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Caught in the act – Reading reading
A photography and text project for the National Year of Reading coinciding with the first Reading Festival of Crime Writing and leading to a scattered street installation in Reading town centre and an exhibition at Reading Central Library.
Mark Hewitt www.mchblank.co.uk
Anna Mitchell email@example.com
Standard 8 www.standard8.com
Partners and funders
Reading Borough Council
Awards for All Big Lottery Fund www.awardsforall.org.uk
Arts Council England South East www.artscouncil.org.uk
Developed from an idea by Mark Hewitt of Blank Productions, this project was inspired by the photographs of André Kertész and developed in Reading for the National Year of Reading – mainly because the name of the town was irresistibly perfect. The idea was – in the spirit of Kertész – to photograph readers in busy town centre locations in a way that dignified and celebrated both the ubiquity and the extraordinariness of the act of reading and contrasted the stillness of the activity with the hurly-burly of the world surrounding it. Complementing this, a series of texts would be developed from interviews with readers in the town exploring the inner world of the reader and the creativity brought to the activity by the wide range of everyday people that do this remarkable thing, day in day out.
The schedule for the project was tied-in with the launch of the Reading Festival of Crime Writing, both to help promote the crime writing festival and to develop a partnership with the library service who were programming and managing the initiative. The crime writing link also influenced certain aspects of the project artistically speaking, including its title and the way in which the writing and image-making were approached – both taking on a slightly noirish bent.
After the tendering process, Blank Productions commissioned Anna Mitchell – a highly talented and original Reading-based photographic artist – to produce the collection of photographs, whilst the accompanying texts were created by project deviser, Mark Hewitt. The work that came out of this collaboration captured wonderfully the diversity of the reading public and also subtly showed how contemporary public spaces are so crammed with words and images that, even when we are not reading, we are reading.
“We all read ourselves and the world around us in order to glimpse what and where we are. We read to understand, or to begin to understand. We cannot do but read. Reading, almost as much as breathing, is our essential function.” – Alberto Manguel, A History of Reading
Working with outdoor exhibition designers, Standard 8, the resulting photographs and texts were presented during September / October 2008 as a scattered public art installation in over forty locations in Reading town centre; on railings, lamp posts, traffic signal boxes, street furniture and even on a post sticking out of the Thames beside the river walk.
An accompanying exhibition of framed photographic prints and texts was shown at Reading Central Library to coincide with Reading Festival of Crime Writing.