Monday, July 30, 2007

A fresh look at life

This past week, the church has played host to an unusual exhibition of documentary photographs, mounted by a young photographer Paul V Kelly who trained in Newport, and travelled on project work in Ghana, where his subjects included people living with AIDS and with Leprosy.

His work has been mounted during July in three venues around the area, two in Cardiff, one in Newport and one in Penarth. Our exhibition was enitled 'A dying disease'. It features pictures taken at Ghana's last leprosarium, outside the city of Accra. The title celebrates the fact that there is no longer any need for leprosy patients to be confined to colonies to limit contagion, because there is now a complete cure for the disease and can be caught early enough to control its spread and allow sufferers to be treated in their home communities. As a result, one by one the old leprosaria have closed down. The final one contains elderly people, among the last to be disabled by the disease when young, who have made their home there.

Paul's pictures consider ordinary and simple things - a man's room, a bench in a public space, faces of individuals resting or at work. The natural colours of this tropical environment bring extraordinary vigour to his subject. He has the gaze of a contemplative, and the few well chosen words of his titles and commentary invite deep reflection.

We've had a few interesting photo exhibitions over the past couple of years, from Christian Aid and USPG, promoting their work, and using some fine photographs, but this portfolio is different in that the images speak for themselves and allow the viewer to interpret them on their own terms. It's quite refreshing, not being told too insistently how to look at something, in order to see in a new way. Maybe that's more characteristic of art than religion, but in a way its a refreshingly spiritual approach to considering the world.

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