Jun 9, 2015

If Not Now: Michael Whelan

'If Not Now' is a series of photographic portraits commerating 50 years of Contact The Elderly at Walthamstow Library (Venue 73). It is an extremely moving collection with a selection of quotations from the people featured in the photographs. The range of emotions it inspired in me ranged from the joyous and optimistic to the utterly despondant. For example ; "I love Contact The Elderly, it's really something to look forward to and I've made lovely friends" (Alice Nash); "It's awful when you shut the door, it really is awful but what do you do? I am sad, I've got to be honest" (Sylvia Russell). These two quotes, from very different ends of the experiential spectrum sum up my own take on the exhibition.

I was literally moved to tears when I considered the woeful aspects of social isolation extant in the UK and the possibility of it getting worse in the following years. It also points up the fantastic job that Contact The Elderly among others is doing and does give some hope for our future elderly, including me. Michael Whelan captures the participants perfectly in these sensitive and honest photographs, there is no falsely photoshopped or airbrushed renderings. These are faces with their lives etched on them, some showing melancholy, some showing real wisdom. My overall impression is of the dignity of the people that agreed to have their portraits taken, as well as Whelan's careful and beautifully-lit images. This is both an artistic tour de force and a celebration of our elders. For me it was a clarion call not to ignore, but to engage with our ageing population. We are all looking down the long lens of time and this exhibition is one to more than just heed, it is a silent call to arms.

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