Nige' Ollis

Photographer and Writer

Archive for ‘November, 2015’

Exposure

Exposure can be a fine line in modern media and in the wider art world. Underexposure; and your world remains conspicuously quiet like a church mouse with laryngitis. Overexposure; and the world’s your oyster … if I could just get the damned thing open! And an antihistamine for my seafood allergy. Or, failing that … a pram, some toys and a good throwing arm.

The Sublime Meets The Ridiculous

The highlight of my photography year was undoubtedly having an image curated for the Mobile Photo Now exhibition at the Columbus Museum of Art [CMA] in Ohio, USA. The exhibition itself proved to be critically well received and presented a significant step forward for the medium and appreciation of photography as an art form. The exhibition, co-curated by CMA and #JJ community on Instagram, featured 320 images from 240 photographers representing nearly 40 different countries.

Overexposed : The Tsunami Effect

Only this week I had another image prominently highlighted within the #JJ community.

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The image is one I took of my father for the project: The Anatomy Of A Stroke. It clearly made an impact in the daily #JJ community theme: Profiles. More than 4,000 images were submitted, with 188 selected by the army of community editors. Just 4 were then selected by Josh Johnson himself and posted under the main #JJ community hash-tag.

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In posting Josh added “What a powerful and gripping image Will [Gortoa, my IG pseudonym]. I’ll just leave it at that. Anything else I write feels ridiculous. Thank you so much for sharing this.”

 

As you might notice by the numbers at the top of that image, the #JJ community has 636,000 followers and for a few hours my church mouse stream went atomic-powered church organ! Well, all things are relative.

Within 24 hours – and an increase in my own followers of about 50 – things returned to … ruined church at the head of the dusty high street in a desert town with no name. Cue tumbleweed! But it was fun while it lasted: watching my notifications window spinning like a Vegas jackpot machine … the modern day social media phenomenon that quickly becomes yesterday’s news [or a quick whack with the Like icon and onto the next Warhol].

Underexposed : The Pram

I also recently entered an image for consideration in the Royal West of England Academy’s 163rd Annual Open Exhibition. As it openly boasts “…[it attracts] leading artists from throughout the UK, it is open to all, and often includes work by unknown exhibitors alongside well-known names.” The selection process is notoriously … robust. And photography invariably maintains quite a low profile in the final selection. I was absolutely delighted to have The Falling Leaf curated for the 160th exhibition in 2012.

This year I was determined to go with a street photography image. I was pleased to get it through the initial online selection process, before mounting, framing and crossing fingers for the final selection. The subsequent email duly arrived … Selected! I do believe I may’ve done a moderate dancing movement – for anyone who knows me, they’ll know that’s quite significant.

But then something really quite cruel happened. I was to discover another category that I didn’t even know existed …

 

 

Just a few days before the exhibition was due to open, I received another email from the RWA with revised wording: Artist Selected Not Hung. Essentially this meant that the final curation essentially lies at the hands of the hanging team. But all is not lost … because in three panels placed around the exhibition is your name – effectively hung and displayed for all to see. And quite possibly point and laugh.

Well, I laughed. But when I returned downstairs another artist had brought in a pram containing a large number of toys and began hurling them out in quite dramatic fashion.

Exposure. Whatever the outcome, I think you should probably keep your dignity and modesty covered.

 

 

 

 

Dreaming Of Escape

Birds are the epitome of the migratory species; nature’s natural refugees. They wait. They watch. They fly. They are … free.

 

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Dreaming Of Escape I

And then they left …
 

Dreaming Of Escape II

Dreaming Of Escape II

I wonder where the world might be without politics or, dare I even suggest, intolerance. I see petty squabbles in school playground politics daily. I see the same petty squabbles – with considerably wider consequences – in international politics; essentially these are just older people who you would hope should really know better. The Russians weren’t involved in bringing down an Australian passenger airliner… because they weren’t in Ukraine. And when a Russian airliner is brought down, their foreign minister’s first reaction to the UK stopping flights to Egypt ‘They’re only doing that because they don’t agree with what we’re doing in Syria…’ Barely a day later and Russia had stopped flights, too; but the most important thing, let’s get the petty international knee-jerk political response in first.

