Wednesday, 14 July 2010

"Siren City"

This was the title of an exhibition I went to yesterday evening at the Estorick Collection. It consisted of 50 black and white photographs of Naples taken by Johnnie Shand Kydd between 2000 and 2008. He chose to use a Rolleiflex (square format film camera) because he thought this would convey the ambience of the city better than a digital camera.

His images reveal a darker side to the city and highlight the significance of ritual, religion and superstition to its inhabitants.

The images were divided between 2 galleries, and in each room we were given a narrative. One of the narrators was a young lady who worked for the Magnum agency and was able to put the images into context by commenting on composition, lighting and texture and making references to other photographers and cinematographers (eg Fellini).

The other narrator was a friend of Johnnie Shand Kydd who was able to give us insightful and amusing anecdotes on the stories behind the images and the thought processes of the photographer.

It was interesting to get 2 different perspectives and the ability to ask questions was a unique opportunity. The next best thing to speaking to the photographer himself.

Naples is known as the Siren City because of the legend of Parthenope who tried (unsuccessfully) to seduce Ulysses with the beauty of her song, then threw herself into the sea, only to be washed up at the place that later became known as Naples.

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