GIGSLUTZ RECOMMENDS: ‘Reality Is A Dirty Word’ by Ken Russell

Proud Galleries, Chelsea present the early photographic work of Ken Russell.

Ken Russell, considered one of Britain’s greatest filmmakers, cut his teeth as a young photographer, and as with all photographic depictions of life, truth evades capture. Instead, here we must settle for Russell’s visual personal opinion, one he infused with adventure and humour.

Children can be seen playing in bomb sites with no adult supervision, “their imaginations were unfettered” commented Russell. And while those young lads lived out their boys-own-adventures amid the blitz-rubble, elsewhere the adversity of post WWII life is on full horrid view. ‘Old Soldiers’ sees a line-up of war veterans, each wearing an advertising sandwich board. At first glance a rather comical scene, not unlike something out of an Ealing Comedy, but upon deeper thought, this is a rather tragic fate for the men who risked life and limb for their country. In another suitably dank and dark image, ‘The Big Outdoors’, a grimy toddler peers from a rather run down window, highlighting the abject poverty of the forgotten lower classes as society rebuilt itself.

Admittedly It’s not all doom and gloom. ‘Window’ displays a sense of a location based fashion shoot, a full six years before David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton headed to New York for Vogue. ‘Stop Thief’, ‘Troubadour’ and ‘We Regret to Inform You’ showcases Russell’s natural framing ability and his skill at turning the mundane into the wonderfully glorious.

This collection exists as an important historical document, not just of a version of 1950s street life, but of the developing talent of an emerging artist with a wild imagination.

Robert Gershinson