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Concealing and revealing at Photo Oxford

An exploration into the relationship between photography’s capacity to conceal and reveal forms the basis of Photo Oxford 2017.

Curators Tim Clark and Greg Hobson are exploring this complex and often contradictory relationship through a stunning series of works.

The celebration of photography through exhibitions and related activities takes place at various collaborative venues in Oxford until September 24.

“The photographic medium is the perfect vehicle for an enquiry of this kind given its unique link to notions of perception and reality, truth and knowledge as well as photographers’ frequent use of the camera to lay bare what would otherwise remain unnoticed,” said Tim and Greg.

“Emphasis has been placed on works that bring to light stories, signs and memories that may remain hidden or obscured.”

Photo Oxford
Russian Criminal Tattoo Photographs, Sergei Vasiliev. Credit: ©Sergei Vasiliev/FUEL

Untold stories

Russian Criminal Tattoos: A Lexicon of Crime, is Sergei Vasiliev’s and Arkady Bronnikov’s record of the shadowy underworld of Russian prisoners’ tattoos.

Subjects were photographed between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s. Soviet police used the images to further understand the language of tattoos and to act as an aid in the identification and apprehension of criminals.

In Taking Off. Henry, My Neighbor, the Dutch artist Mariken Wessels speaks of a failed marriage, sexual frustration and voyeurism on the part of an individual who photographed his spouse and muse in various states of undress.

He amassed a collection of more than 5,500 photographs, which he catalogued, labelled, notated and cross-indexed. By doing so, he reset the boundaries of the personal and private.

Edgar Martins’ Siloquies and Soliloquies on Death, Life and Other Interludes offers a poignant study scrutinising, exposing and holding in tension many of the contradictions and problems inherent in the depiction on death, as well as on language and semiotics.

The artist deploys both documentary photography approaches and fiction. In turn, his series of photographs and text becomes a process of unveiling, rather than straightforward, factual accounts.

In his newly-commissioned body of work specifically for Oxford University Press and The Bodleian Libraries, Martin Parr documents the behind-the-scenes student antics and rituals, ceremonies, and age-old traditions that still hold significance today.

He also captures more routine activity such as tutorials, that for many outside these elite establishments, will remain a secret.

Parr casts a wry eye over the events, illuminating an everyday and extraordinary world of wealth and privilege without resorting to political statement or critique.

Martin Parr, The Ruskin School of Art Tutorial, 2016. From the series, Oxford. ©Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

Fascinating insights

Each series presented in Photo Oxford 2017 to one extent or another is revelatory, though at the same time, through their partial and newly negotiated narratives, are complicit in the creation of new secrets and histories.

Spectrum Photographic is a print partner for Photo Oxford.

“We have absolutely loved working with everyone involved in Photo Oxford 2017,” said co-owner Hazel Watts.

“The projects have been extremely interesting and given a fascinating insight into some previously hidden worlds.”

Spectrum Photographic produced the Open Call exhibition on Ilford Prestige Pearl mounted to 3mm white PVC and 4,000 C-type Lustre prints for the Mariken Wessels, Taking Off. Henry, My Neighbor, 2015 exhibition.

Photo Oxford
Mariken Wessels, Taking Off. Henry, My Neighbor, 2015

Photo Oxford

Photo Oxford 2017 is on at venues across the city from now until September 24. It includes work by exhibiting and open call artists.

For more information visit www.photooxford.org.

Main image: Matthew Finn, from the series Mother, 1987-present.

Copy editing by Sheena Campbell.