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The Royal Photographic Society’s 157th International Print Exhibition has gone on display at Banbury Museum, in Oxfordshire.  The exhibition is made up of 100 colour and black and white photographs taken by over 90 photographers, from around 25 countries across the world.

It is a show of human life, the natural world and the animal kingdom.  Each print conveys a potential story that may take you to a new or different place, or one that strongly resonates.

The exhibition is based on the RPS’s annual open photography competition that first took place in 1854.

With technical precision already established, depth of story can drive events like this. Undoubtedly each photograph captures a moment from a real story, but each one but might also construct a different or deeper one for every observer.

Camargue Horse Rearing by Jane M Lines of the UK depicts the energy and physical power of a horse that could almost charge out of the frame.  It shows a power and wildness of the Camargue Horse – a semi-wild breed from the south of France – and the control and concentration of the accompanying horsewoman, as they plough through marshy water.  The shot holds fast the forceful movement of the Camargue, the steadfastness of the rider and the animation of the water.

There is some contrast and contradiction throughout the exhibition. Some of the prints depict community as central, while in others it is seemingly absent.  Sometimes there is energetic life in full and other-times it appears to have been sapped. A common thread throughout is a sense of what was, what is or what could be.  Sometimes melancholy protrudes, sometimes it is more acceptance or joy.

Some of the photographs convey a quiet willpower.

Nzigire, Chicken Trader by Carol Allen Storey of the UK shows a Congolese woman – a chicken seller who dreams of how her trade might develop.  The View to Yourself – Dani by Nadja Pollack of the Netherlands shows an “interpretation of self-confidence”.  It is almost Vermeer-esque in composition and pose, capturing a neutral facial expression yet knowing eyes.

Hamish Scott-Brown of the UK shows his black and white print of Men on a Bench. I don’t know the photographer or the two men on the bench, and have never been to Northern Romania where the photograph was taken. Yet the scene evokes something strangely, albeit mistakenly, familiar to me.  For in a box of old family photos, I too have a black and white photograph of two men of mature years sitting outside on a bench.  Likewise one is slender and the other is less so.  They too are behatted. All seem self-controlled and self-contained. Yet the one in my box was taken many decades ago and in a different country.

This exhibition has the ability to take you intensely across space, experience and maybe time. Print after print weaves around the neat exhibition space from the candid, the portrait and the posed.

Nearly 2000 photographers entered the 157th competition and the Gold, Silver and Bronze were awarded to photographers from Germany, the UK and USA. The winning prints are given a central place in the display.

Banbury Museum is hosting the exhibition until 10 January 2015, which is part of an ongoing tour to the Royal Albert Hall in London, Stafford and Belfast from mid-January to the end of June 2015.

For more information about the exhibition see: The Royal Photographic Society and Banbury Museum

© Laura Claire H. 2014