Image: Tom Stoddart
The utter magnificence of Stoddart’s photo- graphs is difficult to appreciate fully in rela- tion to the environment within which they are displayed. Filling two small rooms, the images are hung up with binder clips against white walls in a makeshift style. His journalistic recordings cover important historical events in places such as South Africa, New York, Sudan, India and China.
A particularly poignant set was his four- piece on 9/11. He captured the helplessness that the citizens of New York felt as they wit- nessed the fall of the Twin Towers. A sense of utter disbelief radiates from them as they stand and stare.
One photograph displays a group of people at a standstill on the other side of the river, ob-
serving the faint haze of dust blowing away from the city. Their inability to stop what is happening is emphasized by the sheer amount of distance between them and the event. Another photograph shows a man in the mid- dle of the street: complete stillness.
This aspect of collective experience is also explored in his set of images taken after the 2001 Indian earthquake that struck the region of Gujarat. The damage to infrastructure is challenged by the attitude of the people; in spite of everything, two women continue the delicate act of carrying pots on their heads through the rubble.
The documentation of Chinese gymnasts emulates this act of perseverance despite defeat. While being stretched to an extraordi-
nary degree, the expression on a young Chi- nese girl’s face seems almost inanimate. Inci- dentally, Stoddart’s collection was originally shown in an open air exhibition on the South Bank during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, serving as a timely reminder that “not everyone in the world can take part in such amazing sporting events because of circum- stances they find themselves in.” Stoddart presents us with some hard hitting historical coverage and the White Cloth gallery, with its location just outside the hubbub of the city centre, provides the viewers with a sanctuary which is well and truly removed from the events in the photographs.
Louise Jackson Rogers