Feature article by Lloyd Spencer, hero of the Leeds Flickr community, also @Briggate on twitter. Thanks, Lloyd!
White Cloth Gallery
June 8 to July 26, 2012
Seeing the 140 Characters assembled by Chris Floyd on the walls of the White Cloth Gallery was an exciting and illuminating experience. Being photographed by him was a mind-blowing education.
In 2010 Chris Floyd began to photograph the people that he followed on Twitter, “some of which he spoke to on a more regular basis than his closest, dearest friends and family”. Each photograph was shot on a white backdrop; each image is presented in a solid black frame. Within the frame some of the people are active, others quite static and formal. You get the point immediately: the stark, consistent style is one in which everyone was allowed a space in which to present or express themselves.
All 140 characters were known to me: I had installed an excellent little app. on my iPad as soon as it became available. I liked it. Some of the controls were a bit fiddly but I had a reasonable introduction to Chris Floyd’s innovative project and people that make up his circles on Twitter.
What a surprise when I got down to the White Cloth Gallery and saw the prints on the wall! Every image has been beautifully printed so that every nuance of the black and white photos tonal range is available for scrutiny. Each image becomes so much more revealing.
Gestures become fascinating to compare. Clothes conceal and reveal. Now the many points of contrast and comparison become really interesting: this becomes an intelligent essay on where some of us are at in this rather tricky corner of the new millennium.
The fact that these are just some of the people followed by one individual is itself interesting. Twitter doesn’t invite the personal revelations that are the currency of Facebook. A new and rather strange kind of intimacy is practised. And everyone practises it in their own individual way.
The 140 characters represented in this project don’t, of course, necessarily know one another at all. Some may be following one another on Twitter, some know one another personally away from all virtual interactions. Chris Floyd invited them to write about themselves. And learnt fascinating stories he might never otherwise have dreamt of. All of these are shared in the little book on sale at the gallery.
Chris Floyd’s portraits really are superb. Not surprisingly, he has had some very famous people in front of his lens in course of his work for the a variety of magazines. And during the course of a whole weekend members of the public were invited to present themselves to have their portrait taken by the master for the princely sum of just £20. I was delighted to be invited by my friend, Jon Eland to be part of a group portrait. What a fantastic experience! What an education!
Such creativity and concentration. Chris allows his subjects to step into the clear, well-lit studio space… there they can “be themselves”. What a terrifying prospect. But Chris makes it so easy. He shovels people round, trying out angles, making suggestions – keeping it all good humoured. We laughed, we joshed, we shoved one another around. No wonder his portraits are so often “action-packed”.
Because the four of us squeezed into our little frame were all photographers, Chris invited us to hold – and use – our cameras. That is how I got these snapshots.
The many frames shot popped up on the computer from which a selection of a few favourites was made and a final frame chosen for the printed portrait.
It was wonderful to observe. I think we were all treated to a fascinating intense seminar on really great portrait photography.
The Telegraph wrote up 140 Characters earlier in the week. It’s worth reading.