Published May 9, 2023 : Exhibition Review by Justine Devenney

The fifteen photographers and artists, most of whom being PhotoHastings members, showcased their individual takes on the subject via a diverse range of photographic styles and themes.  A rich and eclectic range of work was brought to life through different creative responses that somehow all complemented each other.

From reflective moments on local seafronts and beaches, to the beauty that exists in decay, and vibrant closeups of everyday moments and stark social issues – the curation brought the work together successfully.

The centre piece of the exhibition was Gary Willis’s installation ‘Food for Thought’ which sold to a private buyer on the opening night and raised £250 in donations in support of Dom’s Food Mission. The work acknowledged that photography can both amuse and inspire – but can also provoke direct action. ‘Food for Thought’ featured the mouths of real people, facing hard times with food insecurity and food poverty. Displayed with facts and figures, the work raised awareness of food poverty in support of Hastings based Dom’s Food Mission. The installation was a dinner table set for eight with each placemat being a close-up of the mouth of someone fed by the mission.

Other works were similarly provocative reflecting the gritty reality of local life for example Paul Cock’s elderly couple and grizzly seagulls on the attack and Dan Percy’s close ups of pigeons. Whilst others were more playful and celebratory.  The humour and colour popping work of Rafe Eddington, John Hayward, and Dave Ware all captured the quirky character of life on the coast. While ‘Flares’ a work by Frank Francis, which showed of pair of brazenly unflattering orange trousers was a big hit with younger visitors, many of whom commented that ‘the orange bum was best in show’.

Alongside the joyful and the brash there were also quieter moments – life observed in small intimate moments – as seen in ‘Bench Life’ a work I particularly enjoyed by Chris Coombes. The work was made up of 36 individual shots of different people on the same bench on Hastings’ seafront, the bench used here as a perfect framing device with great precision.

Post Covid we find ourselves in reflective times so there were more melancholy works too – from Justine Devenney’s children on local beaches, Imogen Bloor’s use of diffused light through windows to Neale Willis’ ‘And that is how it goes’.

Many visitors were fascinated by the exquisite work by Agness Clark’s, ‘House of Decay’ showing the unique beauty that can be found in natural erosion and portrayed to great effect.

As an exhibition ‘Life Observed’ was successful in bringing together the provocative and humorous alongside the melancholy and contemplative. All of which of course reflect the reality of a life lived on the coast. Curated by Chris Combes, this was a collaborative venture which involved all fifteen artists sharing their knowledge and skills – and importantly enjoying the process.

Photopia are planning their next show at The Stade Hall ‘The More We See’ from 18 July 2023.

Article by Justine Devenney @justinedevenney
Images © Justine Devenney
Photopia Website | @photopia_exhibitions
PhotoHastings online Instagram Gallery – Gary Willis – Food for Thought

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