WATER SALAD ON MONDAY E M Campbell
Water Salad on Monday was an on-site, immersive exhibition of cinematic black and white photographs that tenderly picked their way through the special natures of Elm Tree Farm, a working farm staffed by adults with learning disabilities and their carers. The show pasted and stapled vast monochrome images onto walls, hay bales and sheds around the farm itself.
Esther was in situ for a year here to witness births and deaths, mud and blood, connection and community while clicking her battered, analogue cameras. Pasting photos to the grungy surfaces of the farm itself the exhibition was a treasure trail of sensory pleasure beaming from the chicken-shed and barn, pinned up in the canteen, stored amongst the fruit and veg, photos sparkled everywhere - holding still life for a single moment while surrounded by their living, breathing muses in resplendent Autumn light.
Sometimes you only realise what's been lacking when it suddenly appears in your life. Most photographic shows display work in sterile surroundings cut off from context. Water Salad on Monday is different. Instead the pictures - a poignant mix of unguarded portraits, captured moments, still lives - are chanced upon in unexpected places around the farm on which they were taken. In an orchard, a pig sty, pinned to a straw bale, hidden in a barn, peeped at through a high window. The effect is resonant, lingering, many-layered. Rich, nuanced, context floods in through the ears and nose as well as the eyes. There's such a closeness to the photos. They're tender and acutely observed, building to a deeply-felt love letter to the land, to community, to care in its many forms, to the play of light, to soil and sun, to tiny moments that are there and gone. Mike White, Boneshaker.
Esther tells stories with single-frame images like no one else. But more than this, her work illustrates a deep connection between the artist, camera and subject, which gives her images a vitality and integrity. The work is direct and accessible, at the same time as being deeply personal, poetic and cinematic. Water Salad on Monday was a unique and immersive experience. To have to hunt for the images within the environment that inspired them lent the exhibition a joyful inclusivity while highlighting the importance of the relationships at the very heart of the farm. The weathering of images - plastered to shed walls, stapled to hay bails, framed by gateways and holes in doors - lent another layer, exploring their temporality as the elements degraded and weathered the images as time passed. Moreover, Esther's photographs capture moments like the best reportage photographers, bursting with character, emotion and heart. Adam Laity, cinematographer
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