Rinse and repeat; until, one day, there’s nowhere left to fly. Unless you’re a bird.
 

Dreaming Of Escape III

Dreaming Of Escape III

The gates of Europe are creaking. This is the modern world; a mixture of tragedy, aspiration and access to social media. Immigration has become a broadly contentious issue in the European Union [EU] because its open borders policy toward freedom of movement and work opportunities generally only runs one way: in simple terms, east to west. And then the refugee crisis began in Syria. And following one notable, widely reported, tragic death of a little boy drowned in the Mediterranean igniting consciences throughout the EU [in Germany the people were quick to make Welcome banners] … tragedy and aspiration truly combined.

People are now arriving from Iraq, Iran, Eritrea, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other non-EU European states … the list is almost endless. And the vast majority are heading to … western Europe. And one of the most popular destinations is Sweden. Tragedy or aspiration is well-informed in the modern world. Any reasonably educated search of the Internet will tell you Sweden is an alleged utopia. In the past two weeks alone 18,000 migrants have arrived in Sweden. It’s unsustainable. [Update: Just a few hours after writing this Sweden introduced a ‘temporary’ border control in an attempt to stem the flow of migrants entering the country. Bearing in mind the numbers have increased exponentially, if the present number arriving were maintained at this level for a year it would equate to 5% of Sweden’s population!] 

The gates of Europe are creaking. Welcome to the modern, already overpopulated world. And now we have begun to migrate in unprecedented numbers.

 

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Also, since writing this, I heard another story in the week about a Syrian refugee. He had been interviewed on BBC Radio 5Live after arriving in Slovenia. In joyful broken English he told how he was heading for Germany ‘Angela Merkel is our [refugees] mother…’ he exclaimed. He repeated it joyously again. A few weeks later the 5Live team had tracked him down … in Sweden. He was disillusioned following his arrival in Germany. It hadn’t been as he’d expected; not understanding the language he moved on to the alternative utopia, Sweden. And, here again, he was disillusioned – provided with temporary accommodation in a village in the back of beyond and separated from his traveling companions and a family member who had arrived before. Somehow I sense this is only one story of what we likely become commonly held experiences.

The social media and its associated connectivity may’ve been alive with Leave and Come now messages back down the line. But the messages of lingering disillusionment and reality of migration will likely be very different. Migrants at The Jungle encampment in Calais wait to cross the channel “We will be given a house, a job, a car,” said one; seemingly oblivious to the fact that even Londoners are finding it increasingly difficult to live in London; and presumably equally oblivious to the 7,500 homeless living on its streets in 2014/15.

“Everyone deserves a better life.” With this level of migration, the likely reality promises to be something quite different.

Escaping Darkness : There Is A Light That Can Never Go Out

I grew up through my formative years in the 70’s and 80’s. A time, here in Britain, when terrorism was marked by the IRA; aside from the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, it was the IRA that brought the reality to the mainland.

Escaping Darkness : There Is A Light That Must Never Go Out

Escaping Darkness : There Is A Light That Must Never Go Out

Their terrorism was, for the most part, marked by disruption and token destruction; bombs were planted, warning telephone calls were made and, relatively speaking, few lives were lost. And no terrorist would either allow themselves to be killed, or intentionally blow themselves up. So, as sometimes tragic and disconcerting as those times – and certainly some significant events – were, the vulnerability felt by the wider public was arguably less terrified and more an uncertain vulnerability.

But terrorism now – in Europe – is something entirely different. When you’re faced with people prepared to die for their perception of the greater cause; people who hold such a twisted sense of mortality that after sadistically murdering numerous innocent people in cold blood will then send themselves to paradise; there is much to be terrified about. And coupled with the 24 hour news and social media; martyrdom, infamy and terror is complete.

However, I want to close by referring to a comment apparently posted on social media last night, from someone caught in the middle of the carnage. They said they’d seen the worst of humanity last night … and the best. Invited in from off the streets by strangers. Terrified but supportive of one another and resolute.

This is the light that must never go out.