'Pony Kids' by Perry Ogden was at Smithfield Square, Dublin, May, 1997
Review by Peter Smyth
My first reaction to this exhibition relates to its location, Smithfield is an old market area of Dublin and is used on the first Sunday of each month as a horse fair. The images in the exhibition are portraits of children who attend the fair. The works are displayed along each side of the street and around a small brick structure, in the centre of the market. The images are large photocopies of original prints and measure about 30"x40". They are mounted directly onto the walls and covered with a protective sheet of plastic.
This is a great example of taking art out of the gallery and making it accessible to a larger viewing public, a pity then that the work on show lacks energy and is a rather bland portrayal of a subject that is anything but bland.
I don't know much about Perry Ogden, except that he is a fashion photographer of some note, but there appears to be a lack of empathy between the photographer and the people in the photographs. This is partly caused by the use of a white background, which, isolates the subjects, and gives no information about the social environment in which they function. You could argue that as the photographs are hung in the place where they were made such information is superfluous. If the portraits themselves were stronger, more, dynamic, this argument might hold up but the truth is, they are not. A sense that the subjects are being used, rather than participating, comes across from the images. It is rather like photographing a species for classification instead of photographing human beings engaged in the pursuit of something they enjoy or in which they are interested. All in all, one gets the impression that this is the rich photographing the poor, not to illustrate, and help to change their circumstances, but to reinforce their own prejudices.