Another Kind of Life, Photography on the Margins at the Barbican Gallery

This is a major photography exhibition at The Barbican presenting the work of 20 different photographers from the 1950’s to the present day. The Barbican website describes the exhibition as following “the lives of individuals and communities operating on the fringes of society from America to India, Chile to Nigeria. The exhibition reflects a more diverse, complex view of the world, as captured and recorded by photographers”.

The exhibition is split into twenty separate areas each devoted to a single photographer and their particular subject. It certainly begins with a punch, as Waywell (2018) writes “Any photography show that kicks off with a room of Diane Arbus followed by one of Bruce Davidson means business and you’d better believe that things don’t get much easier after that”. What they have in common is that all the photographers deal with people who, for many different reasons, are marginalised, are on the fringes of society. Colli (2018) describes the exhibition “Focusing on issues of gender, sexuality, race and violence; Another Kind of Life is a starkly honest and brutal portrayal of what is like to live at the outskirts of what is deemed acceptable in society”.

What is fascinating about the exhibition is how involved the photographers have become in the lives of their subjects Luke (2018) writes “As significant as the artists’ subject matter is their position as a photographer: the camera isn’t some detached, objective eye; it’s held by a person, engaging with other people, with varying degrees of intimacy”. You feel very close to the people in the photographs as you make your way through the exhibition, each is an individual with a story to tell rather than just a subject in front of a lens.

I was very interested to discover what first instigated the idea for the exhibition. The British Journal of Photography and the BBC website both published interviews with the curator (Alona Pardo). It seems as though the exhibition can, in some ways, be seen following on from the work of Diane Arbus, Zhang (2018) writes “It is through an extensive study into her oeuvre, considering its criticism but also looking further to her legacy and the impact of her vision on the discourse of today, that the curator was inspired to pursue these questions in the work of other documentary photographers”.

The aim of the exhibition is best summarised in a quote by Pardo in conversation with Macdonald (2018) ““These are the forgotten and the marginalised – those that we wish not to see – and the photos are very much about giving them representation – they’ve shed all kinds of judgement, there isn’t judgement, there is just a desire to reflect accurately and as authentically as possible the daily grind that some communities have to go through.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Another Kind of Life. At: https://www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2018/event/another-kind-of-life-photography-on-the-margins (Accessed on 29 March 2018)

Colli, E. (2018) Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins Exhibition Review – The Barbican. At: https://www.thestrandmagazine.com/single-post/2018/03/04/Another-Kind-of-Life-Photography-on-the-Margins-Exhibition-Review—The-Barbican (Accessed on 29 March 2018)

Macdonald, F. (2018) Culture – Another kind of life: Fascinating photos of outsiders. At: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180316-another-kind-of-life-fascinating-photos-of-outsiders (Accessed on 29 March 2018)

Waywell, C. (2018) Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins review. At: https://www.timeout.com/london/art/another-kind-of-life-photography-on-the-margins-review (Accessed on 29 March 2018)