by Byron Blakeley, Photographic Archivist
AA Photo Library
04 December 2013
Corridor, 37 Bedford Square
ninety is the first of a new series of exhibitions from the AA Photo Library showcasing the wealth of photographic talent archived in its collection. With images selected from the school work, school life and buildings categories, ninety crams in photographs from last 80 years of the AA all along the walls of 37 Bedford Square’s ground floor corridor.
The curation of this new exhibition began with the creation of the recently launched AA Photo Library website and the digitising of the collection that preceded it. My deep understanding of and familiarity with the collection is a result of having to systematically digitally clean each image before it could be uploaded. It was this early process, as I was looking through many old drawings and photographs, that I found the basis of the ninety exhibition.
Viewing Machine, Kate Derby, Diploma 11, 1996-97
The main bulk of image restoration was in the Schoolwork section, making old drawings as clear as possible, while almost creating something new or different from the original as some could only be restored to a certain point so it became important to make certain important elements stand out. It has been fascinating to look back at the work of current and former tutors from when they were still students, for example Diploma 11 tutor Shin Egashira whose project will be on show in the exhibition alongside work by Nigel Coates, Robin Evans and Tom Heneghan.
The school life images that I chose generally try to capture the past madness of the AA social scene, from students lounging on carpets in the Front Members room in the 1970s to the Foundation Fashion show in the 1990s. This decision may have been, in part, a longing for a return to the previous culture of life within the school but perhaps now by exhibiting the collection it might help make this a reality.
RAF Strafing Target
Image credit Toby Green
The photographs of buildings taken by the many photographers linked to the AA comprise the smallest section of the exhibition. The AA Life and Work take centre stage in order to give its history some resonance and uncover some lesser known images that form part of the Photo Library’s collection. The buildings and places comprise the bulk of the Photo Library’s collection, but the diversity of imagery ranges from RAF strafing targets to Frank Gehry’s Binoculars Building in L.A.
The initial idea was to create a coloured procession through the collection, which meant that a lot of images were needed to make this happen. The number I fixed on was ninety, leading to the decision to keep the layout of the exhibition and change the images every ninety days. The corridor wall space is small, so packing the images tightly together creates an initial impression of how rich our collection is and keeps the eyes busiest as you distractedly linger along the walls, forcing viewers to pause when moving through the space to closely inspect certain photographs.
I am hoping this exhibition will lead to a renewed interest in the photographic history of the AA and will inspire keen photographers to contribute to our collection. It also aims to keep alive the AA Camera Club, which began in 1893 and was re-launched in 2006 with an exhibition of student contributors.
Rodrigo Perez de Arce (centre) with students in Turkish Baths on a unit trip, 1980s
Along with the exhibition the Photo Library will also be launching a series of limited edition prints and new Christmas cards.
For more information:
ninety is exhibited in the corridor outside the AA Photo Library in 37 Bedford Square.
The private view will be held on Thursday, 5 December 2013
AA Photo Library
Valerie Bennett on Photographing the AA