New Artists are bringing the work of photographer Sean Smith to the eerie setting of a crypt in Kensal Green Cemetery for an exhibition entitled "Sean Smith: On the margins." The exhibit focuses on images of marginalised people such as junkies, prostitutes and children caught up in war zones. “I’m interested in people on the edge of society”, says Smith. "They are usually either unrepresented or misrepresented.” The exhibition opens on 24th May and runs until 26th June.
Sean Smith: On the margins
24 May - 26 June 2013
New Artists brings the work of photographer Sean Smith to the eerie setting of a crypt in Kensal Green Cemetery. Smith, who has become internationally recognised for his uncompromising images of conflict and war, as a photographer for the Guardian newspaper, where he has been on staff for twenty-five years, has a concurrent exhibition of his best-known images at the Imperial War Museum of the North.
New Artists has chosen to focus on the images that are much less familiar to the public, work made whilst on, but not necessarily relating to, an assignment. Whilst Smith’s images of war are harrowing in the extreme, these glimpses of marginalized people – junkies, prostitutes, children caught up in war zones – are almost as disturbing: it’s the documentation of a reality that we have been told about, but have never actually experienced at such close quarters.
We see a young boy injecting a woman with heroin in a squalid flat; a severely injured black man, lying unconscious on a road in Johannesburg, white policemen standing over him with truncheons; a youth caught up in the miner’s strike, his face bloodied, lying next to a police shield; a boy who can’t be more than 8 years old smoking a cigarette on a Beirut rubbish dump. These are juxtaposed with garish images from a slaughterhouse, to which Smith was given access, as he was himself a ‘gut man’ in an abattoir, prior to joining The Guardian, as well as images from backstage at Soho nightclubs and transsexuals in Istanbul. The photographs of both Southall youths and Palestinian boys brandishing guns confirm the horrid truth that children are so often caught up in lethal conflicts.
Ian Jeffrey, art historian and author of a series of illustrated books on the history of photography, says of Sean’s work: “They are very philosophical pictures, greatly taken up with the idea of making do with things as they are, as they have sometimes turned out. Events, though, are compelling, like it or not, and we - or our representatives featured in this set of pictures - have to make do with whatever comes our way.”
“I’m interested in people on the edge of society”, says Smith. "They are usually either unrepresented or misrepresented”. It seems to me that they often have more to say about themselves and the rest of us then the commentators we usually hear from".
This, the first commercial exhibition of Smith’s work, is being held in a new space created especially for the show by New Artists, the vaulted crypt of the Dissenters’ Chapel in Kensal Green Cemetery.
Catacomb Z, Kensal Green Cemetery
Ladbroke Grove, London, W10 4RA
24 May - 26 June, 10am – 8pm
Kensal Green, Ladbroke Grove