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  • Rosie McCann

'I'll Be Your Mirror': A Review

Rating: ****

The ‘I’ll be your mirror’ exhibition took place on the 28th of June. It was set in Leith’s industrial and open plan warehouse venue, The Biscuit Factory, which was previously the home to Crawfords biscuits and built back in 1947. Taking place as the sun set, the top-floor exhibition space was filled with bright, natural evening light, casting a yellow glow which mimicked the lighting in some of the photos on display.

If you’ve ever visited The Biscuit Factory, you’ll know that there are a lot of windows, and despite there being a lot of open floor space, this isn’t as true to the walls. On the right-hand wall, two large plaques introduced the exhibition and its aims, as well as a short biography of each of the Edinburgh-based photographers, with a brief description of their work. Across the room, the photos taken and curated separately by all four artists spanned two adjoining walls. The works were displayed in succession, split up naturally by the venue’s steel ceiling-to-floor beams or by the ends of the walls. Each artist was highlighted individually, with their own space dedicated to their selection of photos. However, thanks to the physical togetherness of how the work was displayed as a whole, there were still smooth transitions between each project. This brought the artists together as a community, a feeling which echoed off the walls and into the room.

The exhibition explored the importance of relationships between the photographer and the subject when expressing and depicting identity through photography. It also proposed that photography can be a way of knowing both others and ourselves, a nod to the exhibition’s title. ‘I’ll be your mirror’ emphasised that the photographer must recognise and understand their subjects in order to portray them sincerely. The aim was to provide an opportunity for the new generation of Edinburgh-based photographers to exhibit their work in what was one of the first independent photography exhibitions in the city of this kind.

Self-portraits, warmly lit interiors, and images of diary entries made up Hannah Dove’s ‘Home Body’ series. Along from them, Mert Kece’s energetic photos, documenting the street-performer Todd, were hung in a spiral around the same man’s portrait and evoked the rings of crowds which are pictured gathered around him in the streets. Nico Utuk’s three large-scale portraits from his ongoing project, ‘Blackness & Culture’, spanned the next wall and the material seen in the background of the portraits was hung up alongside them. To the left, a grid of portraits and other images by Meg Henderson depicting the Scottish music scene, cans of Tennent’s lie empty on the floor. In others, the subject played an instrument or stared directly into the camera.

Though each artist used distinct styles, the common theme of identity tied these separate photographic projects together. In all of the groups of images described, the viewer was welcomed into the intimacy of each photograph. Dove’s photos of diary entries were left open to read, the page already unfolded. In some of Kece’s photos of Todd, the angle and perspective of the shot left a space for the viewer to fill the gap in a circle of spectators. Both gave the viewer a more participatory role. The privacy of the setting in Utuk’s portraits was brought forward and out of the photo which created a closeness to the scene. Each of Henderson’s portraits revealed the subjects up-close, informally introducing us to the people pictured.

By the opening evening the tickets had sold out, a deserving success for one of the first independent exhibitions of this kind, and for everyone who had been a part of putting it together.

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