They used to call it ‘the industrial north’ and Ian Macdonald (b.1946) captures it in poetic moments that never sacrifice truth to effect. This celebration of an acclaimed photographer (whose film-based work is held in the V&A Museum) seems to evoke a forlorn past which - in truth is made up mostly of images from the last 40 years; something that might well account for the anti-establishment sentiment behind the Brexit vote.
No doubt it is because his images are monochrome and social (“People’s lives matter; that is my indulgence”) that Ian Macdonald is seen by many as a documentary photographer. Didn’t he capture the failing gasps of Middlesbrough’s industry; the marginalised communities living on the Tees Estuary, and an overview of secondary education from the lowly Comprehensive to Eton itself?
Well, it’s all there of course; but Ian trained as an artist and has always thought as an artist. ‘Remembrances’ is not just an overdue retrospective of a hugely important photographer.
The exhibition features Ian’s own, rarely seen drawings and specially-reproduced, out-sized photographs. It lays bear the dialogue between imagination and description – and opens the way for viewers to blend in their own “waking dreams or nightmares” and to create ‘remembrances’ of their own.
This Arts Council sponsored exhibition has been initiated by The Arts Charity at Dean Clough (ACDC) and is designed as a touring show. It is supported by a catalogue with an introduction by Magnum photographer Martin Parr. A full programme of supporting events include a talk on ‘Ironopolis’(by Bill Lawrence, ex-head of Film Programming at Bradford’s Media Museum and an erstwhile ‘smoggie’*); numerous educational workshops, and a screening of the original ‘Blade Runner’- whose cityscape was inspired by Middlesbrough - in the cavernous, damp surrounds of Dean Clough’s Jute Shed. ‘smoggie’- a denizen of Middlesbrough.