Review: Leeds Through a Lens… Revisited @ Munro House
April 20, 2016
Found in the bustling Café 164 is an artistic microcosm of Leeds, past and present. The array of photographs that you, the viewer, are instantly surrounded by act as portholes into all that creates a city, from fleeting moments of human behavior to the solidity of century old architecture.
Managing Performance students Eleanor and Harry have taken Gallery at Munro House’s concept of Leeds through a Lens and presented their own version of Leeds in collaboration with the public. They have collected images and curated the space it seems to reflect the city’s diversity. An image of the grand structure of Leeds Kirkgate Market sits next a gaggle of Leeds’ women – mid gossip. A still image of empty escalators titled ‘Stationary Development’ shouts colour and industrialism beside an image of multiple shadows, reflections and a single man in movement captured in black and white.
I was immediately drawn to a wall of Instagram images collected over 6 months. They hung like celebratory bunting showcasing vignettes of the city and its faces. The use of twine and mini pegs to pin the polaroid images hark back to a cosy student room, echoing the youth of a new Instagram culture that has made a vast number of us regular ‘photographers’ of our own personal journeys.
A few sinister images reveal a darker mood to the city; silhouettes of children in a woodland fog captioned ‘on their way to school’, and a smashed window with cloth caught in its shards. The pulsing glow of the Tetley’s neon lights is a couple of steps away from an image of a man, head held in his hands bowing to Leeds Cathedral, labelled ‘Sinner’. Poetic captions below each photograph hint at a context or reason behind the photographers need to press the snapshot button in that moment.
The exhibition captures the spectrum of moods that a city has the ability to hold. It invites the viewer to look through a window that the photographer provides, to appreciate what is being highlighted – whether disturbing, poignant or humorous and to really see what the every day eye breezes past.
The gallery is a kind of geographical and anthropological mapping of Leeds, asking us to ponder what it is that makes a city – our city. Three 19th century portraits command the space with a caption ‘Because Leeds doesn’t exist without the people who built it’. To the right of this is a riot of movement from a Hare Krishna group singing in the street, captioned by Mike Pierce ‘how we act and what we bring to this city makes it what it is’. For those that saw Leeds Through a Lens in 2012, I wonder how the city has changed.
Stepping back from these images you allow yourself to zone back into the present, into your own journey and to rejoin the city… for cake and tea.
The exhibition is running until the 30th April. Find out more here.