Strange And Familiar Photography At Barbican, Reviewed

Strange and Familiar, Barbican Art Gallery ★★★☆☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 23 months ago
Strange And Familiar Photography At Barbican, Reviewed Strange and Familiar, Barbican Art Gallery 3
Bruce Gilden's close-up portraits are frankly terrifying. © Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Two children roll a toy pushchair across a rain-slickened street next to a demolished building. A man sits alone on a bench in a park, while an armchair sits empty in a living room. All these photographs feel like they want to tell a story that's tantalisingly just out of reach.

It's a style used by British photographer Martin Parr to great effect, so it will come as no surprise that Parr himself has curated this exhibition — titled Strange and Familiar. Images ranging over the last 80 years by 23 different photographers capture daily life, whether it be burning barricades and soldiers in Northern Ireland or nannies with prams in the park.

Amateur football matches are full of passion, even if nobody else is watching. © Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Many of the portfolios feature stunning images. We particularly liked Sergio Larrain's almost-abstract works, and equally Axel Hutte's photographs of desolate London streets and housing estates. Hans van de Meer, meanwhile, has a lot of fun with amateur football matches; there may be few spectators present but there's drama and intensity in each shot. Now, we've become the spectators.

The difficulty with an artist like Parr curating a collection is that we often end up with several artists whose style is very similar to the curator's. That's clearly the case here; each portfolio may be great on its own but in this large exhibition it was a case of 'oh look, yet another selection of black and white photographs capturing daily life'. By the end it's no longer strange, and all too familiar.

Parr has curated a collection of photography that contains many highlights, but removing half the content would have produced a much tighter and more effective exhibition.

There are a lot of black and white photographs in this exhibition. Sergio Larrain's are one of the better portfolios. © Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers, Curated by Martin Parr is on at Barbican Art Gallery, Barbican Centre until 19 June. Tickets are £12 for adults, concessions available. Also on at Barbican is the blood spattered miniature paintings of Imran Qureshi. For more of Martin Parr head to Guildhall Art Gallery.

For more art see our most talked about and top 10 exhibitions for March.

Last Updated 16 March 2016