Art Review: Arab Spring @ Side Gallery
By Steven Alice Lee on May 21, 2012 in Art & Design
I remember watching the Egyptian revolution on my laptop, constantly streaming Al Jazeera as long as I was awake. For a while, it was get up switch my laptop on, turn on this live stream and watch. I practically switched to Egyptian time I would stay up every night until it died down then get up and repeat this process.
It actually caused me to sleep in for a shift for the place I was working at the time due to the fact I fell asleep at my laptop after staying up nights on end to watch it. I probably should point out that I started work at 10PM that night. I couldn’t take my eyes away from it; this was the televised fall of a government and possibly the most amazing things I have seen in years. I spent weeks after it going through news reports just to look at the photographs.
Recently the Middle East has been rife with uprisings and revolutions, starting with Tunisia, the swiftly moving to Egypt and Libya, and currently Syria. This exhibition focuses on Egypt and Libya, dedicating a full floor to each. The body of work comes from two photographers who were present at both revolutions, Guy Martin (who did the work in 35mm) and Ivor Prickett (working in 5×4) both of whom come across as highly skilled with the camera in terms of technical ability and being able to capture a moment that tells a story.
The photos from Egypt show a lot of the defining moments of the revolution, from the massive crowds at Tahrir Square and the religious unity between Christians and Muslims during the protest, to less seen moments like the improvised anti-looter checkpoints and medical care. This was a people’s revolution and the images show this. These are people, armed with willpower, life skills, rocks and/or Twitter, not much else, and they still managed to topple a government.
Just by looking you can tell that Libya was far more brutal than Egypt, but they also show scenes of calm, Rebel soldiers stopping for afternoon prayers, sitting around talking tactics and women chatting. But at the other end of the scale, you have the smoke trails from artillery fire, the tense few moments before the fight, to death and the mourning of it. The pictures show how bitter this was, the rebels lack of training and experience shows in the way they stand on hold their weapons, but their resolve also shows, you can see it in their eyes, they truly believe in what they are fighting for.
In short, this is a massively impressive by two highly skilled photographers’ exhibition, and I would highly recommend that you go if you have any interest in photography or world politics.
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