| 2017 | Exhibition
Nostalgia is Not Enough
When the Brady Club launched their 70th anniversary fundraiser in 1966 entitled Nostalgia is not Enough, the intention of these words was to ask members to steadfastly embrace the challenges of the future by raising funds to continue the good work of the Club. The publicity states: “It’s easy to look back and remember the pleasant things. It’s easy to see the achievement. It’s easy to rest on one’s laurels. To be a little complacent. But perhaps our biggest test lies in the future.”
The concept of nostalgia is of course more complex than the one suggested above, reaching beyond the recall function of memory and signifying a “sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past.” Indeed, nostalgia has been associated with melancholia and pathological dysfunction, where the individual becomes submerged in longing for the past that extends beyond fond memories and associations. In fact, in the nineteenth century nostalgia had warranted status as its own medical condition. Certainly, extreme longing for the past impedes progressive thinking and skews historic accuracy, but most of us seem to have a “nostalgia tendency”; memory has a propensity to treat the past fondly. Perhaps the reason for this tendency is the permanency and certainty that the past offers in an uncertain world, and with photographs in particular, little pieces of certainty regarding a precise moment in history have been framed and fixed in silver gelatin for us to keep. The photographs on display here may indeed make us nostalgic, because they are reminders of a different, apparently confident world, where the narrative is enduring and clear. However, nostalgia is not enough and we should not get too absorbed in this lost territory because, despite whatever adventures there have been, despite the smiling faces, we are called upon to scrutinise these photographs with a cooler eye, to complete the picture invisible within the frame, to fill in the gaps, to remember the draughty tents, the basic food, the inadequate clothing and testing times.
The Brady Girls' Club is the focus of the exhibition, Nostalgia is not Enough, for Women's History Month 2017. The photographs date from the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s but few in the collection were labeled and the viewer is required to guess dates, judging photographic technology and clothing styles. However, a few photographs do have the dates penciled on the back, such as the visit in 1960 of The Duke of Edinburgh; the visit by the 1966 home secretary, Roy Jenkins; and the six square colour photographs from camp, top row 1958 and bottom row 1968, changes marked by shifts in colour.
The exhibition, led by Susan Andrews, has been thoughtfully c0-curated by BA Photography students Matt Cotsell and Elisabetta de Guio with the assistance of Louis Hull, Laila Halilova and Zsofia Varga. The team explored what they found in the collection and made groupings from camp, outings, am-drams, clubs and events, focusing both on history and photographic sensibilities. They responded to the original material in a variety of ways: selecting a range of original material to show the collection's scope; selecting images for large scale digital reproduction; and by producing four short moving/still screen presentations. The result is a warm and thought-provoking exhibition, which refreshingly celebrates a more visually innocent era and explores the potentially positive impact of funded youth work on impoverished and marginalised inner city communities.
Susan Andrews, East End Archive Co-ordinator
Nostalgia Is Not Enough
Images from the Brady Club Archive
8 March-21 April 2017
9 March 2017 17:30pm-20:00pm
59-63 Whitechapel High Street E1 7PF
poster design: Matt Cotsell