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Seen UnSeen: 1st edition

Gallery Vassie participated in the UnSeen Photography Fair & Festival in September of this year. The criteria of the fair, was that none of the work exhibited should have been previously seen. We therefore worked hard to create a fresh & excitingly curated exhibition of beautiful, significant & previously unseen photographs.

Sank, Murray, Duffy and Parkinson, were our chosen Artists for UnSeen. This selection was very warmly received at the time, but it was only shown for a few days at the festival & so, 'due to popular demand' & simply because we feel that these are important and sensational bodies of work, we have decided to re-hang the show, with some additional gems at the gallery for the winter period. Also giving an opportunity to those who may have missed the UnSeen photo fair.

Michelle Sank

British photographer Michelle Sank’s was born in Cape Town, South Africa. She left there in 1978 and has been living in England since 1987. Her images reflect a preoccupation with the human condition and to this end can be viewed as social documentary.

Her work encompasses issues around social and cultural diversity.

“Michelle Sank’s practice is concerned with the notion of encountering, collecting and retelling. She is interested in creating sociological landscapes, interplays of human form and location. The imagery in The Submerged was produced within Mid-Wales in the hilly and coastal areas around Aberystwyth, a town existing at the end of a railway line. She was drawn towards a sense of grittiness within the geological and architectural fabric of the place, often mimicked in the dramatic landscapes and human performance within.’”— taken from ‘The Submerged’ book by Michelle Sank

The Submerged is Michelle Sank’s fifth book.

Sank has exhibited & published internationally, including The United Kingdom, The USA. Finland, Belgium, Germany, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Hong Kong & The Netherlands.

Matthew Murray

“Jack is twenty-years-old, I found him interesting because in a time where most young people his age are into social networking and popular culture, Jack is totally into the Ska scene. He immerses himself completely in this sub-culture, despite the fact that he gets quite a bit of stick from Nazi Skinheads about the way he looks and the fact that neither he or the other subjects share their same racist views.” — Matthew Murray interview with Dazed Digital, Dazed & Confused, 2012

Since achieving a Masters Degree with distinction, in Documentary Photography, British photographer, Matthew Murray (born in Birmingham, England, 1969) has managed to successfully combine commercial commissions with his own personal projects. In this presentation we showcase, his latest and striking personal work: SKA.

Murray images draw on his direct environment and what is around him, feeding on his everyday visual experiences.

Murray’s unpretentious treatment of his subjects, encourages the viewer to feel like a participant, rather than just an observer. We are invited to view the world through Murray’s unaffected and honest eyes, without judgement, cynicism or sarcasm, as Murray’s images are never mocking or condescending.

Ska, is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s, as a precursor to Rocksteady and Reggae music. In 1960 the first Ska record was cut and with the migration of many Jamaicans to the United Kingdom. Ska was picked up by many of the white working class kids that the Jamaicans moved next door to and by the late 1960s it became popular with the British Mod movement.

Then perhaps, somewhat ironically, later with the controversially racist Skinhead movement. However, the Skinhead roots weren’t originally political, but based solely on the sleek styling of the Mod culture of the 1960s and Jamaican Rude Boys, and their music. It was only later that the word Skinhead became synonymous with Neo-Nazism.

However, during this varied and influential spread of Ska music throughout British music and culture, over the past 60 years, a section of dedicated Ska followers stayed firmly true to its original roots. Not only in the tunes themselves, but also equally as important within the striking visual style, which has become key to the Ska movement.

These people photographed by Murray and that follow Ska music and regularly visit Ska clubs are not political, they just live for the music and quite simply love to dance.

Murray has exhibited internationally, including England, France, China & The Netherlands.

Brian Duffy

Known to friends and colleagues by his surname alone, Duffy was a rival and contemporary of David Bailey and Terence Donovan. This “terrible trio” as the British press had dubbed them, were the innovators of “documentary” fashion photography, a style which revolutionised fashion imagery and furthermore the fashion industry. 

The ‘Trio’ became far more famous than many of the models, with whom they worked, and were, for a while, even bigger than the glossy magazines that published their pictures. Receiving added notoriety when famed photographer Norman Parkinson named them the "Black Trinity". There was some merit in this label, as the cravat-wearing old guard felt threatened by these freewheeling young men in leather jackets, who took their models on to the streets and snapped them with newfangled, small 35mm cameras.

