A Voice for Eritreans.

Unit Title: Visual Exploration 

Unit Code: VPF409

Level: 4 

Assessment Title: Illustrated Exhibition Review

Assessment Number: AE1

Assessment Type: Exhibition Review


‘A section of the assessed review layout.’  


A Voice for Eritreans

‘Even This Will Pass’ by Aida Silvestri.

Roman Road, London.

11th March to 26th April 2014.

Exhibition Review by Danielle Pugh 

Aida Silvestri, embarks on a thin-skinned photographic voyage exploring the journey made by African refugees from Eritrea to Europe in a desperate attempt for stability and equality within the promise land. The show is exhibited from 11/3/14 – 26/04/14 at the Roman Road Project Space in London, Bethnal Green.

It’s well known yet often overlooked that the Horn of Africa struggles from economic and political crisis. While ruled by a dictatorial government the population of Eritrea are without freedom of speech as well as being under a political regime known as the ‘North Korea of Africa’. These circumstances result in violent conflict over the pursuit of power. As well as drought, famine and many other demoralising aspects, this has resulted in high numbers of African refugees fleeing their countries in hope for a better life elsewhere.

Silvestri’s series at Roman Road documents the overlooked, tragic and shocking stories of the journeys refugees embark on from Eritrea. The elements of the show create a tense and overwhelming atmosphere of shock and severe empathy.

The initial intention of the show is to raise awareness of the horrific consequences refugees face when pursuing to escaping from their past lives in Africa. Many of them regretfully end up at prison camps, in the hands of human traffickers, being tortured, abused, or even departing from life altogether. What some of us fail to see is that it is ultimately unfair that whilst we have no control over where we are born, depending on where that may be some of us are restricted to whether we can leave in order to enhance our lives, therefore in severe cases are force to face life threatening sacrifices in order to do so.

The title of the show ‘Even This Will Pass’ comes from a message written upon a wall in Mount Sinai, the message encourages Eritreans to stay persistent and keep hope as they pass through Egypt whilst making their way to the United Kingdom, known as the promise land.


Eritrea to London on foot, by car, lorry, boat and train. From the series Even This Will Pass by Aida Silvestri

The conceptual approach to the topic displays 10 anonymous portraits of surviving refugees. Each portrait is blurred in order to protect the dignity of the subject. Accompanying each portrait is a short piece of text which poetically yet brutally expresses an insight to the voice of the sitter, what they saw, faced and overcome throughout their journey. Silvestri explains to the British Journal of Photography that the sitters were frightened and anxious when talking about their experiences, of course this is comprehensible knowing what harrowing mental and physical torture they have been through. The seriousness of the text, the harsh reality of the words personified through a portrait, which appears blurred, isolated and sensitive enhances a tremble of phonetics within your imagination of the sitter’s voice. The intimate atmosphere of the compact gallery space becomes much darker as you close in on the faceless stranger and tread carefully upon their personal scars. The expression of emotion within the text of each individual’s story is truly haunting. The combination of the portrait and text allows the viewer to discover more about the sitter, which enhances feelings of disturbance and guilt. The blurred face remains anonymous and ambiguous causing the viewer concerns of the potential extension of suffering from what we understand as a result of the exhibition at Roman Road.

In addition to the portrait and literature there is also a hand stitched thread upon the surface of the portrait which tracks out the route taken by the certain individual, the colour of the thread matches up on the map located within the gallery. This route indicates to the viewer the path in which the refugee took, this element is certainly eye opening as it puts the distance and complexity of the journey they take into perspective, it also undoubtedly amplifies the obvious struggle from which we are already aware of.

The anonymous blurred portraits work particularly well in a sense that they leave the body language and facial expression interpretations as an enigma and instead represent the struggling reality to raise awareness of the under covered stories of our era. Unlike Fazal Sheikh’s refugee women from Somalia portraits where every element of their facial expression tells a story, for the purpose of the show Silvestri’s work is much more delicate and emotive as her sitters remain unseen. The visual distortion could be seen as a metaphoric interpretation of a blind journey, perhaps this could remind the viewer that those travelling refugees are under immense pressure travelling illegally, day and night in places they have never been to before, in countries they are unfamiliar with and unwelcome in and the hidden sacrifices they have to make in able to continue with their peregrination.


From the series ‘Sleepers’ by Yto Barrada, 2006.

