Seven large-scale photographic images dominate the top floor of The Photographers Gallery, making a bold impression by Noemie Goudal in her first solo London exhibition. All seven works on display in ‘Southern Light Stations’ are entirely new, previously unseen pieces created this year. As soon as you enter the Gallery you can’t help but notice the floor to ceiling observatory-style architectural structure which houses six glass stereoscopes. These cleverly display pairs of separate cloud images, creating a single three-dimensional image by depicting left-eye and right-eye views of the same scene. Clouds and the sky prove to be a recurring theme in Goudal’s work and indeed this exhibition as four of the large-scale photographic images show spherical objects (which could be the sun, moon, planets or other celestial bodies) floating above different landscapes including the sea, mountains, a desert/sand, and a beach/pebbly surface. After closer inspection you can also see ropes, scaffolding and other signs of construction around the spheres, alluding to the artists’ interest and research into early astronomy from antiquity, through to the Middle Ages and pre-Enlightenment. These spheres are accompanied by three photographic images of large-scale telescopic structures suspended above water; these ‘Towers’ are mythical, otherworldly and not dissimilar to some of the concrete structures that survive across Eastern Europe following the collapse of communism – and highlight Goudal’s desire to play with the real versus the imagined. The exhibition also plays with darkness and light as two of the spheres are very dark (perhaps referencing an eclipse) whilst the other two are incredibly light and almost merge into the clouds they are floating in. The fact that there is no interpretive information inside the exhibition space forces visitors to really look at the images, think about what they are viewing and question exactly what they may or may not be.
C/O Berlin’s current exhibition ‘Eyes Wide Open! 100 Years of Leica Photography’ uses Oskar Barnack’s Lilliputan camera (later the Leica) as a focal point to tease out changes, revolutions and innovations in photography from its invention in 1914 onwards. In our current selfie-obsessed digital age, it is amazing to think that there was once a time when cameras were static and producing images was slow, expensive and inaccessible to most people. However the Leica changed that, and this exhibition uses over 300 photographs, photobooks, magazines, original Leica cameras and film rolls to explore its impact. Taking a loosely chronological approach, the exhibition discuses Leica’s effect on reporting, ideology, propaganda, social and humanist issues, street photography, fashion and celebrity amongst other topics. The earlier black and white images are very evocative of their era and capture either the buzz surrounding new inventions such as airships, planes and cars or the horror of war, famine and civil unrest very powerfully. Moving into colour photography, there are stunning images on display, however I was struck by how little it added to its mono counterparts. This is not to say that things have become stagnant, and the exhibition excited me about what Leica and other photographic technology will develop next and the reverberations it will undoubtedly have. Countless iconic images are on display (including ones by Cartier-Bresson, Capa and Eisenstaedt to name a few), but a standout photograph for me was Alberto Korda’s portrait of Che Guevara which has been reproduced countless times across the globe – becoming such a familiar image, but one that up until this show I would not have been able to name the photographer responsible. This portrait is also displayed alongside negatives of the rest of the photographers’ film roll from that day, beautifully placing the moment this image was taken into greater context.