The Photographers’ Gallery presents Vox Populi, London, a new commission by Fiona Tan. Following her work in Norway, Sydney, Tokyo and Switzerland, Tan has been invited by the Gallery to take part in its Soho Projects commissions and make London the focus of her fifth and final instalment in the series. Presented as an exhibition and an artist’s publication, Vox Populi, London sees Tan collecting photographs from a wide range of Londoners’ personal family albums to create a portrait of the city and its community. The book includes an essay by Brian Dillon and is co-published by The Photographers’ Gallery and Book Works.
Approximately ninety residents of the city were asked to provide the artist with their photo album collections. Individuals taking part in the project were chosen following careful research into the different communities in London and approached via a personal invitation. The final selection of images showcases the city’s diversity through its inclusion of various cultural, social and economic backgrounds. Tan’s thorough working methods and her engagement with physical photographic documents attests to her sustained interest in the documentary genre. The images, ranging from the celebratory to the mundane, are then scanned and assembled into a large-scale photographic wall installation and publication, each forming a unique visual document of London. By loaning their photographs, the contributors have given the artist, and by extension her audience, access to personal memories, experiences and intimate moments from everyday life. The work raises questions about our representation of self and each other and the changing meaning of photographs as they are transferred from the private to the public sphere.
The wall installation and publication stand as separate works and present viewers with two distinct outlooks and edits of the images collected. 265 photographs identical in size and frame style will be hung together to form the installation measuring 7.5 x 2.3 m. In its book form Vox Populi, London features over 100 images loosely arranged into three chapters – Portraits, Home and Nature. Recurring themes of experiences universally shared emerge in both pieces: from weddings and family gatherings; trips abroad; and days out in the park or the beach to house parties; the birth of a new child; and smiling friends and loved-ones. Choosing to work only with colour images, Tan uses the photographs’ changing chemical and technical processes to map out photography’s evolution over the last fifty years and further emphasise the different eras depicted.
Fiona Tan said: When I started the first Vox Populi I had strong memories of going through my own family’s photo albums as a child and feeling very attached to those images. Only when I began work on Vox Populi, Norway did I realise how timely it was to be looking through and working with private photo albums now. We are witnessing the end of an era. We have – surprisingly swiftly – moved on into the digital and so the way in which a photo album has been put together and functions, recording life and personal histories, is very much linked to a time in history which is now over.