During a passive contemplation it all looked like polaroids: white framed, round frame, no frame, and assemblage. As if multitude of sameness were exercised to include differences.
As images of male persons, faces or torsos, they tell of identities. Until the eye gets entangled in the see- through the gossamer of deliberate double, treble exposures. Something more than likeness is transmitted, intangible but real: conversation of the sight with the lense.
To capture the likeness, identifying the image as a kind of a “portrait”, apparently matters to both the subject and the artist. It is not just view and click, stimulus and response, it is a continuous response. It is also a call not to succumb to the current pathology of cynicism that dismisses anything sincere as simplistic and to be rejected.
The exhibition is made up of four different formats:
Above are examples of two of them: Framed Polaroid 600 White Frame Photographs and Large Giclee Polaroid Prints on Hahnemuhle Paper.
The decidedly smaller scale of Lomography wall assemblage (below) somewhat flirts with the spontaneity of too much evidence, hoarding linear narrative into a vertical axes. In addition – the grid tolerates variables of viewer’s choice. Observation, viewing and looking converge, collide and jump over the thematic grouping. The lens registered both acuity of the vision and its opposites. It is like inscription on wax tablets in hot weather. A simile Plato applied to memory.
Black & White Polaroid Round Frame ( unframed)
These are the most acute, static, expected, straight images exhibited. They also support the perception that concerns about the form are indelibly concerns about meaning. The round black and white series deal with time differently from the previously mentioned sets of images, accentuating signs of the past, history, memory as stable. Frozen time.
Looking at each image includes expectations, questions, hunches or theories a viewer has in her/his mind. And all that structures and directs viewer’s attention and awareness, as if illustrating what E Gombrich called “beholder’ s share”.
As an image of identity it is not precise, yet, it successfully approximates identity. Deciding what is relevant and meaningful involves hiding what is not relevant. At times, what is vital is overlaid and hidden by what was irrelevant.
Fenning’s ingenuity lies in crafting questions about human nature and cognition, directed against the current obsessions of judging one gender as flawless and the other as eternally guilty.
Fenning’s friends are autonomous men, free spirits, confident to survive the hysteria which developed after numerous revelations of serious moral failures. They will survive and defend – not just themselves.
The layering of exposures enables the image to minimise the pathos of social constructs of masculinity. Instead, it succeeds in presenting men as alive and true individuals, not reducible to gender stereotype. Fenning – it appears to me- also hints at understated celebration of being.
Images courtesy Mark Francis Fenning.