Photography | Donald Weber and Maciej Dakowicz

Interrogations series.

Leeds’ White Cloth gallery unveiled two new exhibitions last week; Maciej Dakowicz’s Cardiff After Dark and Donald Weber’s Interrogations present contrasting approaches to culture and humanity through award winning photographs.

4/5 Stars

Audiences visiting this pristine space are treated to works that lie somewhere between ‘Embarrassing Nightclub Photos’ and a David Attenborough wildlife documentary

The first room of the gallery plays host to the photographic works of Maciej Dakowicz, a Polish-born resident of Cardiff, who has spent five years documenting the carnage that is the city’s night life. Dakowicz provides an exposure of our binge-drinking generation in this stimulating visual art form. Audiences visiting this pristine space are treated to works that lie somewhere between ‘Embarrassing Nightclub Photos’ and a David Attenborough wildlife documentary, the animalistic carousers characterising the fine line between joyous excess and terrible shame. Captured here are the nights you don’t remember through a sober framework – an impartial eye that simultaneously evokes our sympathy and revulsion.

Each image displays all manner of emotions; the rage of the blood splattered, ripped shirt fighter as he stares past the camera at his prey, is set against the image of the two lovers who seek refuge from the chaos of the Subway wrapper-strewn streets, kissing under a leather jacket. Tragic, could be one word to describe the debauchery, though the collection certainly holds an element of amusement. One can revel in the joie de vivre of the inflatable-costumed Supermen and the tangoed hen-night bunnies whilst the police baton victim and the semi-conscious knicker flasher may lead to those ‘I’m never drinking again’ claims. Perhaps the joy of this exhibition lies in its invitation to mock these drunken fools, but then again perhaps it lies in its overt familiarity…Interrogations series.

The neighbouring display provides a complete cultural juxtaposition, a surprisingly moving collection of photographs depicting the interrogation of petty criminals in Ukraine. Whilst these are surely less relatable images, they possess a certain poignancy.

Canadian photojournalist Donald Weber spent four months in a Ukranian questioning room, documenting the drama within. Weber here deals delicately with issues of the utmost distress; the 70s floral wallpaper contrasts with the terror in the eyes of one condemned. The images hint at Sovietesque corruption and complicity, but the emotion in each is startling, reinforced by the knowledge that the individual’s story is true ( even that of one man who is held, petrified, at gun point.) Yet one can’t help but find aspects of aesthetic pleasure, like the spotlight on the figure reflecting shadows on the soft pastel backgrounds. It seems almost perverse that such heart-breaking scenes can result in such beautiful pictures for artistic admiration. Nevertheless, this exhibition will put your life into perspective and provides a profound and stunning antidote to that in the previous room.

The exhibitions run until April 30. 

Anna Beketov

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