Thursday, 31 May 2012

British Summer Time

This is the Press Release text I wrote for BST (British Summer Time), an upcoming group exhibition at Diemar/Noble Photography featuring works by Lisa Creagh, Marcus Doyle, Mischa Haller, Nikolai Ishchuk, George Rodger, Wolf Suschitzky, Chris Steele-Perkins and Manuel Vazquez.

© Chris Steele-Perkins, G.B. ENGLAND. Blackpool, 1982. Courtesy of Magnum Photos.

It is a testament to the unpredictability of the British Summer Time that it is less a statement of meteorological and seasonal fact, more an evocation of the quirky, complex and gloriously contradictory character of our little island. British Summer Time is both a climate and a state of mind.

Lisa Creagh’s floral imagery reminds us that summer is the season that the world opens out in its vibrant, extrovert glory and all but the most introverted among us have little choice but to follow the flora and blossom and bloom with colour; even if those colours are a painful shade of sunburned pinks on pale white haunches. The journalist Russell Baker wrote of the power of summer to make us suffer and like it – a very British sentiment captured by the defiant invasion of the seaside by territorial holidaymakers grudgingly acquiescing to the lure of the season in the work of Chris Steele-Perkins.

Mischa Haller also captures this peculiarly serious and hard-working approach to our leisure time in his portraits of dedicated swimmers and the determined queue of entrants for the Big Brother television show. A British summer is more transient than most so perhaps the brief interlude of sunshine is a bittersweet reminder to seize the day while we can.

Empowered by temperate respite we consider it almost a National duty to defy the dampening of our spirits. This is demonstrated in Wolf Suschitzky’s girl jumping over a puddle, reminiscent of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Place de L'Europ, Gare Saint Lazaree. Recast to an altogether darker and wetter London but retaining no less of the playful joy, Suschitzky fortunately captured his jumper by chance whilst focusing on the puddles as the rain dropped circles on their surface. Alongside this work, Magnum founder George Rodgers cheerful photographs of life in London during the wartime bombardment of The Blitz are even more compelling evidence of our defiance to eschew distraction and carry on regardless.

Indeed, the lazy leisure of summer itself is viewed by some Britons as a whimsical distraction and perhaps Manuel Vasquez’ workstation at the BBC World Service is the closest many will come to basking in the glow of sunnier climes. 

Summer invites celebration and in this summer of Olympic hosting and Royal Jubilee, we are aware that our rites and rituals are on global display. Amongst the bunting and ceremony planned for these very British festivities, Nikolai Ishchuck finds the most compelling imagery of our relationship with our Monarch in his banknote portrait. Both banal and reverent at the same time: it is a most fittingly contradictory tribute.  

© Marcus Doyle, Southend, 2009.

Finally, it is the elegiac beauty of Marcus Doyle’s long exposure seascape at Southend that shows us how perfectly the dark gloaming and the warm caress of sunshine can co-exist in one place, in one moment, in one season. 

This is the very essence of British Summer Time.

BST (British Summer Time) will be exhibited at Diemar/Noble Photography, 66/67 Wells Street, London W1T 3PY from 7 June - 11 August 2012.  For further information about the exhibition or this great gallery you should visit their website at

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