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This week the Norman Rea played host to Emily Garthwiate's "Afterlife", a spectacular photographic journey across India. Garthwaite, who studied at Central St Martins, carried the ashes of her grandmother, who was from India, in her backpack on this personal and spiritual journey.
Garthwaite is a talented photographer who has developed her photographic talents whilst travelling to India in 2013. Her travels have resulted in these raw and compassionate photographs which speak of human emotion and the beauty of such an extraordinary country.
The photographs which make up this wonderful exhibition are full of the vibrancy, colour and feeling. They communicate a range of emotions and show the wonders of human life through photographs of the most beautifully intimate experiences. Her landscapes are a celebration of an exquisite country and the way she captures the light is extraordinary, lighting up India's culture. A celebration of India and her family history, this exhibition is a spiritual and an emotional experience.
As described by the artist herself, what makes these images so special is that they are "snippets of memories". What makes them important is her recollection of the experience. "Sunset Meditation", a monkey meditating whilst bathed in a soft yellow hue is a beautiful image but talking to Garthwaite and realising that the monkey was facing a cliff face and the vibrant sunset, makes the image more intimate and fascinating. But my particular favourite was "Ghost". The way Garthwaite captured the light is stunning. A hooded figure sitting in the warm light of a light in dark contrast to the night is exquisite. As is the fact that you can see every fray of the wicker umbrella they are sitting under. The silence and calm are captured superbly.
Lily Grant and Francesca Rose Butcher, the curators, are also to be highly commended for their inspiring work on the exhibition. The ingenious decision to hang some of the images in mid-air made their impact more focused and really brought out the intensity of the images. This especially enhanced Garthwaite's honest portraiture and enabled the viewer, particularly in "Young Woman", to become absorbed in and delve deep into the eyes of the woman. This enhanced the intimacy of these images. A usual feature of the Norman Rea is to exhibit in the corridor outside but Grant avoided this, which would have broken up the personal intimacy suited to the use of just the gallery itself, keeping it together and holding onto the intensity of the experiences portrayed.
All in all both Garthwaite and Grant have produced a must see exhibit. Garthwiate's "photo journalism" is awe inspiring and is a very emotional experience to be a part of. The vibrancy and intensity is something that I cannot explain through words alone, you have to see the images. "Afterlife" is a truly wonderful exhibition and a journey that has been so brilliantly captured.