Often, the most powerful images exist outside of the mainstream. Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins at Barbican Art Gallery, London, brings together practitioners interested in those living on the outskirts of society. The exhibition reflects a broad and unorthodox view of the world that meaningfully resonates with the contemporary viewer, investigating notions of gender and sexuality, countercultures, subcultures and minorities of all kinds. As Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts at Barbican, notes: “The show could not be more timely or relevant, telling stories by photographers who all approach their subjects with a humanity and empathy that is both empowering and inclusive.”
The artists featured include Igor Palmin (b. 1933), whose image included above forms part of the series The Enchanted Wanderer (1977), a collection of compositions set against an apocalyptic, post-industrial landscape in Southern Russia. The little-known work portrays a nomadic figure traversing an alien terrain, creating a fictional narrative that engages with an alternative community. In a similar way, Alec Soth’s (b. 1969) contribution, Broken Manal (2006-2010), documents individuals who share the need to disappear in America. Unearthing places occupied by monks, survivalists, hermits and runaways, the series reveals ways in which people attempt to escape civilisation.
Another Kind of Life foregrounds how visual representation shapes discourse about alternative communities. As Alison continues: “The show demonstrates our desire to address issues that stretch beyond art and help us understand the world from new perspectives.” For example, a contribution from Chilean photographer Paz Errázuriz (b. 1944) connects to wider political dialogues by chronicling a community of transgender sex-workers in the 1980s. The group were regularly subjected to curfews, persecution and police brutality during the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, causing to work to become a powerful, collaborative act of resistance.
Another Kind of Life runs at Barbican, London, until 27 May. Find out more: www.barbican.org.uk.
1. Igor Palmin, Untitled XVI, Stavropol Krai, USSR, 1977, From the series, The Enchanted Wanderer, 1977. Courtesy of the artist © Igor Palmin