Blitz: WWII in London at Daniel Blau Gallery
The general title of the exhibition doesn’t suggest much and all one may expect from Blitz: WWII in London is to see some works of art inspired by or narrating the eight-month siege that London suffered during World War II.
The Daniel Blau gallery does in fact host historic documents related to the period, but these expose just one side of the truth: the one that the British government wanted to convey through the photographs that journalists of the time took. On top of this, those same pictures had to be officially approved by government censorship before being published. Are we then looking at how things really went? Probably – the pictures are evidential proof and therefore must be believed. But equally, probably not – we weren’t there after all and we have no idea of how much everything was distorted in order to appear different…better.
This is, though, what the 92 photos on display convey. It took Daniel Blau three years to buy them from art dealers and collectors and finally gather them to set up this exhibition. They are the only prints Blau was able to find simply because no others were supposed to exist.
At the gallery we take a look at scenes depicting real life moments during the conflict, but the captions describing them do so with a certain optimistic point of view. For example, the picture of St Paul’s Cathedral emerging from the darkness due to the smoke caused by the bombings was meant to be taken as a symbol of strength, resistance and rebirth like a phoenix arising from its ashes. Yet, apparently, its publication wasn’t immediately validated because it wasn’t positive enough.
Many of the photos shown have taglines which try to defy the rough reality and which attempt to provide viewers with hope and do so through irony. The deal is that the press were actually interpreting those carefully selected pictures to suit themselves and the government’s policy and intentions. The result forced a necessity to face harsh realities pretending that everything was fine. Take for instance Gas Lessons, where children “happily” play in the schoolyard in spite of the gas masks they wear for fear of gas attacks.
The exhibition is worth paying a visit, as it will certainly make you question yourself on the role of publicity and press, which is always a living matter not to underestimate.
Blitz: WWII in London is at the Daniel Blau gallery until 29th June 2013. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.