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28 October 2014
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Visual Arts

Image from Cracked Cities
Image from Cracked Cities

Cracked Cities

An engaging multimedia exhibition exploring the grungy side of urban life in cities across the world is touring galleries across the region. We spoke to Southampton based photographer Julian Konczak about the project.

Anyone who has lived in a city will no doubt recognise some of the scenes captured in the Cracked Cities exhibition, and not just because Southampton is one of the many locations.   

audio Listen: How the project developed >
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There's a sense of familiarity to many of the images despite the diversity of the locations.  "The project grew initially out of some work that I did in Kathmandu", said photographer Julian Konczak.

"It's a very crumbling city, because it has recently suffered an earthquake.... and the society was breaking up as well. So it's a cracked city both physically and from the point of view of its city."

Julian Konczak
Julian Konczak

The project grew to include trips to New York, Tokyo and London, and despite the diverse locations the exhibition reveals an often unseen sense of place that seems common to most cities.

First impressions of the images expose the apparent ugliness of the subjects - long deserted and dilapidated warehouses, piles of filthy clothes, and rusting fences - but on closer look, the images do begin to reveal a tenderness, and an unexpected beauty that suggests compassion for the subject rather than distaste.        

audio Listen: The use of light is key >
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"Some people do have a problem with it in that it's making the deprived, the poor, the marginal - it's making it look beautiful", continued Julian. "Some people have commented on that saying they don't like it, they find it slightly offensive.

"Part of the idea was to ask questions about what they saw in the image and there is a deliberate ambiguity  - are you looking at something beautiful or something horrid and really asking [viewers] to question the process of photography and the way it edits material.

audio Listen: The most interesting element of the show >
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"One of the devices that I used all the time through the work was with the use of light. It's what aestheticises [the work] and makes the scenes look something different.

"I wasn't ever really looking for grungy night-time with puddles and this kind of stuff. It was almost a Mediterranean kind of happy vibe but in these deprived areas", said Julian.  

Cracked Cities online - visit the exhibition >
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The project was initially published online and still retains it's multimedia credentials in the gallery with the inclusion of simulated slide show. A soundtrack of various viewer responses to the images is played alongside the changing images.

audio Listen: Some people find it offensive... >
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"What it [the slide show] exposes is the way in which different people will read the same image - and to really read things into the image that may or may not be there - and the way our cultural baggage and prejudices influence the way we read the image.

It's just another way of unraveling what's there in the picture and questioning it. You may not agree with what they say - some of the comments that people make are fairly contentious... I'm just asking people to question the process of reading the image."

last updated: 29/06/06
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