By Arachne

Today, three more small exhibitions from the 'Photo Oxford' Festival. The first was in a medieval barn that I didn't know nestled just behind the High Street. The owner, who runs several successful Oxford restaurants, has recently converted it into a small gallery and since he's also a trustee of the festival there's an outside chance it might remain as a place to see photographs. That would be excellent. The exhibition was Paddy Summerfield’s Voyage Around My Mother, a 'sequence of black and white photographs centred on his mother as her life closes down'. It was tenderly done, and the first time I've seen photos where I haven't cared that the sea horizon isn't horizontal.

Next OVADA (I used to work next door): 40 images, selected by a panel of experts and by public vote on Photocrowd from 1,055 entries submitted to an open competition by by 330 photographers. Interesting that the photos selected by the experts tended to have longer, 'arty' texts under them. And I really don't know what their fascination with women's faces being hidden (extra) is all about. On balance I preferred the Photocrowd selection. Just shows what I don't know.

Finally to the Jam Factory (I used to work upstairs): an exhibition of portraits of Afghan women talking about the role of 'beauty' in their lives. Most adopted the tedious cliché that beauty is about the soul or behaviour but one talked interestingly about how her own physical beauty means she can never be sure why people are approaching her or how honest they are being with her. I'd have liked more of that, which it seems is what the photographer, Elena Gallina, intended. She grew up in Kosovo in the aftermath of the genocide, has worked in refugee camps across the Middle East since she was 17, and has been researching violence against women for many years. The exhibition notes said that, 'her understanding of the complications of beauty and exploitation are deeply personal. Motivated by her own experience and those who have inspired her, her photography captures the double standards put upon women and elevates the nuances of their experience.' It's a shame it didn't.

But full credit to photographers who can do portraits. My best effort of the day was a gutter.

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