Last month I visited the Andreas Gursky exhibition with some friends at the Hayward Gallery which is part of the Southbank Centre.
While I love photography, I wouldn’t say that I’m particularly knowledgeable about artwork or photographers so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to the exhibition but I can honestly say that I was completely blown away by the scale and the detail of his images.
Most of Gurskys pieces are large scale photographs which often explore a particular issue such as working environments, man made technologies and politics. Gurksy uses crowds, elevated viewpoints and architecture in both chaotic and simplistic photographs and this detail challenges and disrupts our original perception of the image. He was also one of the first photographers to begin to manipulate his images through the use of digital technologies which we now know as editing.
This is the secret to the scale of many of his photographs; he takes multiple images and sticks them together digitally which explains the high quality of the photographs when they are blown up to such a large size (can be three and a half meters wide).
It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve begun to work harder at how I put my images together (read: composition, shutter speeds and f-stops) but looking at Gurskys images has hugely inspired me to look for the unusual in the usual.
How many interesting things happen on the way to work that I just don’t pay attention to because I need to get a cup of coffee in me?
So it’s going to be my mission to try and shoot more interesting and unusual photography, rather than shooting purely for my blog and instagram,
Gurksy has been shooting images across forty years and here are some of my favourites:
Toys “R” Us – If you’ve seen my Instagram feed you’ll know why I love this image so much, and if you haven’t seen my Instrgram feed then why not head on over for a peek? In this image, the vast expanses of white take over the image and the eye is drawn to the flashes of colour brightly coloured signs. This colour combination is the theme I try to emulate across my Instagram feed so it’s not surprising that I was drawn to this photograph. It’s only after looking at the image for a few moments that I became aware of the road and the overhead cables which frame the photograph and to me this photograph normalises the corporations that have become part of our lives.
Rhein II – I really love the simplicity of this image, and the many horizontal lines shown by the sky, the grass and river. I also really like the small set of steps in the left hand side of the image which is almost like a stairway to heaven, as its not clear where this leads to. You can only see this clearly when you’re close up to the image and this technique is what makes Gurskys large scale photographs so successful as you have a different experience and perception of the image, depending on where you are standing. The large open space of the Hayward Gallery makes a great viewing space for Gurskys collection.
99 Cent (Supermarket) – My friends and I spent a long time looking at this photograph, I love all the bright colours and the sheer vastness of scale. Again, this is the sort of image where you get a different experience when you look at it close up – I was drawn to looking at the sweetie isle in the foreground which ended up making me hungry and I left wanting Reeces peanut butter cups. My friends and I also played around with the scale of the photograph; we took a couple of photos posing in front of the image (luckily it was pretty quiet when we visited) but it almost looks like we were physically in the supermarket. It wasn’t until after I left, that I noticed the reflections of the supermarket that Gursky has edited onto the ceiling, demonstrating how consumerism has become entwined with our lives.
This image actually set a record for the most expensive piece of contemporary artwork to be sold (this record has been surpassed now) but what Gursky has done here is show how everyday experiences can become art. This photograph was one of the most inspiring to me out of the whole collection.
Amazon – Finally, one of Gurskys more recent pieces shot in 2015 is Amazon, which shows one of Amazons warehouses. Similar to 99 Cent, this explores the theme of consumerism but also leads the viewer to think about working conditions in warehouses. For me, this photograph shows chaos and disorder of unrelated products contrastingly displayed in neat and orderly lines. As an Amazon customer myself, what really struck me was how products aren’t grouped together with family products or similar items. This is because Amazon uses technology to pick products from warehouse shelves so there is no need to group items together.
The Hayward Gallery itself was an incredible space – the Gursky exhibition marks 50 years of the Hayward Gallery and this particular exhibition is the first here since its two year refurbishment. I really loved this gallery – there was lots of wide open space with a very minimalist feel and space is definitely an essential for a Gursky exhibition.
The architecture of the building is typical of Brutalist style which is very similar to the Barbican, in the City of London. The use of exposed concrete construction which is shown through the cast concrete staircases and the gold detailing throughout the gallery shows a modern, Brutalist building with lots of natural light thanks to the refurbishment of the pyramid rooflights.It would also make a great venue for weddings or fashion show presentations thanks to its open space.
The Hayward Gallery does not house any permanent collections, which means that you get to see three or four amazing contemporary exhibitions every year.
The Gursky exhibition contains 60 of his photographs and costs £14.50 per person to enter and is running until 22 April 2018.