Thursday, 7 February 2008

an invitation to our first exhibition - 'marrakech' by ewa james: sat 1 - sat 15 march 2008

Here at the white gallery we're delighted to be hosting our first exhibition by local photographer, Ewa James.

‘Marrakech’ brings together a collection of fascinating images that portray this Moroccan city from a very individual point of view. Taken using old film stock and a plastic ‘toy’ camera, each photograph bristles with atmosphere, each picture seeming to tell a story: the old man sitting by the bread oven, the mule and cart being driven through the marketplace. Although these pictures are contemporary, the style and format – a halo of darkness around the edges, sepia tones, saturated colours – evoke a sense of the past. “I have noticed that the best photos are those taken before I get familiar with the environment”, says Ewa. “Before I fully integrate, stop seeing and start taking what surrounds me for granted.”

Originally from Poland, Ewa moved to Bollington after she got married and continued to work in advertising, although her real passion is photography. A confirmed technophobe, Ewa relies on instinct when it comes to taking photographs. “I am still ignorant about aperture, focus and shutter speed”, she says. “I shoot with intuition and I think my role in the process is to spot a subject, point at it and click.”

q) When did you first start to take photographs?

I have been interested in photography for some time. My husband was a professional photographer and would talk to me about light and techniques, but all I absorbed was the final product of his work rather than the technicality. I had my own ideas - I always wanted to capture contrast.

q) Have you always used a holga - what do you like about this type of so-called 'toy' camera?

Three years ago a friend of mine told me about Holgas and the ‘toy camera world’, where your attitude towards taking pictures is more important than the quality. The best part for me is the unknown and unexpected. This is where I see the advantage of film cameras over digital. I hardly ever use the viewfinder so I don’t really know how I capture the photo. I may not know for a long time, until the film is developed. And then there is a surprise, or disappointment, with what I imagined would be. It is also raw. I hardly ever enhance photos digitally – only if I have to remove dust or salvage a frame – and sometimes it’s great if they are over or under exposed too.

q) Tell us about your marrakech images.

There are a few reasons why I think ‘Marrakech’ is successful. Firstly, my attitude towards travel – I am not a touristy kind of person and everywhere we go we want to get a ‘feel’ and be a part of the place. I suppose that helps you ‘look down’ while others ‘look up’. I am lucky as my husband is exactly the same and we want the same things and travel together very well. Secondly, it is difficult to take pictures without being asked for a few Euros, so most (but not all) of my photos are taken ‘from the hip’ – that’s why there are so many unusual crops and angles. Also, by accident I packed lots of black and white film although Marrakech meant colour to me and I intended to use colour film only. So in a way I was forced to use black and white and now I don’t regret it. Lastly, the collection works I think because of one very simple thing - the light of Marrakech in winter.

q) Your photographs have a very particular point-of-view: they seem almost secretive or stolen - is this intentional?

There is little intention in my photography. Most pictures are spontaneous. Some of them may be intentional but I don’t have full influence on what comes out in the end. Or maybe the intention is to find something - that’s my role - and to give it a different look – the camera’s role.

q) You work in advertising and your photographs are very compelling - each one seems to tell a story. if just one of your marrakech series could be used to advertise a product, what would that be and why?

This is difficult. I am an advertising director not an advertising art director. I think maybe my photos could advertise the camera itself. What you can do with it. Forced to think about it maybe they would be best conveying an emotional message rather than a product-based one. The photograph of sheep being herded, ‘wool in motion’, could be for quality carpets…or the berber in blue could symbolise airline hospitality...perhaps the Volvo & Donkey could communicate a sense of reliability, something that doesn’t break down...

q) What else do you have up your sleeve?

I have built my own scarecrow and I take him everywhere with me. Not to landmarks, but to places you would least expect to meet him. I will publish the first pictures before the end of the year. I’d really like to show my ‘Arizona’ series in America (see ewa’s website for images) and I’m hoping we can go to South America soon too. I would also like to capture central Asia, for example, Uzbekistan, but I need to work on my husband to let me….

to see more of ewa's work visit her website at