Art

An Outsider’s View: Canterbury through the lens of Porchlight People

Depending on where you live in Kent, your view on Canterbury might differ. Perhaps it’s your local cultural hub or your favourite place to shop. Is it the place you take visiting relatives or is it where you access education? An Outsider’s View: Canterbury through the lens of Porchlight People looks at Canterbury through a new lens altogether and the resulting exhibition is emotive and insightful.

Porchlight is a charity working across Kent helping vulnerable, isolated people and supporting them to access housing, employment as well as other advice and guidance in order to live the most independent life they can. Hundreds of people across Kent are helped by Porchlight each year and it’s clear that it’s a having a huge impact.

An Outsider’s View is the culmination of over fifty photographs taken on disposable cameras; a deliberate decision made by Danny Kitchener, the artist whose residency created this exhibition, because of the “inherent throwaway nature of the medium”. This conscious choice is subtly suggestive of the feeling of being discarded and bypassed by society, a comparison fully cemented by the recognisably low-resolution photos.
On display in the Front Room of The Beaney, An Outsider’s View instantly draws you into the room. The gallery space itself is fairly expansive, making the photos running around the centre of each wall feel small but purposeful. Sometimes it’s not how much of it is occupied but what the surrounding space suggests that holds the greatest significance. At the heart of it, the exhibition seeks to challenge the stereotype of what it means to be homeless and I like to imagine that the photos were placed at the perfect height so that they became unavoidable.
It seems almost detached to identify any individual photo as personal favourites because the photos are assigned a number rather than a photographer’s name. The exhibition hinges on our concept of community; reflecting the complexities of a group of people who are all too often seen as a homogenous mass. Fracturing this thought pattern is not an easy task by any means but An Outsider’s View is a poignant project that goes some way in humanising an often overlooked community.
Complementing the photographs mounted on the wall were a selection of original disposable photographs scattered inside two glass cases. Both small enough to be walked around and viewed from all angles, the glass cases were a welcome addition to the exhibition. They helpfully portrayed even more clearly the diverse interests and outlooks across those involved with Porchlight.
The interesting thing is that, without prior knowledge of the exhibition’s content, simply observing the photos wouldn’t necessarily suggest that the photographers are considered as outsiders.

Perhaps this is proof in action of An Outsider’s View succeeding in subverting stereotypes; the photos don’t appear to have been taken by outsiders because intrinsically, they aren’t. The photos are a combination of candid shots of Canterbury, of strangers and friends, interiors and exteriors, of theatres, train stations, streets and shop windows. Places and people that hold intrigue or importance for all manner of reasons. It’s clear that the underlying aim was to demonstrate the nuances of existence are not only experienced by those with a fixed abode. People who happen to be homeless have lives, emotions and communities as complex as anyone else’s and it is through exhibitions such as An Outsider’s View that this message will be voiced and stereotypes dissolved.

The exhibition is open until the 14th May so if you are inclined to peruse some particularly poignant pieces, then certainly schedule a visit to The Beaney.

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