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Lacock Study Visit

Revisiting the Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock in Wiltshire last week, I was reminded of how much for granted we take the crisp, clear, defined photographic print. The earlier experiments by Fox Talbot and his contemporaries rendered pictures that were much less clear, and perhaps even difficult to identify today as ‘photographic images’. Never-the-less, when Fox Talbot’s ‘photogenic drawings’ and later photographs were announced, they were received as exacting, true analogies of the objects he studied.

Jo Whaley, Theatre of Insects, installation view

Fox Talbot was – amongst his many other pursuits – a keen naturalist, and the museum’s temporary exhibition gallery seemed like an apposite venue for Jo Whaley’s show, The Theatre of Insects. Whaley works around the genre of still life; here she uses insects and an array of backdrops to create a set or diorama within which she intends for narratives to play out. The work is seductive, and had a visual appeal that seemed to be fairly unanimous throughout the group, although the concepts perhaps got a little lost: a ‘tighter’, thematic hang might have helped things maybe? I thought Whaley’s work looked excellent propped up on angles in the glass cabinets. For once, these display cases really suited the work inside them, referencing the museum institution, the exoticism of the ‘exhibits’ (the insects), and amplifying a sense of peering into a strange, other world.
Jo Whaley, Theatre of Insects, installation viewJo Whaley, Theatre of Insects, installation view

Presented, for the most part, as larger than the actual size of the individual insects, Whaley’s prints demonstrate one of the simplest, often overlooked surreal properties of photography; that, through enlargement, and object can become, literally, larger-than-life. The work also seemed to emphasise the flatness of the photographic surface: The highly produced three-dimensional sets, so carefully constructed by Whaley, somehow aren’t really done justice by the photographic process.
A particularly welcome ‘first’ for me as a tutor was to meet other students from non-photographic, three-dimensional disciplines. I’m very pleased that Whaley’s exhibition attracted students enrolled on courses other than photography, and their contributions during the seminar after lunch where we looked at students’ work in progress, were particularly welcomed.

Thank you to all who came and contributed to what was I hope, a worthwhile and stimulating day, and thank you very much to all the students for whom this was their first OCA study visit, and for sharing your work. I hope you’ll be back!
Jo Whale’s monograph, The Theatre of Insects can be purchased here.

Posted by author: Jesse
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7 thoughts on “Lacock Study Visit

  • My thanks to Jesse for organising the day. It was interesting having students from other courses attending, especially their comments in the show and tell, having a different perspective provided much value. Can’t wait for the next one!

  • My thanks too, Jesse. Don’t stop organising stuff in the South West. Its a great opportunity for us. I agree that it was interesting to have students from other courses present and to see how much we had in common. The exhibition has changed my mindset re what I have called ‘dead life’ up to now. In that respect, Jo Whaley has succeeded in ‘animating the inanimate’ as I now have a healthy respect for the genre. The colours and combinations were inspiring.

  • Thank you from me as well Jesse. I will certainly be back. Jo Whaley’s images were beautiful, even if they didn’t do all she promised in her essay, and I found the seminar very useful, especially with two non-photographers in attendence.

  • My thanks for me as well to Jesse. Although a 240 mile round trip for me found the whole day to be excellent. Afraid Jo Whaley’s exibition did not do much for me, although several images I felt where excellent. I did not understand the concept of many of them. I would also like to thank all the other students as well, it was good to meet you all.

  • Lacock was my first OCA study visit and many thanks to the photography students for a warm welcome to a lone textile student. My experience of viewing the exhibition and our “show and tell” session demonstrated to me that OCA student regardless of media choice have more similarities than differences. We share a common language and experiences as students and have plenty to offer each other.
    With an increase in the range of courses being offered, the challenge to the OCA is to offer study visits which are chosen & designed to appeal to students across the disciplines.

  • Thank you Jesse for organising the Lacock study day. It was my first study day the “SHOW AND TELL” was most interesting and a great chance to share ideas and experiences.It was lovely to meet the photography students doing those studying art and textiles.
    Lacock is a great place to meet lets hope we can have another study day there soon.
    There are some interesting photographs at The Old Club Hse Chapel Hill Lacock the other end of the village
    Happy Christmas

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