I’ve just been reading Pete Brook’s post Some thoughts on, and thanks to, Noorderlicht Photo Gallery following his experiences there with the highly successful show Cruel and Unusual which he co-curated with Hester Keijser which closes there on April 8. And successful isn’t in this case just marketing-speak. He writes:
Cruel and Unusual was extended by a week due to public demand. Visitor numbers have been substantial and the Dutch press went doolally over it. National radio, newspapers, magazine features the whole shebang.
As he makes clear, this show was not just important for showing some fine photography but mainly for the issues that it raised, and showing that photography can still have a substantial impact on how people think about social issues.
As grand an ambition it may sound, Hester and I hoped the show would be a warning shot across the bows of Europe: DONT REPEAT AMERICAS MISTAKES. DONT MASS INCARCERATE!
It’s a message that needs to be heard in other countries across Europe, and particularly in Britain, where our current government seems to have an obsession with aping failed US policies, in health and welfare, education, immigration and prisons. (Failed that is in providing solutions for social benefit, though highly successful in providing profits for the companies that increasingly run these services for – or rather against – us.)
But Noorderlicht has a great record in organising its festivals, inviting open submissions for its projects and tackling difficult or novel subjects. Reading Pete Brook’s post gives a real insight into the kind of place it is and why it works so well. It certainly made me feel that we need an organisation like Noorderlicht here.