Out of Focus: Photography

2012-4-23

A sprawling exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery contains some beautiful images, it's just difficult to take it all in.

Out of Focus presents a snapshot of contemporary photography. It spans almost the entire gallery, and contains some very impressive work. There should be something to please - and something to annoy - everybody, and that is certainly an achievement.

The photographs are held together - albeit very loosely - by the theme of photography itself, and each artist addresses this theme with a varying degree of fervour and intensity. The sheer volume of successive approaches to the topic has a slightly sadistic logic to it, as it quickly overwhelms the mind's capacity to make any sense of what is going on.

This is likely the reason why my favourite pieces were some of those I saw very early on: John Stezaker's collage portraits which recycle old photographs. They are fun and have a lot of humour, and I can't think anymore. Its probably better to let someone else think for me.

The Independent illustrates their review with Yumiko Utsu's picture of a woman with an octopus on her head. Its a great image, but its the only one of hers in the exhibition. Similarly, The Telegraph uses Berndaut Smilde's photograph of an empty Dutch chapel, which is the only work of his to appear at the gallery. I suppose it is the conservative choice, although the puff of smoke in the centre is a bit subversive. The Times chooses to forgo an image - nicely played, Times. And The Guardian goes for ... a young woman in her underpants.

Laurel Nakadate, the young lady in question, has taken some soft-core photographs of her charms and invited middle aged men to fondle them (the photos, not her). This attempt to reclaim power from lonely masturbators is enough to make one wonder how well young women actually understand power. Still, they should lure readers "below the fold." Stay classy, Guardian.

So then, what should go at the top of this write-up? Landscape it is.

Out of Focus: Photography is at the Saatchi Gallery until the 22nd of July, just try not to do it all at once.


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