Urban Echoes comprises work from the past four years. It includes particular projects Keith lngham has set himself, as well as groups of images which are testament to his long term interest in people and their relationship to their surroundings. Throughout he is the quiet observer. In making work he has no wish to intrude. While all image-capture provides some form of comment, he is an artist who has no desire to pass judgement. In fact during the selection of works for this show, his immediate concern was for the identity of some of his subjects, and whether he might have unwittingly caught them during a moment of frailty. The title chosen for a previous exhibition of his work ‘Not Looking but Noticing’ still provides an apt description of his approach. Through genuine interest in his subjects, and employing the accident of time, Keith Ingham makes photographs which remain in the mind’s eye.
He readily admits that technological advances and the availability of small high quality cameras have been fundamental to the development of his work. As an observer, he is keen to minimise the effect he has on people’s behaviour and the scene in front of him. He often uses a small digital camera at chest height or balanced on some piece of street architecture, in order to remain anonymous and unseen. Groups of tourists, solitary figures, embracing couples, preoccupied rather than posing, go about their business. The choice of a final image will combine careful consideration of the overall composition with more accidental elements. A unique capturing of hand gestures, glances or other quirky elements of side action are deftly caught. Henri Cartier Bresson referred to this as ‘the decisive moment’ and acknowledged that the power of the image lay in ‘some situation that was in he process of unrolling itself’ before ones eyes. Keith lngham has taken up his sense of the particular moment with compelling effect.
Other images are taken with a single lens reflex camera and are less concerned with portraits than with the trace of people, their environment and the passage of time. The urban landscape is seen as both subject and backdrop. He evidences the changing aspects of cities, rather than specifically focusing upon degeneration or regeneration. One series of images gives the sense of travelling through a city unnoticed, capturing the pace of urban life, providing only a blurred paraphrase of the surrounding scene. Another group poignantly re-creates the abandoned elements of a Take Away business. These and the images of empty buildings are not about degradation but about the character of occupation, about successive human endeavour, and about how cities contain important human stories, large as well as small.
The artist himself lives within a city environment, in Glasgow, a city he has chosen to make his home for more than thirty years. By not being, by birth, Scottish he has been able to steer clear of any set positioning or affiliation, maintaining the role of onlooker throughout. In the mid 1990s Keith lngham started to travel extensively for the University of Strathclyde, taking him to China, India and particular cities in South East Asia. He was able to strengthen his ability to go unseen and develop his position as an observer. In contrast, his images encourage the viewer to get more involved, by constructing a story around the scenes and compositions he provides. This exhibition draws together his knowledge of his own environment with that of a visitor’s acuity for place.
In the final preparation of his images he is keen not to re-frame or digitally enhance. The integrity of his subjects is maintained, just as Cartier Bresson and many others believed it should be. Keith Ingham has always been mindful of the traditions and history of photography and has continue to look at others’ work. Receiving a camera from his father for hi 21st birthday, he has made photographs for more than thirty five years First a commission in the People’s Palace and then in the early eighties second prestigious commission through the then Third Eye Centre mean he became a familiar figure within Scottish photography. During the mid 1980s he and I first worked together to select several large photographic shows of others’ work for the Collins Gallery (Contemporary Camera, 1983 and Perspectives – Glasgow a New Look, 1987). Urban Echoes marks the culmination not just of the last ten years, but re-establishes him within current and wider photographic debates.
This artist has developed an individual confidence to re-present how we operate in cities. His skill is in drawing out our individuality, providing touching detail to particular lives. Urban change, globalisation, migration, economic challenges, these are subjects that consume all of us, but Keith Ingham’s images ensure that dignity and grace can go hand in hand with the changing face of the human condition.