Rachel Trezise text - The Silent Village
The subject matter of this exhibition at Ffotogallery in Turner House Gallery, Penarth is heavy weight. You need to spend some time with it and you need to feel ready to be moved, effected and appalled. I went yesterday with the particular agenda to see Peter Finnemore's series of photographs. I ended up spending time with every element of the show. Emma Geliot has written an excellent review on her blog, giving the background to the work.
Photographers, Peter Finnemore and Paolo Ventura and writer Rachel Trezise resond to the WW2 events in the Nazi occupied village of Lidice in Czechoslovakia which saw 340 villagers massacred, sent to concentration camps or, in the case of some of the children 'Germanised'. The village itself was razed to the ground in an attempt to obliterate it from the world in revenge for the death of the SS Nazi officer placed in command of the protectorate. In an attempt to contextualise the outrage felt internationally at the time, the events of this horrific war crime were transposed by the Film maker Humphrey Jennings (commissioned by the British Ministry of Information), to the mining village of Cwmgeidd in the Swansea Valley in his film Silent Village. Similar in its industry and ordinariness to Lidice, the film used no actors, just the actual residents of Cwmgeidd using their own names as they re-enacted the atrocity. The film is showing on a loop in the gallery, an extraordinary testament forming the heart of the exhibition.
It reminds us that we can chose to resist, and to remember; standing in quiet solidarity with the will towards humanity and empathy.
Peter Finnemore - Silent Village - seen here
The exhibition also tells us about a bygone era; when it was made Silent Village was a contemporary piece, it spoke directly to the people of the time. It is now a remarkable documentary of a Welsh Village in the 1940's, and there is another layer of nostalgia and melancholy layered into the film for a modern viewer. This is where Peter Finnemore excels. I found Peter's images deeply moving and incredibly beautiful, he is so adept at lightly touching his subject matter, allowing it to unfold obliquely and subtly in our minds. I always find myself returning to his images with new layers of understanding and meaning long after I have seen them. Never didactic, never blunt or clumsy, he lets us feel a little of his own vulnerability to let us get in touch with our own.
The show continues until February 27th and there is a beautiful cloth bound, boxed publication accompanying the exhibition.