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Seen UnSeen: 3rd edition

Due to the success of the Gallery's third year of participating in the UnSeen Amsterdam, Photography Fair & Festival, Amsterdam; we will be hosting our third edition of 'Seen UnSeen'.

This year we present new work by three of our photographers - two Gallery Vassie 'regulars', Matthew Murray & Jason Oddy, alongside an exciting new addition to the Gallery's 'established stable', Susannah Baker-Smith.

The criteria for the UnSeen fair is that all of the work exhibited must be new work. We are therefore delighted to present a fresh & excitingly curated exhibition of beautiful, significant & previously unseen photographs. This selection was warmly received during the fair in September. So, due to 'popular demand' & because we think that it's simply a great show, we are re-exhibiting it, here at the gallery.

Jason Oddy: Concrete Spring Jason

Oddy’s photographs examine the relationship between mankind and the built environment. In his new series, Concrete Spring, he explores the extensive but little-known Algerian work of celebrated Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012).

At the end of the 1960s, only a few years after Algeria’s hard won independence, the country’s socialist president, Houari Boumedienne, asked Niemeyer – then living as a communist exile in Paris – to help the country transform itself into a modern, outward looking nation.

Between 1969 and 1975 Niemeyer designed two enormously ambitious university campuses, as well as ‘la Coupole’, a standalone Olympic sports hall. Niemeyer considered the University of Mentouri in Constantine (1969-1972), ‘one of my best projects…. I was reluctant to create another university campus; rather, I wanted this one to reflect contemporary architectural practice’, whilst the University of Science and Technology Houari Boumedienne (1972-1974) is no less impressive. Located on the outskirts of Algiers, its scores of sometimes angular, sometimes curved buildings push concrete towards its sculptural, even poetic limits.

Last summer Oddy spent three weeks with his 5×4 field camera exploring this remarkable modernist legacy. His aim was to ask how these places which had been designed to forge and empower Algeria’s postcolonial generation might still be relevant today.

After four decades marked by political stagnation, crushed hopes, and a bloody fifteen-year civil war, the Algeria of 2014 seems a far cry from the one Niemeyer encountered. ‘The country’s conquest of freedom had brought about a wonderful transformation that I could sense in the euphoria and easy laughter of its people’, he wrote in his memoirs. Yet with the region in the throes of another great political upheaval, now would seem the moment to examine this architecture of liberation again.

Jason Oddy has exhibited widely, including, The USA, UK, France, Belgium, Tunisia & The Netherlands & has published internationally. His work is included in many permanent key collections, including: Elton John, Channel 4, Citibank, Michael Wilson Centre for Photography & The Wellcome Foundation.

Matthew Murray: 'Strippers'

Photography is about moments, and the Stripper project stems from a completely random moment.

“Standing in my friend’s flower shop on a normal looking high street, I looked out of the window and watched with curiosity as several bronzed men, wearing very little and with near perfect physiques, were perfecting suggestive dance routines in the adjacent back garden to the shop.”

“It was surreal, surprising, weird and unusual – the only things I’d ever seen in the backyards before were several mechanics having a crafty cigarette or pie as they worked from their commercial garages. After asking my friend what was going on, she explained with a wry smile that it was the UK Pleasure Boys, from Pleasure Ladies Nights, a group of strippers who had their headquarters next-door.”

“The Saturday girls at the florists would argue about who was taking the bins out, just for a closer glimpse of the UK Pleasure Boys rehearsing their erotic moves out the back. Overlooked by a pawnbrokers, charity shops and a chippy, it was amazing to discover that the UK Pleasure Boys are a successful national company, a mini-empire with strippers across the UK and Ireland.”

“Venturing into an empty nightclub in the centre of Birmingham, the atmosphere was muted and melancholy. The UK Pleasure boys were already warming up in the less than glamorous dressing rooms, waiting for the nightclub to fill up with man-hungry women (mostly hen parties). For those very intense two hours, their bodies would no longer be their own. They were handing themselves over to women who were quite literally up for anything.”

“Some of the newer strippers found it unnerving at first; others were well used to the circuit and accepted it as part of the job. Many loved the attention lavished on them and unashamedly gorged themselves on it. All were completely professional in their approach to the work, going to the gym to make sure they were in tip top shape and spending hours perfecting dance routines, all for that two hour performance in front of hundreds of screaming women. And while some of the more rookie strippers were testing the waters by working as topless barmen, others couldn’t wait to, ‘get ‘em off’.“

“I set my portable studio up a couple of hours before the hen parties arrived and began to shoot the portraits. Each stripper’s background was different to the next: one worked for Network Rail, one was a student, another had been stripping for 20 years. Others felt that with a body so beautiful it would be an injustice not to expose it to the world. One stripper compared his body to a work of art, such as the ‘Mona Lisa’. But all of them loved the hedonistic moment on stage when women screamed at them, “Get em off!””

“I was interested in why they’d chosen to strip and the views were almost always the same: extra cash, great fun, meet girls… enjoyment. But top of the list for all of them was to put on a great show for the punters. None of them were shy in front of the camera, but with the moving image pieces, it was ironic that some of them clearly looked uncomfortable at being asked to stand still and look into the lens without any performance. They were unnerved by it and fidgeted uncomfortably for the two minutes they were asked to stand.”

“While the moving image film showed the strippers bravado stripped bare and exposed a vulnerability in them, the voiceovers are chatty, cheeky and colloquial, explaining what, how and why.”

“But one thing was clear as I watched the women in the audience, screaming, clawing at them, begging them to expose more flesh and writhe in their faces: these were some of the bravest men I’d ever met!”

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

Susannah Baker-Smith

British artist Susannah Baker-Smith grew up in Wales and Amsterdam. She studied English Literature at Cambridge and went on to travel and work in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. She then studied at the Institute of Contemporary Photography (ICP) in New York.

Graduating in 2008 and immediately embarked upon a series of independent projects examining the idea of place, especially the way that our experience of the new is affected by our memories of the past. These projects took her to Syria, Rwanda, India and Sri Lanka.

Susannah’s work has been published in Photomonitor, AnOther magazine and Violet. All of these photographs are available for purchase.

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Later Event: 3 December
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