Last Tuesday evening I found myself struggling up a packed staircase to a busy selection of rooms at the top of L’Escargot, one of the most lavish and well known restaurants in Soho, to spy a selection of photos depicting eccentrics, transvestites and day-to-day scenes from this storied area of London. The event was the opening of A Time and a Place… For Everything, an exhibition which showcases three amateur photographers who have each, in their own way, been capturing Soho life for the last 40 plus years.
Robert Stallard’s photographs date from the 1970s and depict local Soho streets and daily life in the area, aiming to show its unique character attempting to survive development. This aim is just as relevant now as when the photographs were originally taken.
Strangeways shows a series of photos dating from 2013 onwards, the work focuses on the human condition and his graphic images are unflinching in the face of taboo providing a raw and voyeuristic look at the subjects.
Damien Frost’s photographs have a more measured and posed look to them. They are taken from his ‘A Photo a Day’ series, capturing a unique sitter in a portrait daily over the period of one year. The works in the exhibition show a range of characters on the fringes of mainstream society, appearing strong and dignified in their chosen environment, Soho.
The images from all three photographers appear completely at home on the walls of L’Escargot, which is a testament to their ability to capture the ‘spirit of Soho’, as well as to the curator’s clever selection. At first, I was not sure which photographs were included in the show and which were on permanent display. Combined with a buzzing crowd of people, cabaret-style entertainment, and a tailored array of cocktails, the event created what I thought to be an authentic Soho experience. I did wonder how well the photographs would fair in a less appropriate environment, however. I found some of Stallard’s images lacking in compositional interest and Strangeways relies very heavily on shock tactics, creating some photographs that lack depth in my opinion.
My final thoughts on the event and the exhibition are mainly positive, however. The space and the photographs work well together and the opening fizzed with Soho spirit, resulting in a very enjoyable evening.
Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, Gabriel Kenny-Ryder.