Similarly, Yto Barrada’s series ‘Sleepers’ deals with related concepts by documenting Moroccan migrants before embarking on their illegal journey across the Strait of Gibraltar from Africa to Europe. Compared to Silvestri the approach is similar, Barrada photographs shows anonymous migrants who have burnt their passports. These people are known as the ‘burnt ones’, Barrada depicts the individuals sleeping in parks with their faces covered in the hope to remain unnoticed and avoid confrontation with the authorities. Although her work is intriguing and visually bizarre I find that Silvestri tackles the importance of the topic in a much more emotively powerful way as she elaborates on the shocking reality of the journey in which they embark on. The curatorial decisions of the show also extend this notion. The confined gallery space enables the viewer to feel on a much more personal level with the work enabling them to feel much closer and personal with the individuals represented, allowing them to intrude on the suffering of the souls who have struggled to make it to the UK on their illegal and perilous journey.

The location of the show attracts more fortunate visual elitists and the layout has the ability move the viewer by its passionately emotive and respectful tribute to the refugees of Eritrea.

Silvestri intention to give a voice to those who are commonly unheard has certainly been granted and with full optimism the show can continue to raise awareness of human trafficking and other relentless excruciating situations refugees are confronted with while simply trying to enhance their lives.


Books –

Maxted, J, and Abebe, Z, 2001. Human Stability and Conflict in the Horn of Africa. Volume 10, Issue 4, 2001. South Africa. p45-57

Bariagaber, A., 2006. Conflict and the refugee experience: flight, exile, and repatriation in the Horn of Africa. Aldershot: Ashgate.

p. Preface, ix. Part I, 1 p2 and 2 p21, Part II, 3 p41.

Journals –

Padley, G, 2013, Aida Silvestri’s Even This Will Pass. British Journal of Photography. [online] Available from:


Padley, G, 2014, Aida Silvestri puts on solo show. British Journal of Photography. [online] Available from:


Article –

Hagen, C, 1996. Photography Review: Reading the Sorrow of Africa in Individual Faces. The New York Times. MLA 7th Edition. [viewed 19 April 2014]. Available from:


Websites –

Ballani, M., 2014, Roman Road, Aida Silvestri, Even This Will Pass, Press Release. [online] [viewed 17 March 2014]. Available from:


UNHCR Global Appeal, 2014. East and Horn of Africa UNHCR Regional operations profile. [online] [viewed 20 April 2014] Available from:


UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency, 2014. Regional Overview. [online] [viewed 20 April 2014] Available from:


BBC News, Africa, 2011. Horn of Africa drought: Kenya row over Somali refugees. [online] [viewed 20 April 2014] Available from:


Scottish Refugee Council, Real Lives. [online] [viewed 20 April 2014] Available from:


Art Fund, Photographs from the series ‘Sleepers’ by Yto Barrada, 2009. [online] [viewed 20 April 2014] Available from:


 A Camel for the Son, Fazal Sheikh, Description. [online] [viewed 10 April 2014] Available from:


Autograph ABP, Exhibitions, Aida Silvestri, Even This Will Pass, 2014. [online] [viewed 21 April 2014] Available from:


Sherwin, S., 2011. Artist of the week 169: Yto Barrada. [online] [viewed 20 April 2014] Available from:



Review Structures.

Throughout this post I will explore elements of exhibition reviews from Source magazines in order to influence my own final review for this unit.


Source, The Photographic Review, Autumn 2013, Issue 76, p54-55. 

Ever Young, James Barnor, Impressions Gallery.

The Time of Optimism.

Review by Mick Gidley. 

James Barnor, Eva, 1960

James BarnorEva, 1960



Mick Gidley’s review of the Ever Young exhibition by James Barnor consists of descriptive paragraphs about the exhibition and it’s content. Throughout the introduction Gidley gives us an insight to exactly who he is talking about, a short biography of the photographer and what they’re all about. For the duration of the review we read heavy descriptions about the work being shown and the exhibition, what it consists of, what it represents and what it’s intentions are. The review seems to be mainly descriptive about what to expect in the exhibition, a descriptive insight which tells you about the contextual side of the show. Unfortunately the review for me doesn’t do the show or images justice, after researching more about Barnor and finding more images online I was excited by what I saw, for me the description even though elaborate for a short review does not come across as anything other than unfortunately quite dull.

More information at: http://autograph-abp.co.uk/exhibitions/james-barnor-ever-young


Source, The Photographic Review, Spring 2013, Issue 74, p50-51.

Woo!, Juergen Teller, ICA.

Serious Photography.

Review by Eugenie Shinkle.

Juergen Teller

 Juergen Teller, Vivienne Westwood, No.1, London, 2009. 