Beginning his career at Vogue Magazine, Duffy made his name in fashion and celebrity photography and went on to become one of only a few photographers to have shot two Pirelli calendars.

Few celebrities of the 1960s and 1970s escaped Duffy's lens, which created memorable and sometimes iconic images of sitters including, David Bowie, Jane Birkin, John Lennon, Blondie, Sir Michael Caine, Jean Shrimpton (The Shrimp), William Burroughs, Sidney Poitier, Terence Stamp and a naked Christine Keeler, whose scandalous affairs, famously almost brought down the British Government.

His work was dynamic and inventive, as can be seen in the memorable 1973 album cover he shot for David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane, but in 1979, disillusioned with the business, he took his transparencies and negatives into his studios garden and set them alight in a ceremonial finale to his career as a photographer, having felt that he had said all he could say in the medium. Thankfully, not all the negatives were destroyed and a selection of what was literally salvaged from the bonfire can be seen at here – and additional images can be seen by appointment at Gallery Vassie.

In 2009, his son Chris persuaded him to pick up his camera again and the story of Duffy’s early career and comeback is documented in a BBC documentary shown in January 2010 titled The Man Who Shot the 60s.

Commenting on the significance of his father’s work, Chris Duffy said: “One of the top three photographers on the scene in 60s and 70s London, Duffy’s work is essential in the development and understanding of the dynamic visual language that took hold at the time when London was the epicentre of cool. Known for his avant-garde eye, Duffy’s work transcends the time in which it was taken and continues to influence the visual styles of today.”

This display re-ignites the work of this creative visionary and although Duffy wasn’t concerned with his own fame, the legacy he leaves us is unquestionable and he will no doubt continue to inspire for generations to come.

Duffy died on 31st May 2010.

Norman Parkinson

“I like to make people look as good as they’d like to look, and with luck, a shade better.” — Norman Parkinson

Gallery Vassie is extremely proud to present this vintage selection of the work of the legendary British photographer Norman Parkinson. Whose career began in 1931 and went on to span a remarkable seven decades, bringing him worldwide recognition.

This exhibition is a lavish display of Parkinson’s long career as one of the great pioneers of fashion photography. He became famous for his iconic sense of style and glamour, his unexpected and unique approach, bringing a freshness, to the sometimes staid genres of fashion and portrait photography. Heralded as one of the true innovators in his field, he pushed the boundaries of the day by bringing the model out of the stuffy, rigid studio environment and into a more dynamic outdoor setting. He set the model against unusual and daring backdrops, such as the gritty working-class districts of London and he shot them only in natural light, pioneering ‘action realism’, a photographic style that persists today.

“All the girls had their knees bolted together” Parkinson said, recalling the work of fashionable photographers of the 30s like Cecil Beaton and Edward Steichen.

He worked for publications including, Vogue Magazine, Queen, Life, Town & Country and Harper’s Bazaar, and these images are shown here alongside a number of previously unseen images

Norman Parkinson was the predecessor of the likes of David Bailey and Brian Duffy, who both shunned his elegance for their own flavour of photography in the 1960s, but who owed much of their success to the trail that Parkinson had literally blazed before them. There is no question that he remains a seminal influence on subsequent generations of fashion photographers.

Many of his most celebrated images, such as, a satin-clad model (actually his stunning wife Wenda), in muted colour, reclining against a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost in 1950 and the happy young couple, with brief-cases in hand, on East River Drive running towards the camera with the New York skyline as their backdrop – can be seen here alongside images that have never before been exhibited.

Parkinson was famed for capturing many of the greatest icons of the 20th century as well as some of the world’s most beautiful women. Including Audrey Hepburn, Wenda Parkinson, Montgomery Clift, Ava Gardener, Lisa Fonssagrives (later Mrs Irving Penn), Vivien Leigh, Apollonia van Ravenstein, Raquel Welch, Jean Seberg, Iman & Jerry Hall.

This exhibition displays the legacy that he has left us, which is unquestionable and he will no doubt continue to inspire for generations to come.

“Photography is a collaborative process – like dance – and Norman Parkinson was like Fred Astaire.” — Iman

Norman Parkinson died on location in Malaysia in 1990.