The Corners

I first got to know Chris Dorley-Brown when I was curating a photography show for a now defunct organisation, London Arts Café in 2000. Cities of Walls, Cities of People included work by eight photographers, some of whom I had known for some time and worked with before and two I found when planning the show, including Chris. He was suggested to me by Mike Seaborne, also in the show and at the time Curator of the Historic Photographs Collection at the Museum of London. Dorley-Brown’s work in the show was a number of paired images of council estate tower blocks from a group of images ‘Revisits 1987-2001’ showing how these blocks had altered in that time period. The web page for the show has one of these pairs and my brief text on him and the work.

I was pleased to read a post on BJP Online by Diane Smyth, Chris Dorley-Brown’s singular vision of East End London, which looks at some of his more recent work which is being published by Hoxton Mini Press as The Corners.

As it says on the web site:

These hyperreal photographs of East London street corners are a unique documentation of an ever-changing landscape. Using multiple exposures, Chris Dorley-Brown plays out different narratives simultaneously, creating dream-like scenes that lie somewhere between fiction and reality.

Although I’m impressed by these images – and there are many more on the web (this link goes direct to his galleries rather than the front page of his site which my browser seems to have a problem with) not just from the East End but elsewhere, I find them rather disturbing.  Firstly there is something about the tonality that makes them seem to me more like paintings than photographs – truly as the blurb says they are hyperreal.

But it is the figures caught on the multiple exposures that worry me most,  and the whole idea behind these pictures. As he says in the BJP, “I don’t have a journalistic bone in my body” and it seems to me that this way of working subverts the whole idea of photographic truth which lies behind the realism that has always been central to my own work. Of course photography can be used in many different ways, and such methods are unquestionable in, for example advertising photography, but in the BJP article it states that his work is filed under ‘documentary’ which I find worrying.

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