Vanessa Winship: ‘And Time Folds’ review

Having seen Vanessa Winship’s work Georgia: Seeds carried by the wind at the Hereford Photo Festival in 2011, I had not prioritised this exhibition as one not to miss in my limited time in London.  I had wanted to see the Tacita Dean work at the Tate but it was no longer showing so I decided, at my tutor’s suggestion, to go to the Barbican which is one of my favourite exhibition spaces in London.

I was not interested in the Dorothea Lange work because I felt I knew it better than I knew Winship’s.  It was just as well that I had made that conscious decision before I went because there must have been thousands of images – far too many to take in in the time I had.

Curated by Alona Pardo, the Kinship exhibition has so much more depth and breadth than I had imagined.

Venue: Although the Barbican is my favourite exhibition space, I thought that the signage in this exhibition was lacking.  The person handing out the space map was not there when I started so I found myself at the end of the Lange exhibition.  When a steward saw that I was looking for something, I managed to get started.  I raced through the Lange exhibition just in case there was something that would grab me but I did not have enough time to look at the hundreds if not thousands of images.

On the top floor, I started at the place where I thought it started but I was wrong but carried on regardless.

There were 3 highlights for me:

  1. Top of the list is seeing her journal extracts with photographs in She dances on Jackson, which were not directly related to the writing, for example her email of 5th September 2011.  In the email she writes about her visit to her father and all the time is thinking about her forthcoming trip to the USA.  The image next to it is of a cityscape taken from inside a room, through the louvred window, as if she is inside but wanting to be outside.  That is what I read in it.
  2. And Time Folds (2014): this deals with her relationship with her very curious grand daughter and how she is experiencing the world.  Unlike the other images which were in black & white, these were in colour marking for me, a sea change in how she was seeing the world, possibly through the eyes of her grandchild exploring new worlds.
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I took these photos not realising I was not supposed to and before I was told not to.
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I took them because I was going to explore what was being conveyed here with a possibility of using the method with my own images of letters from prison.

The way the And Time Folds images were curated was totally different from the way the rest of the work was.  I liked the different sizes of images put together; the image of the child’s hand prints included marked a difference in the subject – Winship appears to take a new road in her expression.

3.  Finally, in Georgia: Seeds carried by the wind, Winship includes images in which she looks up at trees losing their leaves but holding on to their seeds.  I found these images inspiring because, in the middle of portraits,  she uses metonymy to deliver her message. In the introduction to the series she writes in her own poetic language: “This is the place where I buy from a kind of messenger the seeds of the imagination, wrapped in scraps of paper of old music manuscripts.  That is until the wind and the rain carries them away.” (Exhibition catalogue) .

What I have taken away with me about the work:

The portraits are very subtly done, & , in their simplicity, do not not take anything away from the subjects.  There is a gentleness about them all that makes you feel like you want to speak to them.  They seem to embody Winship’s advice to photographers not to rush their work, to take time over it and this, in my opinion, comes across in the images.

What I take away with me about me:

I tend to rush my work – I feel I can’t waste other people’s time, because I feel that their time is more precious than mine, that I have no right to take it.  This is possibly why I am never satisfied with my portraits and so avoid doing them.

I want to experiment with my BoW by putting the images in different relationships to one another.  I have tried overlapping them but they lose the aesthetic of the book which is part of the BoW.

The journals and related images are intriguing so I shall dig through my 4k images of prisons to see what else I can use to accompany my letters.

Notes:

A terrific exhibition with lots of constants but also some divergence in presentation.  The curation was chronological, as it had to be because of the series of works, but the most recent, unfinished series, had a joyous arrangement of images which made for a great finale but not placed at the linear end of the work.

Resouces:

Winship, V. 2018. And Time Folds. Mack Books.

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5 thoughts on “Vanessa Winship: ‘And Time Folds’ review

    1. The catalogue supports the calm, poetic and reflective side of Winship’s expression and I am very glad I got it. You can dip into it and think about the images created by the ted too. She comes across in the text as she comes across in the interviews – very calm – she does what she says = she takes her time when she is creating an image. If you like that angle, I think you will enjoy the book.

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  1. I saw this exhibition as part of the study visit a couple of weeks ago but to be honest, didn’t feel that we had enough time. I didn’t bother with the Lange exhibition either, partly becaus of the time but partly because I felt I had seen enough of that in Documentary. I have yet to reflect on my visit and will do at some point but I agree with you about your highlights. I felt that ‘As time unfolds’ was much more personal and softer, presumably reflecting her relationship with her granddaughter. I think it is the personal aspect about the journals that resonated with me too, just ordinary notes about what she’d been doing and emails to a friend. I didn’t buy the book. Wish I had done now!

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    1. The more I look at & think about the images, the more I think she is what I feel every documentary photographer needs to be: respectful of her subject, calmly lets the subject shine rather than the work being self-referential. It can’t be due to the curation because I look at the images as they are presented in the book. I agree with you about the extraordinary quality of the ordinary in he journals.

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