Shine Ur Eye
Robin Maddock Benedicte Kurzen Cristina De MiddelThu 21 May 2015 - Sat 27 Jun 2015
TJ Boulting is proud to present a photography group show with Cristina de Middel, Benedicte Kurzen and Robin Maddock; a collaboration which brings together and explores their recent work in Lagos, Nigeria.
TJ Boulting is proud to present a photography group show with Cristina de Middel, Benedicte Kurzen and Robin Maddock; a collaboration which brings together and explores their recent work in Lagos, Nigeria.

The three photographers, coming from different backgrounds, all found themselves in Nigeria for different reasons. Cristina de Middel is a former photojournalist who began working more artistically and conceptually with her first self-published and award-winning 2012 book The Afronauts. However she had never been to Africa until she was invited to the Lagos Photo Festival in 2013. Benedicte Kurzen is a photojournalist with the agency Noor who has lived in Nigeria for the past few years, covering stories in the news from Boko Haram to the recent presidential elections. Robin Maddock is a photographer who has published three acclaimed books and who moved to Nigeria in 2014 to be with his partner Benedicte Kurzen. He has since found himself living and working in a new environment far removed from his earlier colour documentary work in east London and Plymouth, and his most recent more playful artistic project shot in black and white on the streets of America.

In the main gallery they have collaborated to produce an exhibition that together forms an original photographic essay on Nigeria. The porosity between reality and fiction shapes Nigerian daily life: Playfulness, oral traditions, politics, the enormous power of the church fuelled by an irrepressible will to survive, are threads of a complex weave. Their different work interspersed makes new readings and associations, whilst masking the identity of each protagonist within a new rich narrative. De Middel’s series is entitled This Is What Hatred Did, and was inspired by the 1964 novel by Nigerian writer Amos Tutuola My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. The story follows a young boy who is separated from his family when his village is attacked by soldiers; he runs away and enters a magical forest inhabited by various curious beings and ghosts, the story chronicling this odyssey of 30 years. With the conviction that contemporary issues should be described in a way that includes the ancient traditions, perspectives, fears and hopes, the series aims to provide an illustrated contemporary version of this story by setting it in the floating village of Makoko, Lagos. Kurzen lives and works and breathes the stories concerning the country today, her work is to document and bring these stories to Western media. However living there she holds the country in a deeper understanding, and her personal work also expresses much of her insight into the functioning chaos of daily life, the dramatic events on the streets, with an affection and affiliation she has for the people. This show provides an opportunity to evaluate her body of work through the depth and beauty of these pictures as they stand, rather than in a news context. Robin has gradually found different ways to respond to being in Lagos with his camera. He began with Polaroid portraits on the street, often as double exposures, giving the ‘good’ print to the subject and keeping the smeared and smudged processing sheets. They were a playful and effective device at getting to know people and encounter the place. Recently he has taken more straight documentary images that offer his trademark ways of exploring curiosity, beauty or humour, with a sense of freshness and the unexplored.

In the darkened back gallery, Robin Maddock and Benedicte Kurzen also present a new project asides from their own work in the main room, with images from the Museum of Lagos archives, a treasure trove of semi-decayed and deteriorated slides and negatives. They are presented as found, with no interference from the photographers, save to present these ethnographic images of masks and other objects as significant insights into Nigerian cultural history and heritage, as well as fascinating photographic records in their own right.

Shine Ur Eye is a Nigerian expression meaning ‘to be vigilant’ and keep your wits about you. In looking around them the photographers seek to show an honest response that may or may not confound peoples’ expectations of what they know about the country. The exhibit highlights common threads in the documentary and fictional narratives as well as connecting four separate and distinct bodies of work, and brings together the three different photographers’ responses to living and working in a place which has offered them much in terms of inspiration and intrigue, infused with some magic and mystery and a typically Nigerian outlook on life.