Personally I find this review to be much more experimental and imaginative with the use of words compared to Gidley’s review of Ever Young. The review starts with a controversial statement about how ‘serious photographers don’t do fashion’ and by listing other photographs works who we are familiar with helps to give a better understanding of what to expect within the exhibition. After this, much like Gidley there is a short biographical paragraph about Juergen Teller and his past work which gives you an understanding of his background and why this show is not what you’ll expect. Onwards the review again is very descriptive about the exhibition, more specifically this time with an explanation of what is exactly in each room without giving away too much, just enough to make you want to go and see for yourself. Towards the end of the review Shinkle talks about the main controversial element of the exhibition being the nude photographs of Vivienne Westwood, including this keeps the reader interested as it’s a popular part of the show. The end summary explains critical concerns but in a tasteful and respectful way. The controversy creates debate around the review and exhibition. I find this review to be much more to my taste as the vocabulary is rich and vibrant, every adjective seems to be invigorating and makes for a much more interesting read.

More information at: http://www.ica.org.uk/whats-on/juergen-teller-woo


Source, The Photographic Review, Autumn 2013, Issue 76, p60-61. 

Man Ray Portraits, National Portrait Gallery.

With Mystery.

Review by Isabel Stevens. 


Man Ray, Catherine Deneuve, 1968. 

Reviewing a show by a well known famous pioneer has a different output compared to contemporary, it is unnecessary to be descriptive of the photographs because generally people who read the review will already be aware of what they will look like. The intro still consists of a slight biographical piece of information but the structure is different, it does not list facts but alternatively elaborates on well known information in an attempt to try and write something which has never been said before. Throughout the duration of the review there is clear evidence of historical research and facts which you may or may not be aware of, these facts are extended with interpretations and opinions of what the photographs may have meant at the time and how they are perceived today. What I found to be interesting in the review was the explanation of Man Ray’s photographic practice which is included in the show, that fact alone made me want to visit the show for myself, as it sparks intrigue of the reality, secrets and mystery’s of working process of the surrealist photographer.

On Landscape Project.

On Landscape Project. 

Guest Projects, 1 Andrews Road, London. 

7th/03/14 – 30/03/14 


Urban Vistas by Minna Kantonen. Distanced from nature, our experiences in large cities such as London are largely based on the landscaped, constructed environment. 

On Landscape Project is a landscape exhibition by a group of female artist who aim to challenge traditional representations of landscape.

Minna Kantonen, Dafna Talmor, Emma Wieslander and Minna Pöllänen exhibit a variety of work challenging what we believe to define landscape within the creative world specifically within photography.

The project addresses the idea within various mediums of photography including a self published book call. Some of which include abstract and unheard of ideas regarding landscape. The central platform holding the books aims to provide further debates around landscape as well as bringing more people to the show. The show as a whole really climbs in to your mind. The whole time spent in the space I found myself having internal debates of what I already preconceived landscape to be, the show expands and opens new ideas around the subject.

It’s unusual for the show to be fully curated by female artists, this however creates an atmosphere of fragility and sensitivity, each piece of work seems tangible to they eye and once your vision is touching the selected piece and it’s accompanied ideas you feel a sense of calm and wonder. Even within Emma Wieslander’s ‘Burnt’ series there is a sense of precision and lightheartedness by the small delicately burnt pieces.

Emma Wieslander’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ exhibits two romantic warm yet generic looking sunsets out at sea, however the closer you get you notice that they aren’t what they appear to be at all. The images are in fact lightbulbs hung in an empty room at different light temperatures. The pieces play with the idea of what we initially see, what we want to see, what we should see and what we really see.

The show perceives one of the most explored and interesting up to date debates on landscape as a medium and the conceptual approach to the representation of landscape as a whole.


Constructed Landscapes by Dafna Talmor. C-type prints made of collaged and montaged colour negatives. 

More information about the exhibition at: http://www.onlandscapeproject.co.uk/

Life on the Road.

Ship to Shore.

Ship to Shore: Art and the Lure of the Sea. 

John Hansard Gallery/Sea City Museum, Southampton.

08/02/14 – 04/05/14 

Catherine Yass, Lighthouse (North), 2011.

Catherine Yass, Lighthouse (North), 2011.

Perhaps the most underrated show of the year, contemporary gallery John Hansard and the Sea City Museum present Ship to Shore an exhibition across two venues exploring the lure of the endless sea via various mediums of art. Expect to be astonished by artists who have vividly expressed their engagement with the sea and ocean within the most extraordinary and breath taking way possible using film, photography, sculpture, and more. Ship to Shore allows the contemporary artists such as Isaac Julien, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Tracey Emin and Catherine Yass to blow the classical preconceptions of art out of your mind. The work shown is to the most stunning quality and presented to such high standard every fine detail is to be appreciated within the exhibition. The thoughts provoked regards to the show are a valuable and thrilling experience. Your senses will be stimulated and enhanced as there is no room for disappointment, a show which reaches its maximum potential and finest quality.

Thomas Joshua Cooper

Thomas Joshua Cooper

Moonrise Over the End of the World, Furthest West, The Mid North Atlantic Ocean, 2002. 

