Small Town Inertia at the Side

A day off today, which I used to catch up with my old friend Simon, the photographer. Given our mutual interest in photography (his expert, mine… less so) we decided to check out the new exhibition at The Side Gallery, Small Town Inertia by J A Mortram.

Running till March – and free – it’s an incredibly powerful show. Mortram’s pictures show the brutalising effects of austerity on the disabled, the poor, the vulnerable – and, crucially, his subjects get to speak. Most of the photos are captioned with quotes by their subjects, which makes it feel like they have some agency in this: we are not just poverty tourists, peering at their misery. And it is, for the most part, misery, with both loneliness and the abuse and cruelty of strangers a common theme, especially for those who are mentally or physically disabled. They are often insightful and eloquent about their situations – one quote in particular stuck with me, from “David”, who compares the poor to chickens, pecking at the weakest in their midst, instead of uniting against the farmer who will be cutting off their heads.

It’s not an easy show – I found myself on the verge of tears a few times – but it is an important one.

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The Inner Eye at Side Gallery

Down on the Quayside for my weekly barre class – yes, I am still going – I decided to pop into Side Gallery and check out their new exhibition, The Inner Eye: Aspects of GDR Documentary Photography.

I have a longstanding fondness for Berlin, and a fascination for life in GDR, and the show didn’t disappoint. Three floors of stunning photos taken by the leading photographers of the time, most of which focus on the everyday life of the country, it’s a fascinating and enlightening exhibition, and definitely worth a visit.

The Side Gallery: About the North

Getting my culture on, I popped into The Side Gallery today to catch their exhibition About The North: Imagined Dialogues before it closed. I have long loved the Side. It’s free, holds interesting events that manage to be both locally focused and grounded without being parochial, and it’s small enough that you can take in a whole exhibition before your feet start to hurt.

About the North was a gorgeous show: a mix of photographers, some I had heard of but had no idea had ever set foot in the North East (Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bill Brandt), some known for their Northern-focused fare (Martin Parr) and some I was unfamiliar with. Much of the older photography was focused on poverty – indeed, some of it was from projects that had been commissioned specially to illustrate things like housing issues – but it was presented with a warmth and humanity that stopped me feeling like I was gawking.

The exhibition only runs till Sep 9: catch it if you can!