PH21 Gallery in Budapest, Hungary
Juror’s choice Distance No. 1 by Philippa Stannard is part of a series, of which two other photographs were also included in the exhibition. Each photograph presents the same line of four telephone booths in a tightly cropped composition, showing just the four booths and the dividing partition walls between them. The resulting striped images yield a powerful arrangement when several pieces of the series are installed in a vertical row on a gallery wall. The viewer is in the position of looking into all the booths, while the partition walls prevent those inside the booths from seeing one another. They all have their unique individual stories, but let us concentrate on the single image Distance No. 1. The monotonous rhythm of the stripes of the boots is upset by showing two public telephones on the right and two women on the left, almost covering the phones behind them. This imbalance is further intensified by the unusual connection between the two women. While they are immersed in their own activities, they are also touching the partition wall on its two sides but at the same height, almost as if touching each other’s hand. The intimacy of the moment, however, is visible to the outside observer only. While contemplating this unusual arrangement we may also realise that the person on the far left is talking on a mobile phone in the public phone booth. The image is rich in surprising subtle details, we just need to take the time to explore them.
We live much of our lives in familiar situations and surroundings, and that holds true for our natural, built as well as our social environment. We need to rely on the known and the recognizable to be able go about our daily routines. Some photographs help us in these everyday pursuits through depicting, portraying and documenting the world around us. Photography, however, may also surprise us by presenting that which is unusual, distracting or even disturbing. These images give us a pause as they demand a larger share of our attention and interpretive efforts. They might be unexpected for various reasons in terms of their content or composition; they all, however, originate in a creative photographic decision to present the world in a way that departs from the mundane ordinariness and familiarity of the default.