BPF18 Trainee Curator Kate Kelsall on Jack Latham's exhibition at Colonnade House

Posted 7 November

Jack Latham at Colonnade House

BPF18 Artist in residence

Part social documentary, part conceptual art, Jack Latham's work shrugs categories. First and foremost he is a storyteller, testing the bounds of his medium and illuminating something of how all our tales are told in the process. His narratives tend to unfold in a twilight zone of the not-quite-knowable - the forgotten backwaters of recession-hit, Mid-West America (A Pink Flamingo) or the nooks of an Icelandic murder case (Sugar Paper Theories) - often between creases in time, gaps in memory or blind-spots in understanding.

When asked ‘why photography?’ Latham says it can “...grab the nuance and peculiarities of a story other mediums miss”. His images certainly catch at that which is less true, yet more real than ‘facts’… The unknown unknowns photography has a canny knack for articulating.

Intensive research followed with long periods absorbed in the world of his subjects lend Latham’s projects weight, grounding the workings of his deft imagination. As he puts it “once you have a path, you can stray”. Sugar Paper Theories, by way of example, is an exploration of the controversial 1970s Gudmundur and Geirfinnur case which saw six people confess to murders they had no recollection of commiting. Portraits of implicated people and places, archival images and text by forensic psychologist Gisli Gudjonnson are presented as clues - not to crack the case, but as testimony to ambiguities in how the events have been remembered, interpreted and narrated.

Working on film and in large format, Latham’s photographs have a disarmingly precise and still quality, elevating quotidian details to the consequential. The desk of a conspiracy theorist; one of the suspects, Erla Bolladóttir’s goldfish; and bleak, blank snowy landscapes invested with meaning as sites of evidence; are all threaded into the trail. Leaving the stitching that sews stories together exposed, photography and its long-troubled ties to verisimilitude are as much in the dock as anything else.

Selected as the BPF18 Artist in Residence, the project Latham exhibited at Colonnade House looks at youth culture in Worthing - a place whose population is frequently perceived as greying. His project considers what it means to come of age developing both an online and offline identity, with his subjects spending their spare time between the local skate park and digital space.

The deliberate slowing down entailed in his practise (working on a large format K.B Canham camera, means he makes just three portraits in a day) chimes particularly in this context. For the young tattooist’s apprentice, mormon missionary, and others featured in the series, the photographic experience would have been very novel: from the spectacle of the archaic camera, to not being able to instantly see the image produced. As such, though focused closer to home than many of Latham’s projects, the work is similarly preoccupied with the narrative currency of photography, this time turning the lens to the medium’s use for self-curation in a digital age. This is a space and experience Latham, having grown up pre-internet, admits to feeling irrelevant within and distant from. The beautiful portrait series, exhibited in Colonnade House, layered over similarly arresting images of Worthing’s urban landscape, represent a first foray into an issue which the photographer says he would like to explore and unpack further.

Jack Latham, Colonnade House, Worthing, 2-28 October, 2018

Kate Kelsall was a BPF18 trainee curator, she worked with the BPF team to realise the 2018 festival.

image: ©Jack Latham

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