Riflemaker, Oct 2012
Descending the creaky, poorly lit winding staircase into the basement of the Riflemaker gallery on Beak Street, London W1 you feel you are actually in the East End it's so ramshackle and shoestring budget. And then there on the walls are the photographs which are similarly showing their age and area a bit rough around the edges. 'Hear What I Say', presents pictures taken in the seventies by Penelope Slinger, which met with a lukewarm response at the time but seem ready for re-discovery now.
No one really knew it but lines were being drawn and choices made. On the one hand was Slinger's LSD influenced far-out surrealism, symbolism spilling from an emancipated subconscious, on the other was the rise of the vernacular colour snapshot aesthetic, and on the surreal third hand, everyone else was going around to Hilla and Bernd Becher's house in Dusseldorf where you could get a cup of tea and see what a large format camera looked like. The rest is history.
These idiosyncratic collages took the road less travelled but have re-emerged into the light as fashions change and it can be seen as a blood relation of software driven post-photography.
There are other dialogues that can be considered here, too, such as the way British photography was largely polarised along class lines back then, and so while Penelope Slinger was getting her kit off in the pursuit of the goddess within, on the other side of town Jo Spence was getting hers off while engaged in counter-revolution. But both were pioneers in women's photography in this country and that fight to be heard that they were engaged in has in many respects been won, to an extent that even they might not have believed possible at the time.
(until 30th October 2012)