facetoface - Face to Face

Face to Face is a new exhibition at the King’s Cross tunnel – a rather rare location indeed although it has been used on the odd occasion for arts and exhibition purposes. Face to Face follows on from an earlier photography exhibition in the locality called Games We Play and in fact uses some of the frames from that and other past exhibitions. The shift here however is as has just been mentioned, the use of the connecting tunnel from King’s Boulevard to the tube station. The main purpose of the exhibition is to highlight inequalities and racism around the world and its said to be something that charities and other organisations are not highlighting very well.

If one wants the background to that debate, this article from the Guardian last month, Charity images ‘not doing enough’ to humanise world’s poor, in which Ekow Eshun explains the problem better than I could have:

Some charity imagery or reportage photography depicts the developing world as this place, this other that’s inherently troubled, that’s disease-ridden or exotic in some form or another, he said. There’s an important emphasis sometimes on crisis and instability, but there’s also this sense that we see the people caught up in those issues, as a group, as a collective, rather than individuals with agency or autonomy. (Source: Guardian)

Face to Face’s focus is on life in Africa, South America, and south-east Asia and the artists chosen are those who tend to avoid a ‘parachuted-in’ feel for their work, and this is especially important in 2020 – the year of inequalities amplified by the coronavirus pandemic.

Photographers participating in the exhibition have spent sustained periods of time directly engaging with the communities they depict. The year 2020 itself has ‘starkly exposed the consequences of inequality, racism and authoritarianism… and people are questioning the way our societies are set up…In this time of flux, the Fund for Global Human Rights wants to show that we can all make a difference and create positive social change.’

The exhibition began on the 7th October 2020 and runs until 1st November 2020 and closes at 8pm each evening. It can be accessed via the escalators in King’s Boulevard or the subways from the King’s Cross tube’s northern ticket hall. There’s also a supplementary exhibition outdoors in nearby Pancras Square with a few more images from the artists.

Most of my photographs were taken on the opening day and those in Pancras Square the next day.

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Face to Face is clearly signed from the top of the King’s Boulevard escalators.

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The King’s Cross ‘psychedelic’ tunnel which is being used as the venue for the Face to Face exhibition.

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Kyle Weeks’ project engages with ‘contemporary ideas of a new Africa.’ In these photographs the young men of the Ovahimba people are given control of the camera’s shutter release thus they can choose how they wish to be portrayed.

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Some further examples of Weeks’ work can be seen in Pancras Square.

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Mahtab Hussain’s work depicts the people of Kashmir – part of a project in which he meets his family and envisages how he would have lived had he been born there rather than in Glasgow where his parents had emigrated.

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Another example of Hussain’s work on the peoples of Kashmir.

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Sabelo Mlangeni’s photography shows members of the queer community in Lagos. The house they live in is restricted in the eyes of the larger community – they can only live here and nowhere else.

The notion of a house here is not just bricks and mortar but a space that performs an essential service: advocating for inclusivity and offering a place of kinship for those who are not allowed to gather anywhere else.

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Further examples of Sabelo Mlangeni’s work can be seen in Pancras Square.

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This part of the exhibition is by Medina Dugger and is called Enshroud. It ‘reveals images created via digital collage featuring the veil primarily in an abstract sense’ and the photography work was undertaken in Nigeria.

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Some of Dugger’s digitally created imagery.

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More of Dugger’s very colourful digitally created imagery featuring Nigerian Muslim women.

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This photography from Namibia by Margaret Courtney-Clarke is called ‘Cry sadness into the coming rain’ which seeks to capture the ‘families in desperate, forgotten outposts searching for work forage and water; the remnants of former habitats alongside once productive land.’ The work features largely women in ‘a constantly drought-stricken land.’

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Some of Courtney-Clarkes evocative scenes set among the very dry and quite inhospitable landscape that is Namibia.

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Alejandro Cartagena’s work is quite unusual. It entails taking pictures from a bridge showing the various shared vehicles that are a common sight in Mexico. The work is called ‘Carpoolers.’

These images show how carpooling is practised by workers in Mexico, where suburbs are being built in distant locations with no proper public transportation to urban centres, causing greater commutes and increased petrol consumption.

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Cartagena’s work shows the quite cramped conditions these workers have to endure.

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Looking along the exhibition walls from Cartagena’s Carpool section.

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These dramatic pictures from George Osodi shows the effects of oil extraction in Nigeria. He says ‘when oil becomes a commodity, an incredible visual drama unfolds.’ The pictures show the people going about their lives in a ‘polluted and despoiled landscape.’ The work is entitled Oil Rich Niger Delta.

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More views of the despoiled environment in Nigeria as seen through Osodi’s camera.

I think my favourite choices are the Carpool and the Niger Delta pictures. But all of these scenes do in fact show the various conditions people have to endure around the world and there’s pause for thought as to how these different communities manage their everyday lives.

Face to Face runs until 1st November and more detail on the exhibition can be found at the Kings Cross Visitor Centre’s website.