Mr Monkey sees Ethos at the Manchester Photographic Gallery, 17th May
Mr Monkey scampered through the rainy streets of Manchester to visit the Manchester Photographic Gallery, a venue he'd never visited before. He was intent on seeing ethos - re-capturing photographgy's mystique, an exhibition of photography by 14 students from the MMU.
He pressed the intercom button at the entrance and found himself in a light and airy modern gallery, with exhibition space on three levels, that opened in August 2010. Concentrating on Mancunian subjects and photographers, the MPG is the only independent photographic gallery in the UK outside London.
The ground floor was devoted to striking photographs of iconic Mancunian buildings and people, leaving them for another day, Mr Monkey trotted upstairs in search of ethos.
Looking around the two floors of the exhibition, Mr Monkey noticed how varied the work produced and the techniques used by the 14 students were.
Born in a digital age, some of the students have turned to traditional analogue methods, using 35mm film and delevoping and printing their own pictures. Others have stayed digital, either using images as produced by the camera, or manipulating the image. One, Alice Dickinson, uses a neglected Polaroid camera to photograph neglected locations.
Subject matter in the exhibition includes landscapes from John Tyler's aerial photography to Hannah-Louise Radford's resolutely anti-picturesque scenes.
There are portraits, some poignant and some humourous, but all with a sense of a relationship between the photographer and subject. Mr Monkey was particularly impressed by the facial contortions of Chloé Fettes subjects and the dignity of Irene in Stephanie Parnell's pictures.
There are also some abstracts, and Mr Monkey was particularly captivated by Shaheda Begum's impressionist abstract Nostos (though he found it impossible to take a picture to prove it).
Mr Monkey liked the slightly sinister feel of Rosie Butcher's narrative triptych She Wandered Alone..., though he accepts that not everyone finds it even slightly eerie.
A number of the photographs had strong social messages about the strengths and vulnerablities of communities. These include Hannah Mitchell's Communities series, which features Catholic and Protestant murals from Belfast, and Alexander Marrs' works.
Alexander happened to be in the gallery when Mr Monkey visited, so Mr Monkey was delighted have a chance to photograph a phtotographer, and to have a chat about his work. Talking to Alexander, Mr Monkey realised that he had a strong sense of community pride and historical continuity and that his work was a commentary on the impact of current economic conditions and the government's 'Big Society' concept on communities he has lived in. For example, one picture shows Saddleworth library, down the road from Alexander's parents, closed by the council but re-opened by volunteers.
Mr Monkey came to ethos in search of interesting and mysterious pictures and found them. He wishes the students all the best for their futures. Mr Monkey will be returning to the MPG soon to check out the Manchester icons on the ground floor, and is looking forward to their next exhibition in June.