Reflection: Iraq exhibition

Posted on by Ben Hodson

British people have ideas, pre-conceptions and stereotypes about what people are like in Iraq and the Middle East.  Equally people who live in these areas have ideas, pre-conceptions and stereotypes about what British people are like. I aimed to show some common humanity and the beauty and dignity to be found in every culture and society. There are three collections of work I exhibited in Iraq; Firstly, a project called Lutopia, which is reproductions of large scale photomontages, depicting everyday scenes from Luton in the UK.  Secondly, the portraits of everyday people living in the town.  Thirdly, there are prints showing some of the exhibitions and events in the UK, that showcased work by Kurdish and Arab artists and photographers.  The project attempts to challenge sensationalist or traditional art responses to war and war zones. I tried to address the cross cultural notion of the “other” or foreigner by showing common humanity.

Previous Work: How are we now?

Posted on by Ben Hodson

How are we now? 

Documenting the life and moments of Britons in a changing culture. 

Britain is changing rapidly, almost daily.  These social and cultural shifts, although momentary, deserve to be documented.  I have incorporated a number of different styles, techniques and formats to create a number of cultural insights.  I have used photo-essays, street photography and constructed portraits to invite you to see Britain through my eyes. With a camera I believe, that I can see what appears invisible in the everyday and appreciate the potential of a subject that looks ordinary. 

As the project name suggests, my initial research and influence came from the exhibition 'How we are now' the first major exhibition of photography ever to be held at Tate Britain.  This propelled me to read a number of essays dealing with the subjects of national identity, cultural diversity & integration, multiculturalism and British culture.  The work of Martin Parr helped refine my intentions.  I continued to draw inspiration from Henri Cartier-Bresson,  Ian Berry and Carl De Keyzer.  The impact these important photographers had on my work is clear, however, I have developed my own unique styles and have adapted techniques to enable this documentation of British culture.

I set out to discover the current British culture.  I wanted to address the notion of “British Identity” while avoiding stereotypes.  However, Instead of answers I found myself creating more questions.  The presented photographs represent some of these questions and they are therefore included in the titles.  My intention is that the images will suggest only in part some possible answers.  I hope that you the viewer will find yourself projecting further questions about British culture onto the work.  

As the culture is constantly changing I have found a comprehensive conclusion or definition impossible.  I will suggest that the current British culture is far from being well integrated and in reality is pluralistic and still divided by race, gender, faith, social class and ideology.  The Philosopher Isaiah Berlin once argued that, “...we have to accept that society is irredeemably plural”.  This project aims to embrace these differences and celebrate the diversity in Britain today.