Dark and “Light”: DUPA’s Christmas exhibition

Photo by Aisling Crabbe

I arrived early to the Christmas Exhibition of DUPA (Dublin University Photography Association) last Friday night as I am passionate about photography and always eager to discover the artistic talents of Trinity students. My earliness can also be partly explained by the fact that one of my friends had read earlier in the day on the event page that “there would be Sheridans Cheesemongers stuff there” and we didn’t want want to miss out.

The GMB pool room was still dimly lit but it took only a few minutes for the DUPA team to swiftly install huge spotlights across the space and to adjust the illumination level to reveal their new collective exhibition; “Light”.

Shots coming from more than twenty different photographers were on display, ensuring an eclectic treatment of the theme, even if some general tendencies could be noticed. That is how, on top of providing the visitors, as any respectable art exhibition organizer would, with a substantial amount of wine and cheese, DUPA offered an interesting aesthetical paradox to reflect upon: why an exhibition about “Light” ends up featuring so many dark pictures?

Indeed, most of the exhibitors have chosen to show black and white pictures and to focus on nocturnal subjects, be it the Front Square post-graduate library, an opened door, Dublin’s Docklands, O’Neills Bar, beach huts or a fruit-and-vegetable truck. As a result, Maeve McCann’s landscapes flooded with natural light and Josh Roxby’s dreamlike portraits stood out as powerfully colourful. Also resorting to colour, Mark Nolan’s rendition of dawn as well as Juliette Emmanuel’s violet and blue flares both successfully capture the bright side of light.

The rest of the material displayed was conversely built upon the idea that light is never as interesting to immortalize as in contrast with shadow and darkness. It ranges from almost-abstract compositions (Iarla Scaife, Elisabeth Sitte) to impressive photographs picturing fire in the night (Darragh Stewart, Gaya Ilan).

All these darker snaps demonstrated high photographic skills since capturing light in a dimly lit environment is one of technical challenges frequently encountered by photographs. Such dexterity might be partially accounted for by the workshops DUPA weekly offered this term concerning exposure, light-painting and night-time photography.

Ultimately, the exhibition showed that every photographic technique was able to strikingly capture light, since both Jingjing Mei and Ernest Thiesmeier succeeded in revealing the beauty of everyday light touching the corner of a room, the former in an austere black and white, the latter usingwarm and light colours. I arrived early, I left early but the night seemed well underway, with new visitors regularly arriving, ready to happily engage with a diversity of pictures while listening to chill music.