Michael Meyersfeld Solo Exhibition | Adaptation
15 June (18:00) – 3 July 2017
In Toto Gallery, 6 Birdhaven Centre, 66 St Andrew Street, Birdhaven
In Adaptation, a collection of recent photographs to be exhibited at the In Toto Gallery in Birdhaven, renowned Johannesburg based photographer Michael Meyersfeld aims his lens at a society readjusting itself a little more than two decades after the inception of a democratic dispensation. In dealing with this process of adaptation, Meyersfeld consciously avoids the obvious and draws the viewer’s attention to the nuances of change by means of 17 images staged as social commentary.
“Perhaps these images are no more than a reflection of something we might have seen or remembered, a wry cameo of another, newer, hopefully happier South Africa. A country that still bears scars, but that can unashamedly show them, because there is a belief that time will heal,” he says of this collection of black-white photographs.
In “Guarded Futures”, Meyersfeld offers reflections of black and white being able to play games in a public park, ostensibly much safer under the watchful eye of a police dog. He conjures a cameo in which
“The Other Side of Town” becomes a place to explore, two women in Western attire having a meal and a glass of Coke in a Muslim establishment complete with a photograph of Al Kaaba, and a twice-repeated notice to “mind the step”.
As a trademark skill Meyersfeld draws on what the viewer might have seen from the corner of the eye; impressions on the periphery the viewer might have archived subliminally. In focusing on these moments, events and interludes he is the astute artist drawing our attention to detail and making us question our preconceived ideas
– of transition and change in this case. His photographs draw responses from the viewer smiling inwardly, noting “yes, that’s how it is”, “this is the wonderful, crazy, beautiful, complex and resilient country that we all live in”. That singular moment he captures compel the viewer to pause and to reflect; to mull over, and perhaps facilitate richer understandings of the society we live in.
Meyersfeld does not shy away from the scars haunting the new South Africa: evident in powerful images such as the beggar in “The Epidemic of Shame “and “Bounty”, a poignant portrait of an informal paper collector – powerful in simplicity and unvarnished Gestalt. Likewise he does not ignore the other end, the “hopefully happier” face of success as in Fashionista in “So?”.
However, it is in the areas of transition, in the grey areas of mobility that Meyersfeld’s masterful eye triumphs, teamed with his wry humour. He points his camera at a young upwardly mobile woman in Alexandra (Goats and Gaultier ) presumably on her way to work in the high-rise executive world of Sandton. In a basement in downtown Johannesburg, he captures the perceived demise of the white male in “Pale Male Fading”. A haunting image of a phantom destined for oblivion.
Lauded locally as well as internationally for his keen eye and ability to capture the specific moment, Meyersfeld observes his subject matter studiously and interrogates the location and use of props vigorously. Yet, his work never seems laboured.
The spin he is puts on the educational crisis in the country (Bare Quest to Learn) is ingenious and more so a clear indication of his evocative and thought-provoking compositions.
The main body of work is presented on “Duratrans” a translucent-base film presented in light boxes that add a further cinematic dimension to Meyersfeld’s work. These are complemented by seven large, high quality Fibre Based Silver-Bromide prints. Lodged somewhere between two dimensional images, stills from a film sequence, and a sculptural installation these works transcend the standard static presentation, allowing for more and lateral readings of the work and lending a sense of the theatrical to his work. As he says: “I create my show. I find my story, my location, my models, and then put them together, but only up to the point where there is still enough room for the viewer to add, subtract or alter his or her interpretation at will.”
Image: Michael Meyersfeld, Guarded Futures