Projects  » TERRE À L'AMENDE

The gallery text accompanying the exhibition 'Terre à l'Amende - Photographs by Mark Power', at Guernsey Museum, The Channel Islands, October/November 2018, read as follows:

Since 2012, the Guernsey Photography Festival has expanded its activities by annually commissioning a significant international artist to produce a body of work about the Bailiwick’s of Guernsey. In 2017 we invited the acclaimed photographer Mark Power, the author of more than ten books and a member of Magnum Photos, the world’s oldest and most prestigious photographic collective.

Encouraged to investigate the landscape of Guernsey, Power first committed to four visits, totalling six weeks. He then began a series of long walks criss-crossing the island, carrying with him his signature tripod-bound technical camera along with a more fluid, handheld version with a powerful ring-flash. By mixing these two distinct aesthetic approaches Power began to investigate different ways of looking, and recording, the same place. 

The first thing he noticed was the profusion of signs proclaiming ‘Terre à l’Amende’, threatening a fine for trespassing. This, along with mile upon mile of walls and fences delineating private land, only served to alienate Power and reinforced his position as an outsider here. He was acutely aware that Guernsey markets itself to the outside world as an idyllic holiday destination, but as Power began to look carefully it wasn’t difficult to see what might lie beneath. Revelling in this irony, he deviated from traditional picturesque representations and instead went in search of this contrary vision; one of an uneasy, unsettling place where all might not be as it seems. 

“The work might be less about Guernsey and more about the decisions we take when we make pictures,” says Power. “If a photographer or painter is commissioned by a Tourist Board to create a picture postcard, an idyllic version of a particular place, he or she will inevitably choose the right viewpoint, the right weather and the right time of day before finally pressing the button or making the first mark on canvas. In so doing they are editing out a large percentage of the rest, which is neither seen nor shown. I’ve simply worked at the other end of the same spectrum, intentionally revealing the opposite viewpoint and suppressing the rest. In so doing it could be argued that I’ve described Guernsey with as little veracity as a picture postcard.“

That said, there is something strangely familiar to be seen on the walls of this gallery. Power’s playful and often humorous obsession with the mundane and everyday, and with the often surprising beauty that lurks beneath, is both recognisable yet rarely seen in images of the island. Yet it might well be a truer depiction of Guernsey than any picture-postcard ever is.