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First Light Spotlight – Connecting new photography with writing

16 March 2021

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OPEN ROOMS #11: ON THE CORNERS OF ARGYLE AND GLENWOOD – PHOTOBOOK IN COLLABORATION

11 March 2021

Freelance Photographer in Residence Position

23 February 2021

Family Page

23 February 2021

About Alternative Lens

23 February 2021

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Introducing Energy House

23 February 2021

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Open Rooms #10: All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go

25 February 2021

The Course

12 February 2021

PLATFORM ISSUE 3: HOPE

12 February 2021

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OPEN CALL: THE STORY OF LIVERPOOL THROUGH ITS TREES

1 January - 30 April 2021

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OPEN CALL: HOMETOWNS

11 February - 31 March 2021

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WHAT WE DO IN LOCKDOWN

5 January 2021

HYPERTEXT: Books Beyond Bars – Felix McNulty in conversation with Sarah Jane Baker

28 November 2020

HYPERTEXT: Ruth White – The Role of the Photobook in Representing the British Working Classes

28 November 2020

HYPERTEXT: Yasmine Akim ‘Decolonise art schools & showcase the agency of marginalised people’

28 November 2020

HYPERTEXT: Jason Evans – Sound & Vision

28 November 2020

HYPERTEXT: ROOT-ed Zine – Our Experience of Navigating through Arts and Media as People of Colour

28 November 2020

HYPERTEXT: Present and Continuous Q&A with Liz Wewiora and the Many Hands Craft Collective

28 November 2020

HYPERTEXT: Rose Nordin of OOMK in conversation with Kerol Izwan of Musotrees

28 November 2020

HYPERTEXT: Jade Montserrat in conversation with Nikita Gill

28 November 2020

HYPERTEXT: Sam Hutchinson in conversation with Aram Sabbah of Skatepal

28 November 2020

Get Involved: The Story of Liverpool Through Its Trees

24 November 2020

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Home Turf: Fans, Foodbanks and Photography

17 December 2020

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Scottie Press: Digital Residency

7 December - 11 December 2020

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Tell It Like It Is: Ian Clegg and Laura Robertson in Conversation

20 November 2020

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VR: L— A City Through Its People

5 November - 7 March 2020

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Peer to Peer HK/UK — Lee Wing Ki: Night Walk (an excerpt)

16 November - 30 November 2020

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Peer to Peer: UK / HK

11 November 2020

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Watch: Liverpool Slavery Virtual Tour

27 October 2020

A Message From Open Eye Gallery: Covid-19 Update

2 November 2020

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VR — The New West

30 October 2020

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TO BE FRANK

30 October - 15 November 2020

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THE LIVES WE LEAD

28 October - 11 November 2020

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Love Is An Action: Black History Panel

29 October 2020

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VR — The Time We Call Our Own

3 September 2020

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Exhibition: L— A City Through Its People

5 November - 7 March 2021

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Harold Offeh — When Was The Time I Could Call My Own?

15 October 2020

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Mirjam Wirz — Sonidero City

8 October 2020

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Open Rooms #9 Access to Art: Who is art for? (w/ Mike Pinnington and Larry Achiampong)

13 October 2020

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PLATFORM ISSUE 2: THE NEW NORMAL

7 October 2020

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Atrium Exhibition: Illustrating Anthropology

12 November - 30 November 2020

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Laurence Westgaph: Liverpool Slavery Virtual Tour

27 October 2020

Exhibitions Open Source Exhibitions

DIGITAL WINDOW GALLERY: OPEN SOURCE #18 – KELEENNA ONYEAKA

1 October - 31 October 2020

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Tobias Zielony — Maskirovka

27 August 2020

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Save Some Space (The Time We Call Our Own Online #4)

20 August 2020

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Andrew Miksys — Disko (The Time We Call Our Own: Online #3)

6 August 2020

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Oliver Sieber: Imaginary Club (The Time We Call Our Own: Online #2)

30 July 2020

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Getting Ready: Amelia Lonsdale and Her Mum (#1)

23 July 2020

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DIGITAL WINDOW GALLERY: OPEN SOURCE #17 – SAMANTHA JAGGER

3 September - 30 September 2020

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you out tonight?

