REVIEW: RETROSPECTIVE AT THE BANK OF STOKES CROFT BRISTOL
In an age of ubiquitous cameras (where the term ‘citizen-journalism’ is chucked around with abandon, every geezer with a camera-phone thinks their snapshot of a celeb counts as reportage, and shaky-cam footage from the mainstream media camped outside the kettle is considered front-line reporting), the value of a real photographers eye is greater than ever.
Mattko (aka Matthew Smith) has an eye that is crisp, clear and bullshit-free, and it can be seen in full effect at ‘RETRO-PERSPECTIVE’, an exhibition of thirty photographic prints at the Bank, Stokes Croft, Bristol, until 11th April.
Even when swept up in the chaos of an eviction, or facing down the private security hired to police anti-road-building protestors, his instinctive knack for a telling composition, a background that tells its own story, or a split-second of eye contact that invites us into someone else’s world, is unerring. Beautiful black and white prints drawn from twenty years of surviving the highs and lows of the counter-culture lead us through a thousand lives in close-up, and remind us that for all the talk of British tolerance the powers-that-be don’t hesitate to try to crush those who step too far out of the ‘work-too-hard-spend-it-all-on-shite’ economic model we seem stuck in.
Sweaty ravers and smiling cuties, traveller sound-systems and anti-capitalist marches, art performances and the cutest site kiddies you will ever see all add up to a unique record of the last few decades. Mattko’s mistrust of the mainstreams ongoing attempts to co-opt underground culture shines through, with the most recent images hinting at the growing fightback against the corporate agenda that is manifesting itself through the failed economics of the current strain of spam-faced puppet politicians. Whatever happens next in post-Great-Recession-Britain we should be thankful that Mattko will continue to be there to document the hidden corners for us.
Words: Ben Random
by 247 Magazine