Above a small coffee shop is one of Blackpool’s newest, and most informal, exhibition spaces. The relaxed, welcoming environment is perfect for this exhibition featuring portraits from Blackpool’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. “Inside Out” by Dawn Mander and Jill Reidy, explores attitudes effecting the community, and forms part of the celebrations of LGBT month.
The exhibition comprises of thirteen, 16”x20” colour prints, framed with cream mattes and narrow, plain dark wood frames. All the prints are in landscape format and are complimented by a lower ‘border’ comprising of fifty-eight 6”x4” colour prints.
All the photographs were taken on Blackpool Seafront on bright sunny days. The styles vary – but all come within the ‘Street photography” genre. It’s interesting to note that the images can’t be visually assigned to each photographer and, as they are unsigned, the photographers have symbolically handed authorship to the subjects and their own words.
These informal portraits have a ‘feel good’ air to them. They feature single people, couples and a family. They are sitting, talking, laughing, cuddling, and dancing. Nine of the images show faces whilst the remaining five images are close crops.
The punctum is not merely within the actual photographs, but is in each hung frame, as each also contains a quote by the subject, written on the mat in marker pen. Some quotes are about how they feel – and others about how they think mainstream society views them; some are bold uplifting statements, others are desperately sad.
One features a leaping person, head cropped out of the image, wearing bright pink jeans, red socks and sandals with the caption
“I can flawlessly recreate Beyoncé choreography…Can they? Exactly…” The crop is intentional; the gender is ambiguous – because it doesn’t matter! “Its not what defines us. Labels are for clothes, not people.” is boldly scrawled under a sunlit portrait of two women. “We are a rainbow family” is under an image of three stacked hands – two adult and one baby. On one of the wrists a rainbow friendship bracelet links the written sign to the visual sign.
Mirroring linguistic (written) and visual signs continues in the smaller prints. This “No Access” sign can be interpreted as how the LGBT community can feel excluded or unwanted from mainstream events or venues.
The exhibition also addresses the issues of isolation and rejection. One image is of two young girls, laughing as one applies make up in a mirror held by her friend. It’s a casual, happy image …until you read the quote. “Mum kicked me out. When I went back, on my bed was a towel, plate and cutlery. She thought it was catching.” Then the image takes on another level of meaning – the make up painting over her pain, the reflected smile is her ‘public face’, and the friend holding the mirror is her support, taking the place of her estranged mother.
Some are recognizably Blackpool reminding us it’s a community project. A close up of two hands holding a red rose, with Blackpool Tower, out of focus, in the background has a traditional romantic air. It symbolises the love of two people; gender undefined, the composition again reminding us what is important. A portrait of a lone girl on the cold and empty beachside promenade steps emphasizes the isolation the community sometimes feels. “Its hard. When I’m being chatted up by a guy at what point do I tell him about myself?”
The casual and, sometimes playful, selection of images combined with the bright weather and the homely and friendly exhibition environment strive to give the feeling of a happy, relaxed community. The curation of images to include single people, couples and families of all ages acts to dispel the “otherness” inflicted on these people by sections of mainstream society and media.
This is an exhibition about contemporary Blackpool life that’s not to be missed.