The selection of photographs made for this PhotoIreland exhibition in Sandyford’s Barista’s Cafe, represents a sample from thousands captured by Bobby Kerr over the course of four journeys in as many years to Africa. His perspective of Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia is one of dynamic colour and the arresting gaze of its children. There is no obvious sense of the suffering and starvation so often depicted of Africa’s children, Kerr’s young subjects stare candidly, smiling into the lens. He has found a way of celebrating the children at play, families bound together, a child absorbed by something outside the frame, her hat a confection of colour deeply contrasted with her skin in ‘Girl in the Pink Hat’ (Zambia 2011).
While there is no doubt he has the facility to capture a lyrical sunset, airborne eagles in silhouette, the elephant in repose, Kerr also displays a sense of drama in the small things, and reveals a painterly eye in his work entitled ‘Green Tea’ (Kenya 2009) which has the expressive quality of a Hockney.
‘Walk in Dust’ (Ethiopia 2009) is redolent of a Coen Brothers movie still. Its tonal range is almost sepia, though it is naturally lit, the impact of sunshine piercing the narrow gap between the trees, creates narrow shafts of light and shade that fall across the foreground, like the deep incisions of a lino cut. Three figures walking away from the lens, unaware and preoccupied, men on a mission. A great cloud of dust from a distant truck frames them. The long walk home.
Another quite monochrome composition, ‘Finding Shade’ (Zambia 2011) portrays a group of men, maybe taking a break from work, maybe just lazing in the shade of the tall white wall that serves as a canvas to support the figures, seated, standing, leaning on their bikes, thinking, talking, just being. The composition is a study in geometry, the triangulated pile of junk in the foreground pulls the viewer towards the group of men, framed between circles, rectangles, steeply pitched wall and its shadow disappearing into the distance outside the frame.
One of my favourite pieces, it could be anywhere, but maybe it is a distinctly African cloud, is called ‘Tree Top and Cloud’ (Zambia 2011), directly overhead suspended beneath an endless blue sky, hovers a delicate white cloud with such translucence at its edges it looks like it will disperse in front of your eyes,
Three of the journeys to Africa were in pursuit of the finest coffee bean, Kerr being one of the Dragon’s Den best known entrepreneurs for his café chain ‘Insomnia’ and a supporter of Fairtrade. His most recent journey was part of a building team for the charity ‘Habitat for Humanity’.
This exhibition is part of the current PhotoIreland Festival, all the work is for sale and the prints are in editions of 50, so further copies can be ordered. All proceeds go to Crumlin Hospital and Habitat for Humanity. Prices are €70 for a limited edition signed and mounted and €150 for a limited edition signed, framed print (framed 780 x 630mm, printed on Canon paper).
Bobby Kerr’s debut photographic exhibition ‘Africa: The Experience’ is at Barista’s Café, Ballymoss Road, Sandyford, Dublin 18.