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Its the time of year when diligent photography students embark on a tour of Universities examining the work made by the 3rd Year students in the field of Photography and Art. The purpose is to look at the work produced and identify areas that could be developed, how each artist tackled the problems of space versus layout and selection, what lighting was available and was the venue suitable for the exhibition staged. Lastly were the publicity materials created sufficient to advertise the show and convey the ethos.

This year we selected to examine the work produced by the University of Hertfordshire, London College of Communication and the University of Middlesex. (As a comparison we also visited the ‘Salt and Silver’ exhibition at the Tate Britain.)

University of Hertfordshire

The huge modern buildings of this University belie a common trend I’ve noticed over the last few years. The slow dumbing down of all things photographic in favour of graphic design and art and design. This trend is most obvious in the allocation of space to show off the students work. Any of the ‘Art discipline’ students gallery space was easily three times bigger than that allocated to the photography students. The result was that the Herts photography exhibition across two rooms appeared cramped with many displays virtually on top of each other. This severely limited the size of the prints each photographer could show reducing the impact of some finely produced work.

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Herts Uni Photography exhibition space

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Herts Uni Art and Design exhibition space

The lighting in the photography gallery was also poor leaving the impression of a hurried pop up show instead of the proudly displayed crowning glory of three years work. Interestingly, several of the artists were around in the art and design area but not one photography graduate was present in the 30 minutes I spent in their exhibition. This was a shame as there were some very interesting pieces on show. A sample of some of the best work is displayed below.

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London College of Communication

This University offers two shows, Photo Journalism and Photography Art.

The journalism show appears to suffer again from the lack of space as all exhibits were in one poorly lit room. The themes were as expected, the same tired old staples such as, run down council estates, down and outs and portraits of everyday working people mixed with a liberal dose of internationalism.

The photography art show was over several rooms and included video as well as still displays. Perhaps as the show had only just opened and ‘bugs’ were still present in the set up, I found three displays in dark corridors or rooms not lit at all and one installation offering headphones which were not working. The exhibits were an ecliptic mix of dialogues covering such diverse topics as relationships, emotion and other aspects of the ‘Human condition’. The best of the show were where the subject of the human body was explored. One set photographed the nude in the style of a Renaissance painter, another fused parts of the body into sculptures.

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University of Middlesex

This was a new University show to me as Herts and LCC I had visited previously. Expectations were high as the feedback I’d had from a friend at the University of Middlesex indicated it could be a good show. Disappointingly the private view was probably the worst one I’d seen. Take one huge room on the first floor of an old warehouse with little or no ventilation and cram it full of exhibits covering every art discipline you can.  It immediately reminded me of worst bits of the Paris Show. All the right elements were there, good photography, portfolios, even some well created books, it just was just far too crowded both in layout and the volume of people present leading to a hot stuffy and noisy show. The addition of a band topped off the party atmosphere making it difficult to really appreciate the work.

There were some good photography pieces among the same staples as before, i.e. run down housing estates, the homeless and the token nudes. The photography show though lacked structure, spread as it was over two long walls and spilling at times into the graphics display area.

The small area each photographer was allocated meant that a tough selection of only five or six prints to display called for hard choices. Reviewing their portfolios indicated that most had picked their best work to frame and hang on the wall but there were a few exceptions where the wrong set had been chosen. Unfortunately some of the work on display was very similar and whilst good, was devalued due to being too close to their neighbours similar looking images.

Some of the best images at the show are below.

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