At Clotworthy House, Antrim, 1994.
Review by Jim Maginn
Northern Ireland has provided material for many photographers. Often people with little or no knowledge of life here, and the issues that affect our daily routines, jet in, point the camera at the restless natives, and jet out again. In David Gepp's case the project this image is from was completed over a three year period from 1990 to 93.
David Gepp lives in Wales but his roots are in Northern Ireland. The fact that he was born, raised and educated here gives him an insight that most visiting photographers don't have. The ability to look in and know exactly what it is your looking at isn't always a good thing. After all photographing something new can be an easy way of learning about it, unfortunately in the case of Northern Ireland that is the exception to the rule and ignorance can lead to massive acts of misrepresentation. This image, and the rest of the work in the exhibition has benefited from his knowledge. The distance created by the Irish Sea has enabled him to look at life here as a spectator, yes, but it is a spectator who has a profound understanding of the rules and intricacies of the game. The knowledge he brings is evidenced by an intricate and revealing look at our culture. Note 'culture' and not 'cultures' for as the photographs in the exhibition show, there are more similarities than differences in our two traditions we are part of the same society and culture. That in spite of the question of allegiance, we share the same ground, the same air, we eat the same bread and drink the same water.
This image of a girl walking out of the frame, slightly soft from selective focusing and her movement against a desolate backdrop of an off licence and shops, has to be one of my personal favourites from the exhibition. Even a cynic like me was touched by the beauty of the girl and the ugliness of the barbed wire that sits along the top of the buildings, and the wind blown plastic bags that have come to rest in the tangle.
The fortified off-licence with its huge lump of granite and bollards, presumably defending it from ram raiders or car bombs, seems to belong in another time and place. The British post box and the snippets of Gaelic on the weather-beaten graffiti-covered wall serve to bring you back to Belfast.
The toss of her head as if to look backwards intersecting with the diagonal line created by the gutter guides the eye on a journey around the picture. The two walking figures coming from and going to the off licence lead you back across the barbed wire to the girl. In some ways this picture tells us more about our conflict and the way it has affected our lives in minute ways than all the war images of this place I've seen. Each time I look at this image I am drawn to those bits of plastic flapping in the wind like redundant forgotten emblems.
Gepp has lived in Wales since the early seventies and studied photography at Derby with John Blakemore. The exhibition was produced with the financial support of the Arts Council of Wales. David Gepp now lectures in photography at Hereford College of Art and continues his work on personal projects.
This photograph is from his major exhibition The Narrow Road to The Deep North/Auguries Of Innocence and will be at Clotworthy House Antrim until December 22nd I994.