Celebrating Image in film and photography

IMAGE, the new exhibition at Messums Wiltshire, at the 700 year old Tisbury tithe barn, from 15th September to 21st October, is the arts centre’s inaugural photography and film season.

The exhibition presents a diverse range of contemporary and historical photographers, who each investigate aspects of identity. Image looks at the way in which these photographers employ visual manipulation, (using composition, juxtaposition and post-production) to create finished photographs imbued with play, humour and surrealism.

The portraiture in the Long Gallery uses the mechanism of humour to comment on individuals and groups in the same way that stand-up comedy is able to reflect – and often criticise – current figures in the media. This half of the exhibition is largely historical and concerned with celebrity and fashion, hosting the work of international photographers including Peter Beard, Andy Warhol, Mick Rock, Norman Parkinson, Cecil Beaton and Martin Parr.

Celebrity photographer Mick Rock presents limited edition and signed archival prints of some of the iconic personalities of the 1970s. Highlights are Bowie in a Kansai Jumpsuit (1973) and Truman and Andy Warhol (1979, pictured). The concepts of cult celebrity status and stardom (ideas which were made manifest almost solely due to the power of photography) are also explored by Norwegian photographer Nancy Bundt, who was the official photographer for Prince’s Purple Rain tour in the mid 80s. She is exhibiting two monumental photographs of Prince, both printed on 2 x 1.33m aluminium sheets, one blue, the other red.

Other themes of the exhibition, in the Long Gallery, include works depicting the ‘private’ side of celebrity culture and images from American Neal Slavin’s book Britons.

In the 13th-century tithe barn, the exhibition features large-scale work of photographers living and working today, mostly women artists from London, including Polly Penrose, Maisie Cousins, Juno Calypso and a collaboration between Anna Fox and Alison Goldfrapp. These women have a strong and powerful presence on Instagram – using their profiles to disseminate their work and message.

This side of the exhibition was curated by using the search tool of creative social websites. Far from being trivial pursuits, social networks have become a means of showcasing the work of new artists, overriding the nepotism, elitism and institutional problems prevalent in the art world. Women photographers, for example, can show work in their own digital galleries.

Pictured: Anna Fox, 1999; Truman Capote and Andy Warhol