Gareth Stevens previews an upcoming group show by four Hastings based photographers at Electro Studios Project Space.

Many local artists from across the range of creative endeavours have alchemically developed innovative new ideas and produced great work out of what has been a largely calamitous pandemic. Alexander Brattell, Lauris Morgan-Griffiths, John Cole and James Robertshaw are four such people.

The inception of 14 Months of Solitude – a wry yet deferential tip of the hat to Márquez – grew out of a phone conversation between John and Lauris in April 2020. Discussing how they were coping with lockdown, they hatched a plan to work together in order to both sustain their creative process and provide a balm for growing Covid induced anxieties. 

Lauris mentioned to John an exhibition she had contributed to at Solaris Gallery the year before in which a group of photographers had sent each other images as a way of communicating non-verbally. In receipt of an image each artist responded in some way without any discussion. This ‘pass the parcel’ approach appealed to John immediately and he said, “let’s do it!”.

After recruiting Alex and James, the quartet of photo-graphers, each hailing from different sub domains, and with varied career paths, began their visual dialogue. 

For John, a well-respected documentary photographer, lockdown meant he was unable to photograph Hastings’ fisher families or go into care homes to ply his trade. To dialogue only with images at a time when all of us were homebound and only able to walk for exercise and essentials, meant he had to explore unfamiliar territory and tentatively take shots without people in them. With support from his landscape painter partner Sally Cole, he began to ponder a more formal and abstract approach to his craft.

So how did the conversation go? What were the ground rules? Well, each photographer sent one image to the next in line and their job was to respond, sometimes building on the theme or formal aspects of the received image or, at times, taking the ‘conversation’ in a fresh direction. As John points out “I was encouraged by Lauris to understand our image dialogue as being exactly like a conver-sation in a pub. Sometimes it will remain around one issue
with each contributor giving their perspective – but at certain points the direction and focus will change”.

Alex tells me that one incidental upshot of the process was that he “began to look at the photographs of my peers in a much deeper and reflective way”.

The resulting exhibition consists of 40 photographs presented in one continuous strip around the space. None of the individual shots are attributed and, in that way, it is a true group show with the outcome being a collective effort.

“We recently met to lay them all out and see the result in its entirety for the first time and were surprised at how well they flow and modulate” says John.

“The individual images are a celebration of the ordinary and the everyday. I think we all doubled down on the exquisite small-scale stuff in our lives in an almost Proustian way during lockdown. The minutiae took on a grander significance, colours seemed more vivid and we all had time to savour a visual world that we may have overlooked when times were ‘normal’.”

There is a deep sense of humility and gratitude that permeates each photograph in this show, and indeed the overall symphonic image which the 40 contributions create.

‘14 Months of Solitude’ runs on the 6th and 7th November at Electro Studios Project Space. For more information please go to www.electrostudiosprojectspace.co.uk


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