It isn’t often I get to see the launch of a new photographic exhibition. I either seem to be working, or have other family commitments, or it’s too far away, but yesterday evening was a real treat as it brought together two very excellent photographic forces in one space and time.
Niall McDiarmid’s Town to Town exhibition launched at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, and this was too good an opportunity to miss and I’m glad I didn’t.
First of all there’s the Foundation itself. There are highly regarded photographers who have achieved great success without necessarily putting anything back into the profession. Of course this isn’t a prerequisite of success, but it’s wonderful when someone of Martin Parr’s renown decides to set up a foundation and an exhibition space dedicated to photography which includes facilities for research, teaching and more importantly the patronage of photographers who don’t get the exposure they deserve.
All these principles are at the heart of what the Martin Parr Foundation is about, and this is such a rare thing in the world of photography that it can only be a force for good. That it’s in Bristol rather than the capital (Parr lives in Bristol and clearly loves the city) is an added bonus as London is already well-served with gallery space.
Town to Town is drawn from many years’ work by Niall, who has travelled the UK in search of the diversity and colour which makes up our society today. You can read more about the exhibition and Niall’s work here, but it’s clear from seeing this work that in an era when documentary photography often struggles for an outlet and recognition, it’s incredibly important that our society is documented.
We all live in our social bubbles, online and in real life, and seeing such colour and diversity reminds us that other people live lives which may be different to our own, but with many of the same hopes and dreams which we carry too.
If you do manage to get along to the exhibition (entry is free and it’s easy access from Bristol Temple Meads station) you’ll be rewarded with an astonishing array of characters all captured with Niall’s subtle eye for colour and detail. There’s a definite formula to his photos but the uniform approach, broken only occasionally, simply reinforces the fact (to me at least) that all our differences are what make us all so similar.
Oh and it was a delight to see Martin Parr there (he doesn’t know me, but I did a cross-the-room man greeting* and he responded in the universally accepted way**), and I also managed a quick word with Niall who is just such a humble being and deserves a great deal of recognition for his work. And before anyone says it, no he’s not the new Martin Parr; he is Niall McDiarmid.
*A mimed “alright?” with a nod and a smile. When walking around Frome, this is a common greeting between males who don’t know each other.
** A mimed “yup” or similar with corresponding nod and smile as above.