Among all the dross that floods Facebook, the cats, dogs and virtue signalling, Robb Appleton’s photographs from observations on his daily walks are rare moments of sanity and delight. He’s now brought some thirty of his pictures together in a perceptive exhibition, ‘As Seen…’ at the quirkily informal Old School Café in Bury St Edmunds.
Robb is primarily a musician, who has been playing and recording since he was sixteen. In the exhibition text he writes: ‘Photography became a very important part of my life at the beginning on lockdown. I found myself walking every day and the more I walked the more I observed and this seemed to me to be training my eye with the camera as a recorder of what I see.’
Most of the photographs were made in Bury, though a few come from trips further afield. The emphasis is on the natural environment: on trees, their bark and leaves; on water with its gift of reflections; on stones and their aura of durability; and on skies, chalky clouds against the blue rendered as grey. The few figures, isolated from the crowd, and a spire, a dome, a roofline create links back to urban life. Robb works well with the play of light to render a rich palette of textures, tones and chiaroscuro – all but a handful of the pictures are in black and white. The picture reproduced here is not really typical of what’s in the show, it just happens to be one of my favourites.
Though the images are small (8×6 in A4 mounts) by the standards of some exhibitions, a good overall impact is achieved through excellent printing by Roy Hammans and crisp consistent mounting. And the size encourages close inspection, thereby drawing one into the picture, into Robb’s world. Robb also invites us to see that world as he does through his framing – all but four of the pictures are in portrait format, which is unusual, especially as a significant number of the subjects might be considered landscapes. Robb discounts this as being the result of using a phone camera as he also used other cameras. Perhaps he naturally scans the world up and down rather than side to side.
Just one small criticism: I would have like some captions to locate the images in time and space.
What the exhibition demonstrates most strongly is Robb’s creative sensibility. He may see this being realised best through his music, but he has the acute, receptive eye of an artist and is open to the daily gifts of serendipity.