What sparked most interest for me within the exhibition were the seascape photographs by Thomas Joshua Cooper. Cooper travelled as far north, south, east and west as he could to photograph the furthest points on the globe, these images took an incredible amount of time and effort to produce. However standing in a room viewing all four images on four different walls has an enclosed affect and as each image is aesthetically different due to the immense distance between where they were taken provokes a variety of feelings certain individuals relate to in various ways. During my second visit to the gallery with young people studying for their arts award  we spoke together about how the images made each of us feel. The variety of responses was not what I expected but it made me realise how aspects of these images have powerful emotional effects on an individual wether it be positive or negative is irrelevant as we still all appreciated how stunning the monochrome, philosophical images are. Personally I have a fear of open water out at sea, a fear of being abandoned and left in the open space terrifies me so a few of the images were quite comforting as I could see the edge of the land on them. Although the sea seemed rough it was reassuring that they were in fact taken on land. However one of the images does show open space so there is no comparable emotions about these images being shown together, the narrative is left wide open.

More information about the exhibition at: http://www.hansardgallery.org.uk/ 

Burroughs, Warhol & Lynch.

Andy Warhol, David Lynch & William S. Burroughs. 

The Photographers’ Gallery, London. 

17/01/14 – 20/03/14

A brave exhibition by The Photographer’s Gallery in London, exploring the photographic work of three, counter culture, avant-garde, American figures: Andy Warhol, William S Burroughs and David Lynch. I say brave because over time these individuals have become well known for their various talents but not specifically known for their photography. Cult followers of their work may object to comparing the three together.

However if you’re interested in one, two or all three of the icons this exhibition is an interesting insight into their photographic practices which makes a difference from seeing popular work by them such as Campbell’s Soup Cans, Naked Lunch or The Elephant Man.

William Burroughs/Ian Sommerville, Infinity, (Beat Hotel), Paris, 1962.

William Burroughs/Ian Sommerville, Infinity, (Beat Hotel), Paris, 1962.

The Photographer’s Gallery explores the visual dairies and an insight to the life and work around these three practitioners. I found the examples of Burroughs cut up techniques to be especially interesting although I was a little shocked at just how small they were but I guess that’s the reality you overlook.

Andy Warhol, People in the Street, 1976-1987.

Andy Warhol, People in the Street, 1976-1987.

The exhibition gives you an insight to the reality behind the lives of these famous figures. Warhol’s photographs are an example of an obsessive recorder, I imagine there to have been such a huge job in selecting the best of his images as he compulsively shot over 36 frames a day of his immediate surroundings.

David Lynch, Untitled (Lodz), 2000.

David Lynch, Untitled (Lodz), 2000.

Lynch’s work in my opinion had the most photographic merit of the three. The series of prints were truly stunning with their clarity and contrast. The images themselves of abandoned factories were eerily dark and ambiguous. They create an atmosphere and narrative, which closely reflects his filmmaking.

The show offers an exciting insight into the life of the pioneers and bold step up of the game from The Photographer’s Gallery showcasing work in a way you may not have seen before. Perhaps this show was intended to be of interest to those visiting the Bailey show, the traffic of people coming to see work by a well known name are those who are excited by fame, even if this is unintentional I found it to be a smart move by the photographers gallery bringing three well known icons together at this particular time.

More information about the exhibition at: http://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/the-photography-of-william-s-burroughs


Bailey’s Stardust. 

National Portrait Gallery, London.

06/02/14 – 01/06/14 

National Portrait Gallery

Stardust is one of my most outstandingly beautiful photography shows I have seen in a long time.

The retrospective of over 300 of David Bailey’s handpicked photographs of the glamorous icons of the past half a century is certainly a must see.

His photography is controversial in some cases and not considered ‘art’ as there is little form of narrative, meaning or depth. Is this just the snaps of a famous egomaniac’s life? Does it matter? I think not.

Bailey’s work and show has appealed to the masses, he is one of the most famous photographers of our time and there is no doubt that he is a technical master. The showcased prints are certainly astonishing, the size and clarity is remarkable. Even if you do not rate Bailey as a photographer it is impossible to not accept he is a technical genius.

His eye to represent people within his stylised portraits sparks a lot of attention. There is a reason why his images are so popular. For me they show us the celebrities we want to see, photographed in a particular sensational distinctive manner. The prints are large enough for us to admire every detail of the subject and to feel closer to those we admire. I have not stopped and stared to appreciate the detail in a photograph for as long as I can remember, Bailey has a way of lassoing you in and keeping you there.

If you are an adherent of popular celebrity culture and/or the aesthetic of photography, then this show is at the top of the game for you.

More information about the exhibition at: http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/bailey/exhibition.php