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Jim Naughten at the new HotShoe Gallery - Jane Hobson went along to the HotShoe Gallery in Saffron Hill, London to check out Jim Naughten’s new exhibition, entitled ‘Re-enactors’ and to have a nosey around a brand new gallery space.
Charles Taylor, Publisher and owner explains:
"HotShoe has done very well from a critical acclaim point of view but it needs to get to a broader market. So we thought that having the gallery was a way of, one, getting to that broader market, but then also giving the photographers that are featured in HotShoe a bigger marketplace themselves. A lot of photographers have wonderful projects which very rarely get seen and rarely get bought. Blending the gallery with the magazine means there will be opportunities for both."
A huge amount of thought, work and attention to detail has gone into this project. Talking with the Gallery Director, Daniel Campbell Blight, revealed just how much. The space was treated as a blank canvas, with walls being constructed, the floor being re-concreted, levelled and painted grey, and the shadow gap beneath the white walls being precision-made. There are three main spaces within the gallery, all created with a purpose, or multiple purposes, in mind.
The first space encountered on entering the gallery is the main gallery. From this leads off a smaller space, which is intended as a more intimate hanging space or an area for video projection.
Following the main gallery round to the left, the second gallery is entered. This gallery nestles within the editorial offices of the magazine, enabling interaction and creating a dynamic feel. A large table dominates the centre of the room which contains publications for sale – the magazine and books published by HotShoe. This table will also be used as a space to hold seminars, peer review sessions and workshops, the programme for which is under construction.
It certainly feels like exciting times at HotShoe. Miranda Gavin, deputy editor and online editor, is also planning to host a radio show, on a community radio station, called “Framing the Pixel” which will raise and examine issues in the industry, specific to the digital age. Four pilot shows of half an hour each are already planned and the aim is to extend this indefinitely. ePHOTOzine will be there to report on the first show so watch this space!
Jim Naughten’s exhibition, ‘Re-enactors’, was chosen for the gallery’s inaugural show as Daniel Campbell Blight, Gallery Director explains:
"Launching the gallery perfectly coincided with the monograph of Jim Naughten’s work that HotShoe were publishing. The (printed) work’s great and it’s a nice, introductory way of showing people the gallery for the first time."
The work itself is absolutely fascinating. Jim Naughten spent two and a half years on the project. It centres on people from all over the world who meet up, in a Kentish field, to re-enact battles from the First and Second World Wars in precise detail. He took two assistants and a portable studio, set up in a wedding marquee, to photograph over 5,000 people dressed as British soldiers, British sailors, Nazi Commandants, Hitler Youth – all the roles represented in WWII.
Jim Naughten has approached the project very much as fine art, rather than documentary, and he explains the reasoning behind this:
"I was quite clear from the beginning that I didn’t really want to talk to them about why they do it it because I didn’t want to make it a documentary. I was very much into model soldiers and tanks as a kid and I just thought they looked fantastic. I really wanted to photograph them and leave it at that. The less we know about them the better - if you know that one of them’s a cab driver from Dagenham, or wherever, it slightly spoils the mystery.
That creates a lot of conversations about who they are and why they choose their characters, especially the Nazis - that’s a bit of a hot potato. A lot of people want to know why they do it and what their motivations are so it creates a lot of very interesting arguments and conversations."
It certainly does! I overheard people discussing things as varied as the cold sore on the mouth of one German sailor to what on earth would possess a parent to dress their child up as a Hitler Youth and make them learn fluent German?
The body of work is so large that I thoroughly recommend not only going to the gallery to see the work (it really does look fabulous large and there is really nothing to beat the look of a beautifully produced print) but also getting your hands on a copy of the book. In addition, there are many more images in storage which HotShoe are happy to arrange a private viewing of by appointment.
The exhibition runs from the 9th of October until the 4th of December and is at the HotShoe Gallery, 29 – 31 Saffron Hill, Farringdon, London, EC1N 8SW.
Jane's interview with Jim Naughten can be seen on ePHOTOzine.tv.
Words and pictures by Jane Hobson.