Saturday, 2nd May – Friday, 16 May
The opening night of Simon Edward Johns’ photography exhibition was one filled with the love of family, friends and strangers. If you weren’t there, there’s always the pictures – and this transcending of time, according to Simon, is one of the main qualities of photography.
As you walk through the door of the Glorious Gallery, you’ll see a simple frame holding a piece of paper, and on it, in Simon’s hand, is written: ‘Our very desire to identity with the ephemera of a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle reveals our underlying innocence.’ This is a phrase founded by Simon and his friend, and while the meaning of it may change depending on who is reading it, the essence it creates is much the same. It is the essence that Simon has perfectly captured in his photographs – one of hazy nights and fleeting moments that, somehow, seem perpetual, both when lived or when captured on film.
Step into the little cove of the gallery and you’ll find yourself before one of Simon’s larger photographs, angled in a way that makes you feel you’re standing on a stage, microphone in front of you. The blacks, whites and greys of the piece make an almost continuous line with the wall it hangs on, and the longer you stare, the more you fall into the picture – and the more you feel the dusky circles of light are waiting for you.
On the other side of the room and directly opposite hangs Simon’s portrait of a vocalist named Emily. Eyes cast down and a half-smile on her face, she holds the microphone before her lips, the same circles of light behind her. With a large flower in her hair, a silken top and thick, metallic ring, she is – according to one lovely gallery-goer – reminiscent of Janis Joplin. And just like that, with a grainy, rock ‘n’ roll black and white, Simon transports his audience from the top floor of the Glorious Art House to a late 60’s underground club.
On the left wall hangs another picture of Emily, again in black and white, her eyes this time closed, the contours of her face and strands of hair lit into a bright white. Look closer and you’ll see that incense ash has been strewn across the surface of the photograph – a wise accident, perhaps.
On the same wall is a picture of a young man, lashes as vivid as the smoke curling from his mouth. Arm raised and eyes down, he seems captured in mid-thought, with another half-smile. Further on and below the window is a photograph of another man, this one behind a candy-floss cart with two customers before him. The pair are facing each other, a cloud of pink in one’s hand and a torn, sugary piece sticking from his mouth. It’s night-time, and the bulbs from the cart dip all three in a deep-orange glow.
On the other side of the window is a close-up portrait showing a woman’s iconic profile. Gazing into the distance, her lips are parted, dark curls framing her soft features. Contrasting this is the hooded silhouette on the next wall, clouds above and a street lamp in one corner. Only the person’s torso has been caught, so you cannot tell if the figure is still or moving. Making it even more distinct is the fact that you cannot identify the figure. As someone who was admiring the picture pointed out, should the street lamp be removed, you curiously wouldn’t be sure the figure was human at all.
Next to this is the photograph of a girl, looking into the camera with the kind of striking eyes whose colour can’t be pinned down. Face in focus, she smiles gently, the empty cup of coffee in her hand suggesting she was just in the middle of doing something else. Maybe it was something beautifully every day, something otherwise unseen, now being relived again and again in this stunning exhibition by Simon Edward Johns.