Double Take: Portraits from the Keith Medley Archive

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Dual-portrait of a young woman

Image courtesy of the Keith Medley Archive, LJMU.

What happens when we face a camera? How do our gestures, expressions and thoughts alter? Or do they? Perhaps we are so used to having our photographs taken and beamed onto a social media site for the world to see, share and ‘Like’ that we have become immune to the camera’s authority.

This was certainly not the case in the 1960s, as illustrated by a fascinating selection of portraits in the Walker's exhibition, 'Double Take: Portraits from the Keith Medley Archive'. This touching insight into the ‘performance’ of ordinary people in front of a camera is part of 'LOOK/13'.

Keith Medley was a commercial photographer on Merseyside between 1949 and 1987. His Wallasey-based photographic business made him well-known in the area for his work as a wedding, portrait and press photographer.

All of the images in the exhibition are studio portraits taken between 1965-68. The intriguing ‘dual-portraits’ originate from Medley’s efforts to be cost-effective. By exposing half the plate at a time, he was able to produce two portraits from the same negative. For this exhibition the portraits have been printed together, creating a compelling alternative narrative. Small shifts in the pose or expression of the sitter help us to share their experience of a professional photography studio.

The exhibition is curated by photographer, Ken Grant and Professor of Photography at University of South Wales, Mark Durden. The work was selected from more than 30,000 images held within the Liverpool John Moores University’s Keith Medley Archive.

Mark Durden said: “Looking through this massive archive we became really fascinated with the amount of double portraits—often of the same sitter— that were exposed on glass-plate negatives. While of course never intended to be printed and exhibited in this way, the doubling offers up a new way of thinking about the portrait tradition and convention, also delaying our gaze as we compare the sitters’ shifts in pose, from one take to the next.” 

'Double Take: Portraits from the Keith Medley Archive' runs at the Walker Art Gallery until 15 September 2013.

'LOOK/13: Liverpool International Photography Festival' runs until 15 June.Taking place in venues across the city, it presents an eclectic mix of exhibitions and events, featuring historical and contemporary work by photographers from Liverpool, the UK and beyond.

Check our website for other LOOK/13 exhibitions and events at National Museums Liverpool.