10 August 2020

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Käthe Buchler
Käthe Buchler

REVIEW: ‘BEYOND THE BATTLEFIELDS’ AT GROSVENOR GALLERY

A classically posed portrait of a young boy, smiling into the lens; he clutches an almost comically large white rabbit in his lap. This is the image chosen to advertise ‘Beyond the Battlefields’, an exhibition of images made by Käthe Buchler around the timeline of World War One.
At a glance, the image could very well be a school portrait or even a family snapshot, the careful preservation made by mothers and fathers dutifully carried out in an attempt to elongate the unknowing delight of youth. Upon closer inspection, the boy’s smile is made up of twisted teeth. A rabbit’s claw appears extended. Accompanying wall text placed at intervals throughout the show introduce the boy as ‘Collecting King Willy von Hinten, the most diligent collector of 1915’. The title was most likely given by Buchler. The rabbit, however, was in fact awarded by local German authorities in exchange for his metal scavenging abilities. The text presents an altogether more harrowing image of food, labour and material shortages – Willy’s portrait was taken only a year before the ‘Turnip Winter’; the young scavenger’s previously unclenched grip appears much closer.

Käthe Buchler’s depictions of German civilians in wartime are tender, composed, and do not appear entirely out of place next to her early autochromes of flower arrangements; these are images of stillness in a time of agitated uncertainty, where any degree of normality suddenly becomes poetic. Read in the context of a gallery, the photographs are heavily symbolic, common visual metaphors such white rabbits, collected shoes and oversized soldier’s uniforms repeat through frames. A group of children in costume as goats and sheep kneel as a large figure dressed as a wolf looms, pantomime-style, towards the edge of the frame. Buchler’s images dissolve the expected male-centric spiel covering the glory, and tragedy of war – the gallantry of Buchler’s narrative comes from the prevailing sense of humanity of the women and children left behind. Those who, malnourished and tired, continued raising families, took on gruelling jobs and maintained society as husbands and fathers were fighting a failing war. As much as rabbits, wolves and empty shoes become poetic emblems of innocence, hunger and violence, a strictly historic reading of the images still offers a touching reality of theatre performances and small trophies continuing to exist during an impoverished time – revealing perhaps a more tangible romance.

Insulated by her position as a partially deaf woman of considerable wealth and status in a very disciplined society, Buchler approaches the everyday civilian as something of an outsider, a woman who can command sitters to pose and has the obvious technical ability to capture a striking portrait. Despite this, Käthe Buchler was described as an amateur; a title weighted with negative connotations, of incapability and lack of professionalism, an assumption that Buchler was of no threat. It was this degree of translucency, which allowed her to carve out a creative agency, challenging the regimented and established hierarchy of the time and recognising others doing the same. While the expectation of men was to fight for their country, it was left to women to take up roles usually denied to them. Buchler began a series of portraits recognising women pushing the boundaries of stereotype entitled ‘Women in Men’s Jobs’. There are images of female conductresses standing side by side in sharp uniform, a ‘Carrier’ hunched double under the weight of her cargo, grinning. The various backdrops of ladders and ascending stairs in each photograph appear to be specifically chosen.

‘Beyond the Battlefields’ exists as an exhibition caught between document and sentiment, this sense of duality lies in the contrasting voices of historian, Melanie Tebbutt and visual artist, Jacqueline Butler. As co-curators of the show, Tebbutt and Butler manage to balance two very different disciplines, neither does the show feel cold and factual nor does it belittle difficult subjects with whimsy: downfalls very much possible if approached from a singular angle. The accessibility of the show does not have to rely on an audience’s ability to read the nuances of symbolism, nor does the viewer have to have a wide knowledge of the First World War. ‘Beyond the Battlefields’, which runs until 2nd March at Manchester’s Grosvenor Gallery, exists as a point of dialogue that actively confronts usual gender and generational boundaries with an authoritative level of quiet all too often forgotten. The exhibition shows the faces of survivors and the impact small gestures and moments of ingenuity have in an otherwise desolate and unsure time.

 

 

 

Review by Declan Connolly

 

Images ©Estate of Käthe Buchler – Museum für Photographie Braunschweig/Deposit Stadtarchive Braunschweig

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