with a characteristically enormous photo of rooftops of a suburb of Tokyo. What was new was that the foreground was blurred and, the wall label told me, Gursky had deliberately inserted blurred elements sporadically throughout the image, to experiment with the effect.

It was only at this point that I really registered what the wall labels had been pointing out for a little while, which is that many of the most iconic panorama shots are in fact heavily doctored in post-production. Many of them are in fact made up by splicing together a number of smaller in-focus shots or, as the commentary puts it:

Over the past three decades Gursky has increasingly made use of computer-enabled post-production techniques to make photographs whose scale, precision, composition, and complexity are unprecedented and have critically expanded the possibilities of the medium.

Thus I was a little staggered to learn that the dramatic F1 Pit Stop (2007) whose symmetry and colour contrasts look a little too be good to be true, is in fact way too good to be true: not only are certain elements of the scene touched up and transposed to create a clearer composition, but the two pitstop teams were actually photographed in different cities and brought together via sophisticated post-production. And there are some people who still say ‘the camera never lies’ – the camera does nothing but lie.

This aspect of post-production manipulation of images became really the more overt in the final room which shows Gursky experimenting with the new(ish) technology of mobile phone cameras.

Instead of the high vantage point panoramas, a number of shots in the final room are designed to convey the sense of blurriness and speed experienced looking out the window of a train or a car, as in this photo of Utah.

Utah (2017) by Andreas Gursky © Andreas Gursky/DACS, 2017 Courtesy: Sprüth Magers

Utah (2017) by Andreas Gursky © Andreas Gursky/DACS, 2017 Courtesy: Sprüth Magers

It’s still big, it’s still of the human influence on the landscape, but the style is significantly different with its deliberate use of blurring and the horizontal lines along the top of the rocks signifying the blurry effect of the frame of a car or train window.

There’s more, a lot more, including several stunning photos of light reflected on the oily black water of the klongs in Bangkok, a powerful shot of the ship container port at Salerno, which contrasts the landscape painting-type beauty of the hills in the background with the enormous wasteland of rusty containers and vans parked in a huge car park in the foreground.

Taking the high vantage point theme to extreme limits there are some examples of the Ocean series he made in 2009 and 2010 which splice together satellite images of the world’s oceans, using up to date digital post-production techniques, not least some awe-inspiring views of Antarctica from 35,000 kilometres up, which gave me vertigo.

Or this work, Bahrain I taken in 2005, a typically panoramic view of the Bahrain International Circuit built to host Formula One motor races.

Bahrain I by Andreas Gursky © Courtesy Monika Sprueth Galerie, Koeln / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn and DACS, London 2018

Bahrain I by Andreas Gursky © Courtesy Monika Sprueth Galerie, Koeln / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn and DACS, London 2018

Gursky’s photos are works of wonder in their own right – they capture and record all kinds of aspects of our modern environment-destroying, wasteful consumer culture with often terrifying clarity – and this exhibition sets them within a fascinating overview of the development and evolution of his style and approach.

This is a great exhibition with which to welcome the shiny new refurbished Hayward Gallery back to the front rank of London art galleries.

Installation view of Andreas Gursky at the Hayward Gallery

Installation view of Andreas Gursky at the Hayward Gallery

The promotional video


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