‘Galleries help you to connect to yourself’: a photographer’s week with the National Art Pass
09.02.2024 - 18:29
/ Art Gallery
To me, a gallery or museum is a special place for self-reflection because everything is curated. It’s a safe space, somewhere to enjoy a moment of quiet and see how I’m moved by what I’m experiencing. You don’t need to necessarily understand or intellectualise what you’re seeing. A gallery can be used as a space to connect to yourself or notice your feelings about what’s happening in the world around you.
When I was growing up in Wigan, art wasn’t greatly accessible to those of us who lived there. Hopefully things have changed since, but there was a sense that art wasn’t for those of us in the north and yet I have always loved art galleries. It’s a similar experience to being in nature, the place where I feel most grounded and connected to myself. Galleries and museums have a sacred energy to them.
Taking in the Lee Miller: Dressed exhibition at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. Photographs: Alun Callender/The Guardian
I recently spent a week using the National Art Pass to visit galleries, museums and exhibitions around the UK and was reminded of how important these spaces are to my mental health. I spent hours at the Re/Sisters: A Lens on Gender and Ecology exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London – in rooms with no windows, it felt womb-like, a safe space to witness difficult things. All the works are by women or non-gender-conforming artists and show how the oppression of women is linked to the hurt and destruction of the planet. Since becoming a mother, these themes have been more transparent to me – I found it a real inspiration to see how women fight for and defend nature. I felt as if I gained a greater understanding of what’s happening around the world. My main takeaway was that our universal obligation is to connect, and create community.
Re/Sisters: A Lens on Gender and Ecology at the Barbican Centre. Photograph: Jemima Yong/Barbican Art Gallery
I find art spaces that celebrate women particularly exciting. The Lee Miller: Dressed exhibition at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, for example, is an intense experience in a dark space, depicting scenes from the second world war. I felt really emotional but the imagery itself was truly beautiful. One photograph depicting death was captured in the most beautiful way – you can feel the emotion and beauty and artistry in the image. It’s interesting to see a woman’s viewpoint of such harsh moments, and Miller’s work is never garish. There is such beauty to her sensitivity.
As a photographer who’s toured the world capturing shots of musicians as well as working on magazines and album covers, I love portraiture. For me it’s all about making my subject feel so comfortable that you’re not just shooting a persona or a particular state of being but
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